Of course, Thanksgiving is a holiday dreaded by those with eating disorders. They are scared of the amount of food, what might happen with food, what family members will say to them about their eating. So, here's a few ideas for making Thanksgiving more enjoyable. (Please keep in mind, though, that if you are a patient in treatment, none of what I say should override any plans you have made with your treatment team.)
1. Yes, our society has made Thanksgiving about food. But, you can choose to make it about family, or time off work, or whatever you want to make it about. The food is just food.
2. Our society advocates for starving all day and then overeating the Thanksgiving meal. What I recommend to all my patients is that they treat Thanksgiving as just any other day and any other meal. So, eat meals and snacks throughout the day, and then view the Thanksgiving meal as just a normal meal.
3. That said, it is okay to overeat Thanksgiving some. What you want to protect yourself from is either restricting or bingeing. But, at the Thanksgiving meal, a lot of good foods you maybe don't normally have are available, so it's okay to eat more than usual. Nothing terrible will happen to your body, and in fact, your metabolism will just speed up in response.
4. Use family to support you when you are struggling. Before even getting to the Thanksgiving festivities, identify who is going to be your support person and let them know you have chosen them. When you are having a hard time, pull them off to the side and talk to them and let them help in whatever way.
a. If you are the family member who has been identified to help, remember this key phrase: "What
can I do to help?" This saves you from feeling like you need to fix everything, which would likely
frustrate your loved one with an eating disorder.
5. If it helps, plan out what you are going to eat before the meal itself so you are less likely to panic in the moment.
6. If you are doing Intuitive Eating, remember all foods are good foods, no foods are bad foods! You are "allowed" to eat anything no matter who or what has said something about that food. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full, and remember you can always have leftovers later.
7. If you are concerned about bingeing, and have the "last supper" mentality, wherein you feel pressured to eat more because you are afraid there you must eat it all while it is available, consider going ahead and making yourself a plate of leftovers before you eat your meal so you can be confident you can have later the foods you really enjoy. Yes, this will be unusual, but your family should be able to support you in taking this step as managing your eating disorder well.
But, most important, remember Thanksgiving is not truly about the food. You are there to spend time with family and/or friends and enjoy the day, or the day off, or whatever is enjoyable! Happy Thanksgiving!