“Hello, Thanksgiving. Hello, anxiety. Hello, fear foods. I will make friends with you so that I can become the rockin’ girl boss that I know I am inside!” (this is literally what I have written to myself on little post-it notes around my kitchen this Thanksgiving because that’s how I do it in my world). I make friends with fear foods, I say nice things to them, I welcome them into my life and into my fridge, because that’s the only way I can gain mastery over my worry thoughts. You could try this too.
Holidays that center around food can be a stressful time for anyone struggling with or working on recovery from an eating disorder. Here are a few tried and true tips for getting through the holidays:
- Check in with your therapist or a trusted friend before, during and after the holiday event. Don’t be afraid to text them what you are afraid of, and reach out for the support you need.
- Communicate about your triggers with your family. Remember that your family cannot read your mind, and they need tips on the types of comments that are unhelpful to you, as well as what is helpful for you. Remind family that comments about weight and appearance are not the best, and a good way to re-frame is to say something like “I’m glad to see you! How have you been doing? Watch any good Netflix recently?” - always a good conversation starter!
- Go into holiday meals and events with a plan in place. What time will you leave? Who will be there? Can you plan your meal out ahead of time? Could be helpful to your treatment provider, dietician or parent. (*You might say, “but Jules, there are a million parties at Thanksgiving, what if I can’t plan my meals out?” To that, I would say that you may not always be able to plan out your meal ahead of time, but working on flexibility is always useful, and can provide you with a way to challenge yourself.)
- Treat yo’ self. Leave time to take a bubble bath with a bath bomb, take a slow walk outside and look at the leaves (well, it’s Austin, so maybe not the leaves here…), paint your nails, start a knitting project, watch your favorite show. Taking care of yourself will make the extra stress that can arise feel more manageable.
- Distract, distract, distract! Play games with your younger siblings, cuddle your pets, talk to your grandparents, watch a few episodes of Stranger Things - your negative thoughts become less scary if you have people around to distract you.
- Try to celebrate small accomplishments. Did you try a few bites more than you were planning on? Did you engage socially when you could have isolated? That’s progress to be celebrated!
- Give yourself permission to eat the food you love. I’m going to write that again. In bold because I mean it. Give yourself permission to eat the food you love. Trust that your body will know when it is full.
- Take breaks from your family or friends when you need to. You will know when you need to, believe me. Listen to your instincts about needing some downtime, and remember that it’s ok to need a little quiet space to reflect or do some deep breathing.
Managing anything difficult during the holidays requires some extra self-compassion and understanding. A great website for more information is the National Eating Disorders Association. You’ve got this. Lean on anybody and anything that makes you feel comfy, cozy, strong, and connected. I encourage you to leave open the possibility that it could be a great holiday!