Although Thanksgiving is supposed to be a happy day filled with delicious food and loved ones, it has over the years garnered a reputation of the most anxiety-provoking holiday. For a person in the midst of a struggle with an eating disorder, it is a pure living hell. People joke about loosening belts after the big meal and going on diets before the big day, but for victims of the disease, these jokes can be life-threatening.
If food is your largest cause of anxiety, having an entire day focused entirely upon that subject feels like entering a bad dream. Some scenarios that I remember -- people constantly prodding me to try their appetizers and dishes in order to get me to eat, family members that I have not seen for awhile commenting on my change in weight, pushing food around on my plate or hiding it in napkins, giving in to the peer pressure of a holiday binge and then later purging as a result of the discomfort, and many more. The best Thanksgiving memory I had in the past decade was, believe it or not, in an eating disorder treatment center. At this treatment center, everything we ate was portioned out so we had no choice in the matter, and this loss of choice actually relieved the stress because we could then just devote our entire brainpower on each other's good company and conversation. Today, I am determined to have my first good Thanksgiving in 10 years -- out of a treatment center and surrounded by family and friends using the tips that I have created.
1) Refocus the holiday upon its original meaning -- giving thanks. Make a list of the things in your life that you are thankful for, and when anxiety clouds your mind, pull out the list.
2) Treat the meal as any other meal. Put a reasonable amount of food on your plate, and when you are full, stop eating. Do not feel obligated to make yourself sick to your stomach just because that is what our society has characterized it to be.
3) Redirect the conversation to things other than body image. When people have not seen each other for awhile, it is a common conversation starter to talk about appearances, such as "You look great! Did you lose some weight?" These conversations are very triggering during recovery. When you hear this, try to stop and refocus the conversation with a simple, "Thank you, I have been focusing on my health." Then redirect the conversation to something else, such as ,"How has your new job been?"
4) The aftermath -- don't try and fix things the next day. Even if the day did not go as planned, do not punish yourself the next day by trying to go on a Thanksgiving day diet or begin a strenuous workout plan. Every day is a fresh start.
I hope this helps. Happy Thanksgiving!