11 Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving with an Eating Disorder in 2021

I would like to preface this sensitive post by saying that I am not a professional. I am not a counselor or a psychiatrist. I simply write from personal experience. 
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When I was a teenager, I struggled with anorexia and bulimia and later became a chronic overeater. Admittedly, I still have a bad relationship with food that I am actively working on.

Thanksgiving, the biggest food holiday of the year, is coming right up, along with all the stress that can come with it. To this day, holidays are tough, and they were especially tough when I was battling my eating disorders. I have put together a few tips that can help you get through the holiday in a healthy way.

1.     Make a plan for yourself

“Speak it out. Learn it. Live it.”

               As I stated, I am not a counselor. I would highly recommend consulting with your therapist or counselor, specifically, about the upcoming holidays. Vent your concerns and come up with a game plan. If you do not have a therapist, you can still create a plan for yourself. Maybe write it down. Speak it out. Learn it. Live it. Having a plan can help you deal with any curveballs that Thanksgiving Day may throw your way.

2.     Put together your squad

Gather a support system of your most trustworthy friends, family, etc. This system does not have to be huge. It can simply be one person. Just make sure it is someone or several someones you can openly discuss your eating disorder with. The last thing you need is judgement from others.

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3.     Do not be afraid to ask your squad for help

               Once you have gotten your crew together, ready for open discussion, do not fret asking for help. Maybe someone from your support system can accompany you to holiday parties. They can act as a buffer. Get you around those tough situations, like when someone annoyingly comments on what you’re eating. They can change the subject or pull you away altogether.

            Don’t have a party buddy? That’s ok. Technology is cool in that texting and calling can keep us connected. Talk to your crew. Create your own help hotline.

               For many, food can be a source of comfort. The holidays aren’t just stressful because of food. Sometimes the stress of family dynamics is tossed on top of that, or social anxiety, etc.

            It is easy to turn to food for comfort, especially if you struggle with overeating. What I have found helpful is to find comfort in things that have nothing to do with food. Maybe you like the feeling of being outside in the crisp weather, you find comfort in your squad, you keep pictures of good times on your phone, or you have a fur baby you just adore.

 You get the gist. It can be anything from a fur covered creature to a cozy sweater.  

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5.     Focus on little things you can control

               A common misconception is that eating disorders are all about weight. Truthfully, eating disorders are largely about control. I know when I was in the thick of it, everything seemed out of my control, so I controlled my food intake, and thus my weight.

            For this I recommend finding even the smallest things during your day that you can control. Take pride in the outfit you picked out for yourself. Choose that lip color. Journal at 2 pm. Take a shower. You control a lot more in your life than you realize, and you can use that to battle the need to use food as an outlet.

6.     Toss the word “shouldn’t”

               Shoulda’ Coulda’ Woulda’s don’t really exist. They are hypotheticals.

One of the most aggravating words that I had in my vocabulary when dealing with food was, and still can be, “should.”

            I “shouldn’t” eat that. I “shouldn’t” even go. I “shouldn’t” like food.

“Shouldn’t” or WHAT? This word is how you cast judgement on yourself without even realizing it. You don’t want judgment from your squad, sure. And you can be you own biggest critic, so toss out the judgy lingo.

7.     Stay away from diet and exercise pages and websites during this time

               Pages that talk about what to eat, when to exercise, and how to keep off those holiday pounds are POISON.

            Maybe you do follow a fitness page or two. Maybe any other time of year this isn’t so bad. BUT, right now, you don’t need excess reminders about food intake, lack thereof, or exercise routines.

            For the time being just hit “unfollow.” It is best to keep these things out of sight to keep them out of mind, in a sense. You’ve already put a lot of pressure on yourself. You do not need any outside reminders, stressors, or pressures.

8.     Rock out with your chicken stock out: know there are no “rules” for eating

               Really, there is no set guideline for eating. You are allowed to eat what you want. You are allowed to portion how you want.

With an eating disorder, one can put extreme restrictions on food intake, and you must know that those restrictions are bogus. If you do have problems with portion control or knowing what to eat, you can follow the lead of a friend or someone you trust at the dinner table. This can take the stress out of choosing and thereby feeling the need to set “rules” for yourself.  

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9.     It’s all gravy, baby: All foods are OK

               If you have a food allergy, maybe all foods are not OK in that sense. Otherwise, the meal is a dirty free-for-all. In all seriousness, unless a food allergy is involved, you can eat anything of the holiday spread that you like, just because you like it.

10. Remember that your eating disorder spins a web of lies

               Your eating disorder is a LIAR. It will whisper in your ear all kinds of things about your body, about control, about the people around you. It can cause the anxiety that makes you want to control things more. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s a web of lies. Remember that. Maybe write down affirmations for yourself. Keep a little list of simple truths handy for when your disorder tries to sneak in its two cents.

11. Remember that you, indeed, are in control

“…You are the captain of your own vessel”

               Remember doing little things that you can control? You also need to remember that you are in control. You are the captain of your own vessel. You can eat what you want because it’s yummy, you can portion how you want just because you CAN. Your disorder will tell you that it is the only thing that can help you win control over your life. Remember that is a lie. Remember you are in control and don’t forget it.

So, gather your squad, put on that comfy sweater, and know you’ve got this. Be gentle with yourself and know you are healing, one day, one moment at a time. Breathe in the spirit of the holiday and Happy Thanksgiving, loves!

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