Thanksgiving was always one of the hardest holidays for me when I was sick. A whole day focused on food! The food itself was anxiety-inducing, never mind the fact that a substantial meal is served midday, which would totally mess with my rigid meal schedule.
I remember rehearsing over and over in my head how the day would go. I knew exactly what I would eat and when I would eat it. I knew when I would exercise and for exactly how long. I even lobbied my family to eat our meal at my normal dinner time to try to keep some semblance of control.
The changes to my routine made me irritable and less than grateful to be surrounded by people who love me despite my flaws. I couldn’t focus on spending time with the people I love because my mind was clouded with calorie counts and worrying about eating too much. I wanted all the food on the table so bad, but my eating disorder told me I couldn’t have it. I craved my mom’s apple pie, but would inevitably take a bite or two from my husband’s plate then worry I had eaten too much.
The awful paradox of anorexia is that I really did want to eat. Food wasn’t any less tasty. I just believed I wasn’t allowed to have it.
For years, that apple pie was forbidden and scary. As I recovered, I realized that the pie couldn’t hurt me. Eventually, I was well enough to allow myself to eat my own piece instead of stealing bites from my husband. I enjoyed that pie and recognized the achievement in eating it.
I am a person who needs to learn things for myself. No matter how many times my therapist told me something, I wouldn’t believe her unless I experienced it for myself. I couldn’t believe that the pie was harmless until I ate it. My therapist always talked about the pie victory when I was struggling. She reminded me that I ate the pie and I was okay. That piece of apple pie did not make me gain weight. It was a lesson for many other challenges I was facing. When I wasn’t sure if I could do something, I was reminded that nothing could break me.
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Like everything else in life, eating during recovery gets easier with time. Each time I overcame a fear, I learned that I could survive and get stronger.
The anxiety I felt on Thanksgiving decreased each year through my recovery work.
Now, I not only eat a single piece of pie on Thanksgiving, but I bring home leftovers to enjoy the following days. This lesson extends to all foods. I can eat and enjoy foods and nothing bad will happen.
The apple pie on the Thanksgiving table taunted me for years, but it ultimately became a symbol of my growth and recovery.
As I look forward to Thanksgiving this year, I am focused on enjoying the day with the people I love the most in this world. Instead of planning our meal around my rigid eating disordered schedule, we’ll be planning it around the nap schedules of my two sons. I will cook and eat and chat and be a mom on Thanksgiving this year.
I now have time and energy to focus on the important things. My boys are my world and I don’t want to waste a minute thinking or obsessing about my food or body. I won’t worry about eating “too much” and I will certainly be bringing home the leftover apple pie.
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