Thanksgiving is the day for gratitude, pumpkin pie, and spending time with loved ones as we transition into the holiday season. For those with eating disorders, though, a day dedicated almost entirely to food is likely to put stress and anxiety at the top of the mind. Here are a few tips to help those people struggling enjoy the holiday.
1. Find a designated support person.
Ask someone who you trust and are comfortable with to watch out for you throughout the night. This person can help divert diet/weight conversation and make sure you’re staying calm. If this is not an option, choose someone whose phone number will be available for you to call, or find online support on sites like 7 Cups of Tea. Never be afraid to ask for help.
2. Don’t ditch your recovery plan.
Whether you are following a professionally constructed plan or going it alone, don’t let the holiday stress throw you off track. Skipping breakfast in preparation for dinner will increase the urge to binge, and missing your therapy or nutrition appointments will not help you cope. If you feel unprepared or directionless due to a lack of professional support, find a professional here or download an app like Recovery Record, which is an eating disorder recovery app that allows you to log meals, behaviors, emotions, and urges.
3. Breathe and be mindful.
Mindfulness and breathing exercises can do worlds of wonder in coping on the day-to-day, and especially during the holidays. Mindful eating and simple breathing exercises — which you can practice either right at the dinner table or alone in the next room — will help you think clearly and manage your emotions. Start by closing your eyes and breathing slowly. Follow your breaths all the way in and out, and take a step back from your thoughts by imagining that they are nothing more than passing clouds. This can accomplish a lot more than one might expect.
4. Don’t beat yourself up.
One binge will not destroy your metabolism or cause legitimate weight gain. Giving in to purging or restricting urges on one occasion will not shatter or reverse your recovery progress. You are only human. Thank yourself for what goes right and recognize what goes wrong. Tomorrow is always a new day.
5. Remember what’s important.
At the end of the day, your ED thoughts are obstacles, not realities. Take a moment to focus on gratitude, and make a list of what you are thankful for. Reflect on all you have experienced and accomplished so far this year. Connect with the people around you. It may not be the easiest night, but do the best you can — that is all anybody can ask of you.
Access the NEDA Helpline by calling (800) 931-2237 or visiting the Helpline Chat.