Eating Disorders Editor's Picks

Thanksgiving and ED Recovery: 7 Survival Tips

Just like your eating disorder is about more than food, so is Thanksgiving.

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It’s coming. That dreaded holiday that centers primarily around food.

Oh, but also family drama, and heated political discussions, and a long weekend to sit and stew about it all. For many people, Thanksgiving is stressful. For those battling an eating disorder? It’s torture.

So what can you do to get through? How do you keep it all together when you’re falling apart on the inside?

Well, after dozens of holidays spent in the company of my own eating disorder, then recovering, in recovery, and recovered, I’ve picked up a few tricks over the years:

1. Breathe.

That is an absolute must. When your stress levels rise, slow your breathing down. Count it out, if you have to. But keep breathing.

2. Get as much intel as you can beforehand.

Who’s coming? What foods will be served? Sometimes, for events like holidays, even if you’ve moved on to intuitive eating, it can be helpful to go in with a plan. When you’re already stressed out, making the “whipped cream or no” decision regarding your pumpkin pie can be paralyzing. You can always change your mind later, but taking some of the guesswork out of the day can go a long way towards reducing your stress about it.


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3. Volunteer to bring something.

Take a dish you know you’ll eat, so if all else goes out the window, you’ve got something to fall back on.

4. Eat normally on the day.

Don’t “save up” calories for the big meal. Have your breakfast, just as you always do. Eat lunch. Keep your blood sugar levels stable, so you don’t get that cranky crash. Plus, you’ll be more likely to make recovery-minded decisions if you’re sticking to your recovery plan.

5. Recruit an ally.

Having a family member on hand who knows what you’re going through can go a long way towards having a happier holiday. They can help you turn conversations away from diet talk, and take a walk with you if you need a break. Sometimes it’s nice knowing you’re not in this alone.

6. Reserve your right to say no.

No one will suffer if you don’t try their dish. Sure, your aunt might pout if you don’t have a second helping of her weird gelatin dessert thing, but she’s a grown-up who is responsible for her own feelings. Your job is to take care of you, and your recovery.

7. Eat normally the next day, too.

Your eating disorder’s natural impulse will be to restrict the next day to “make up” for whatever you ate. Eat breakfast anyway. No matter how much you ate, or what kinds of foods you ate, you need and deserve to eat the next day. No penance on the treadmill, no extreme calorie math.

Just like your eating disorder is about more than food, so is Thanksgiving.

There’s bound to be a great conversation happening somewhere in the house, or a cute moment with a pet, or even a really cool parade float on TV. Find those moments, and let yourself be a part of them. And, if nothing else, you can be thankful that it’ll all be over in a few days. You’ll get through.

Who knows? You may just find some big recovery wins along the way.

Here are a couple more articles you may find helpful this Thanksgiving:

Article Photo by Ostap Senyuk on Unsplash

Kelly Boaz is a Toronto-based Holistic Nutritionist (CNP) specializing in eating disorder recovery and food freedom. After winning her 17-year battle with anorexia, Kelly turned her life’s focus to helping others do the same. She is also a writer and speaker (TEDx, TDSB), raising eating disorder awareness, and helping people heal their relationship with food and their bodies.

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