Thanksgiving and Eating Disorders

With food and feasting being the focus of this holiday, and in many cases overindulgence being encouraged, your conscience can become very heavy. If you ‘slip up’ by giving into the eating disorder on Thanksgiving, it can create a downward spiral effect for the entire holiday season. Because eating disorders aren’t really about food, but are firmly rooted in genetics, biology, personality quirks, childhood trauma and family dynamics, being around family could be a big issue. If dysfunctional family dynamics plays a part in your disordered eating, this just means even more emotional turmoil fueling the fire for restrictive or binge eating. Even if you aren’t physically around your family, the holiday season may bring up painful memories that contribute to disordered eating behaviors.

This year, whether you are battling an eating disorder or a loved one is, here are some tips for making the holiday less stressful and more enjoyable. It may take a bit of planning and support, but this time of year doesn’t have to be daunting.

Tips for Enjoying the Thanksgiving Holiday

If you are recovering from an eating disorder, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Get support – If you have someone who will be around on Thanksgiving and understands what you are going through, talk to him or her throughout the day for support. This person can be your safety net when it comes to processing things that are bothering you. Discuss ahead of time how they can help in certain situations, like distraction from triggering moments with relatives or helping to change the subject if an uncomfortable topic about food or weight arises.
  • Plan for the day – Do not skip breakfast, and as much as possible, stick to your regular eating plan. Make sure your regular eating plan dictates what you eat, not others’ comments. If you’ve established coping skills that help when you feel overwhelmed, be sure to have what you need with you. Whether it’s a journal or maybe a certain playlist on your iPod, it’s important to maintain normalcy and know you can always take a break from the festivities to gather your thoughts and find some peace of mind.
  • Keep appointments – It may be tempting to skip nutrition or therapy sessions during this hectic time of year, but it is so important to continue getting the support you need because of this reason. During difficult and stressful times like the holidays, it is especially crucial to get the help and support you need.
  • Don’t listen to people’s diet talk – A lot of times, people will talk about dieting during the Thanksgiving meal to compensate for overeating. The person talking about dieting doesn’t mean any harm by this, but they obviously don’t realize your struggle. Set boundaries and remind yourself other peoples issues with food and their bodies are not your own.
  • Focus on gratitude – Keep your thoughts positive and avoid thoughts about what you dislike or don’t have. This could mean focusing on your loved ones who care about your well-being, having a roof over your head or simply being alive. You could be surprised by how many things you are actually grateful for. Even if the day isn’t going well; focus on the good things in your life.

If you have a loved one who is recovering from an eating disorder, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Avoid appearance-based comments – Don’t make comments about your loved one’s weight or tell them they are looking “healthy.” This may seem like a compliment from your perspective, but to someone with an eating disorder it could be interpreted as “you look fat.” It is best to avoid appearance-oriented comments altogether.
  • Don’t talk about dieting – Making comments about the calories in the food or post-Thanksgiving dieting and exercise will cause someone with an eating disorder to worry and have eating disorder related thoughts. It will only push the eating disorder sufferer to not want to eat the Thanksgiving meal.
  • Enjoy the food – Display healthy eating behaviors by having a normal proportioned, varietal plate of food. Do not fast before or after the meal, but try to enjoy it in a healthy manner by eating enough to make you full, but not overdoing it.
  • Plan activities – Thanksgiving is a time to bond with loved ones, and that doesn’t just have to be over food. Distractions from food are important for those with eating disorders, so suggest games or fun conversation topics for before and after the meal.
  • Show you care – Make sure your loved one knows you’re happy they are there and remind them how much you care about them. Support can sometimes be the best medicine.

We Can Help

The food you eat and your size do not define you. At The Meadows Ranch we can help you learn to honor your journey to recovery by eating the foods you like, listening to your body’s cues and understanding your worth so you can enjoy the holidays. We have treated eating disorders for more than 20 years. We know recovery from an eating disorder is possible. It’s happening every day at The Meadows Ranch. Based on feedback from patients, families and professionals, the vast majority of our patients remain committed to a life of health, balance and purpose. For additional information about the treatment of eating disorders, please call to speak to one of our Intake Coordinators at 866-390-5100 or complete a form and we will contact you with the information you need.

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