It’s that time of year again! As the holidays are quickly approaching, we tend to constantly be surrounded by food. For some people, this is something that is comforting and something they look forward to. Being around family and indulging in turkey, stuffing and pie sounds great! Doesn’t it? If you are one of the many people that suffer from an eating disorder, it most likely does not. Whether you have anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder, celebrating a holiday that revolves around food and eating can be very uncomfortable and intimidating. Of course, eating disorders are not strictly about food. Some of the other issues that can arise are self-esteem, self-worth, family and relationship issues, perfectionism, etc. So what can we do to prepare for this difficult time? How do we get to a point where the holiday itself can become as enjoyable as it is for others?
FIND SUPPORT WITHIN YOUR FAMILY
Is there anyone in your family who is aware of or understands your struggles? If there is, talk to them ahead of time! Sometimes knowing there is someone there who you can talk to or go to when you are feeling overwhelmed can reduce that feeling of anxiety. This person can be there to take a walk with you to get some fresh air or just to help provide a positive distraction. If your family members are not people you feel you can go to in this time of need, have a plan for a friend you can call if you feel like you need some extra support. Let them know ahead of time so they have their phone with them and can be ready to talk.
REMEMBER THE OTHER THEMES OF THE HOLIDAY
After all, Thanksgiving is not only about the food! A big theme of the holiday is being grateful. Practicing gratitude can be a great way to change a negative mindset into something positive. Focus on the things and people that you are thankful for in your life. Whether you are thinking of this on your own, journaling, or sharing your insights with others, it can be a great way to celebrate the holiday.
DON’T FOCUS ON THE FOOD TALK
With the focus of Thanksgiving being partially on food, try not to get too wrapped up with all of the food and diet talk. If you notice the conversation shifting in that direction either try and remove yourself from the situation or change the subject to something else that everyone can talk about. It can be very beneficial to set these boundaries for yourself so you can enjoy all of the other great things there are to celebrate.
DITCH THE BLACK AND WHITE THINKING
One of the negative thinking patterns that a lot of people struggle with is “black and white thinking” or “all or nothing thinking.” This can have people thinking they either need to completely deprive themselves of any of the food that they like, or their eating will get out of hand. It can also be the other way around: eating as much as you can because that is what this day is about. Your mindset does not have to be all or nothing. Make a plan and stick to it. Do not lose sight of all you have learned because the focus is on food. Moderation can be a good friend on a day like this!
Bianca Marcu, LPC