We’re coming up on Thanksgiving, and this will be the first year in the past five years that I’m not already absolutely dreading it. But for those of you out there that are feeling nervous for what’s to come on Thanksgiving day, I understand, and I hope I can offer some advice.
For me, Thanksgiving has been one of the most t r i g g e r i n g days of the year. When I was battling through disordered eating, I was horrified by the thought of eating until you’re absolutely stuffed. I dreaded the thought of everyone in the family eyeing down what was on my plate. I felt overwhelmed hearing comments about how many calories must’ve been in that dish, and hearing talk about how ‘so and so has gained weight’, or that ‘so and so looks so good after that new diet’. My entire meal would be spent frantically trying to plan out which items were the safest to eat, which items should be avoided, and how I could stop myself from eating before I became full. The rest of the day following the meal would be filled with regret and planning out a way to compensate for the ‘damage’ that had been done.
To put it simple, Thanksgiving during recovery can be pretty crappy. BUT I want to share some ‘dos and don’ts’ that I’ve accumulated through the years, and hopefully offer something that can help this year’s Thanksgiving be a little less crappy 😉
– Skip meals
It’s natural to think that skipping out on breakfast and lunch before Thanksgiving dinner will help to compensate for eating a large amount… but trust me– you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ve probably heard this time, after time, after time, but I just want to reiterate it once more for ya– starving yourself before a meal will only make you ravenous when it comes time to eat. Skipping meals causes your body to feel frantic when it’s faced with food again, and you’ll be feeling even more fearful around food when it gets down to it. Listen to your body and eat a nice breakfast and snacks throughout the day before heading into the meal.
Same applies for AFTER the meal. Don’t go restricting yourself on Black Friday to compensate. Guess what? When our bodies give us hunger signals… it means its asking for food (shocking scientific fact, I know). You might leave dinner thinking that you ate enough food to last in your belly for days, but trust me. Our hunger signals aren’t mistakes, so *when* you get hungry the next day, feed yourself.
– Body check
One bad habit I picked up during my eating disorder was to frequently participate in body checks on my tummy. If my tummy felt or looked bigger than normal, it would send me into a panic. Little did I realize that your tummy changes multiple times throughout the day, and it’s not because you are gaining and losing weight constantly. If you’ve picked up this habit yourself, fight any urges to grab your body or check the mirror, because if you are a human being, you’ve experienced bloat in your life. I know that I get a lil bloated after each meal I have, especially meals that are bigger than normal. Understand that you may experience bloat BUT remember this: bloat does NOT equal fat. You may have enough bloat to seem like you gained 10 pounds from one meal… but in reality, it’s just a bunch of gasses built up from digestion. Yum. 😅
– Worry about what other people say or do
Definitely one of those things easier said than done. But if someone makes a comment about what’s on your plate, talks about how ‘so and so’ looks, or can’t stop talking about things that are triggering to you… it says a lot about what’s most important to them, and what type of person they are. Understand that you don’t have to sit there and take it. Don’t be afraid to ask them to keep their comments about what you are eating to themselves, to not talk about the size of other people’s bodies, or any other triggering content. But if you’re like me and aren’t comfortable with taking that approach, you can either try changing the conversation, or simply getting up and leaving the area. It’s sad that we live in a society where talking about diets, calories, and bodies is the norm, but you can protect yourself by not engaging in these conversations.
– Stretch/move if you’re full
When I was recovering from anorexia, I had a really difficult time dealing with fullness. My nutritionist advised me to try doing light stretching or going on a short walk during times where my fullness was making me feel anxious. Let me tell ya, this seemingly simple piece of advice was a game changer that I still occasionally use to this day. If you feel uncomfortably full, take a moment to stretch out or go on a short walk around the block. This not only helps your body feel good, but it plays as a beneficial distraction as well. However, it’s important to note that I’m definitely not saying to go on an intense run or complete a hard core workout if you’re feeling full as a means of purging. But simple movements like stretching and walking can help you feel more relaxed.
– Talk to someone
If you are struggling, reach out and talk to someone about it. Instead of sitting with difficult and consuming thoughts and feelings, getting them off of your chest and just letting someone know what you are going through can provide a sense of relief. If you don’t have anyone in your family that you feel comfortable talking to, try calling or texting a friend. You can even shoot me an email! For the most part, people want to help. There are people would love to give you support through this difficult time, you just have to ask. I understand that it is a challenge to be vulnerable and share your demons with another person, but through my own experiences, opening up about my struggles has been the best help to overcome every demon I’ve had to fight.
– Show yourself kindness
Maybe the day won’t go as well as you had hoped. Maybe you will end up breaking down or participating in disordered behaviors. If this ends up being the case, understand that it doesn’t mean you are worth any less. This doesn’t mean your story is over. Understand that recovery is not linear. Just because you may have fallen down during a difficult time, it does not mean that you cannot get back up and fight again the next day. Do what you can to show yourself patience and kindness, because that is the only way you are going to be able to overcome.
I hope one of these little bits of advice can be helpful for anyone battling disordered eating this time of year. It’s not easy to work through the intrusive thoughts that come with an eating disorder, but the hard work is worth it.