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  • Emily Forzley

Thanksgiving Challenges In Recovery

Thanksgiving can be a tricky holiday for anyone trying to navigate eating disorder recovery. For many, this is a holiday that is often centered around food and gatherings. Managing recovery during the chaos of holidays can feel overwhelming, but planning ahead can be helpful when navigating some of the challenges. Here are some things to consider when making a plan.

Meal Timing Thanksgiving meals are often served at uncommon times, maybe as part of family tradition, or surrounding the big parades or football games that take place on the holiday. And sometimes unexpected changes happen, like the turkey wasn't done cooking or Uncle Tom was running late to the party. Whatever the reason, it can feel challenging to have a shift in your meal times. It might be tempting to delay or skip meals or snacks because of the uncertainty but it's important to prioritize consistently feeding and nourishing yourself on the holiday, as it is on any other day. It's helpful to consider how many meals and snacks you normally eat in a day (or are part of your meal plan), and try to pre-plan for the schedule change. This may mean swapping meal/snack times to work in all of the normal times you might eat. Here's an example:

This example can work with more or less meals/snacks through the day, and is something you can plan with your dietitian in preparation for the holiday, with consideration for your individual needs. It may be necessary to be flexible too, in case unexpected delays or changes happen during the day.

Food Variety Holidays often mean different foods - things you don't eat regularly or entirely new-to-you foods. Take some time to consider what foods you really want to eat, and prioritize those foods on your plate. If you're struggling with this, remember you can always rely on the structure of your meal plan by trying to build meals or snacks that align with your plan. Or, if you don't have a meal plan, think about building a balanced plate containing starches/grains, proteins, fruits/veggies and fats.

Consider if saying "no" to a certain food or a second-helping would be an act of self-care, and if it would be in line with your recovery. Check-in with yourself, if you really enjoyed the mashed potatoes and feel comfortable getting a second portion, then go for it! Consider your threshold, if you are already feeling really vulnerable, make choices that will move you toward recovery rather than self-sabotaging.

Strive to be flexible in your thoughts and the foods you choose, be okay with "close enough is good enough" if you follow a meal plan. Try to remember that all foods fit. It's important to give yourself permission to eat any foods you choose, without shame or guilt, and without the idea of compensating later. If you do struggle and engage in disordered behaviors, lean back into structure and try to get back on track with your plan. Holiday Stress Whether it's the food itself, the traveling or the social/family aspects of the holiday, Thanksgiving (or any holiday) might feel a bit stressful. Before the actual holiday, think about what you might need that day to prioritize your well-being. Identify a support person you can reach out to, whether it's a person you'll be with physically or someone you can call/text when you need them. Set boundaries for yourself and change topics if conversations about food, weight, recovery, or any other topic makes you uncomfortable. Prepare yourself with grounding skills, like breathing exercises or going outside for some fresh air if you start to become too overwhelmed or anxious. Give yourself permission to take a "time-out" from the festivities if you need, by getting out for a walk or a drive, or even going into a quiet room to take some space.

Visualize how you want the day to go - maybe you want to try to find all the positives and enjoy the holiday festivities. Or maybe, you just want to survive and treat it like just another day, and that's okay too.

Because after all, Thanksgiving is just one day, and no matter how it goes, know that you can move on from it. Do your best to plan and prepare for the holiday, but ultimately know that things may not go accordingly. Recovery is about continuing to make the next best choice that you can for yourself. So be gentle with yourself, and take it one day at a time.

Re-posted from:


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