The Holidays can be a trying time for those struggling with eating disorders.  Thanksgiving can be particularly challenging because it is the one holiday that is centered around food and “feasting”.  Along with the holidays comes a certain amount of pressure and maintaining recovery can seem nearly impossible when facing the difficulty of gathering around the table with friends and family and consuming a meal in that particular type of social setting.

However, with proper planning, it is possible to sustain recovery during this Thanksgiving season!

Here are some tips that my patients and I have found to be helpful in overcoming the struggles associated with Thanksgiving:

  1. Plan your Thanksgiving Day with a Dietitian. We are here to help you find ways to stay on track with your eating/meal plan.
  2. Don’t skip meals or snacks. Many people will skip breakfast or lunch in order to “make room” for the holiday meal. This can cause significant anxiety whenever mealtime comes. Patients will often feel overly hungry by this point, or they may have lost their hunger cues altogether. Both of which make going into the meal a particularly anxiety provoking experience.
  3. Worry about the size of your heart, and not the size of your body! Enjoy this time with loved ones. Talk with them about how your life is going. Reach out and engage with them as well; find out what new and exciting things have been happening in their lives. This goes a long way with people and will make you holiday far more enjoyable.
  4. Find a recovery buddy. Whether it is for accountability or back up, having one person that knows your struggle and the things that may trigger you to use behaviors is essential. Talk with your chosen friend or loved one about discussion topics that may be harmful to maintaining a recovery mindset. They can help by either changing the subject or asking you to step out of the room for a question or favor.
  5. Mindfulness is key! Be present with friends and family. Patients find it helpful eat at the table instead of snacking or eating while standing. This will help you to be sure that all of your needs are met.
  6. Take coping skills with you. If being present with friends and family becomes overwhelming, you will have a back up plan. For example bring homework that you need to work on for school. Your phone can have many resources to help. Whether it be by texting a friend for support, looking on Pinterest at recovery boards, or listening to music that is calming; your phone can be one of your greatest assets.
  7. Have an exit strategy. Take your own car, or ride with someone who is willing to leave when you have had enough.  It is crucial to be able to set boundaries with your time during any difficult meal and or social situations.

I can’t reiterate this enough, the more you plan, the better this day will go!

Reach out to your dietitian. Discuss the difficulties you may experience during this day. Plan all meals and snacks for success.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an Eating Disorder, and do not have a Dietitian on your team, make that phone call. It is the best thing you can do for yourself during this time, and can be particularly helpful during the holiday season!