Today we have this great Thanksgiving post from one of our guest bloggers, Alexandra Schumacher:
This is the first year since I was young that I am truthfully looking forward to Thanksgiving. Of course I have been thankful in the past to visit family and meet with friends, but I always dreaded the actual day. Food, food, and more food. It still brings with it a lot of stress, but I have managed other Thanksgivings in the past with no eating disorder behaviors and I am confident in this one too. I have a lot to be thankful for and now that I can see past the food to the actual holiday it takes on a different meaning for me. When I was struggling I always looked to those recovered to give me some guidance during this time of year so I thought I would pay it forward and give you some tips for surviving Thanksgiving in recovery from an eating disorder.
1.It is just another day. Just because social tradition dictates it as a time to consume more food than usual doesn’t mean that it applies to you. Stick with your meal plan and eat all of your meals.
2.Eat breakfast. This might seem redundant from number one but it was very important to my recovery and my success on more difficult days. Also make sure you eat all of your meals the following days as well.
3.Just because there is a huge spread of food doesn’t mean that you have to have everything. Stick to what is safe if you are struggling, but I also encourage you to step out and try new or more challenging foods.
4.If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with the amount of food- start with the basics. Starch, protein, fat, etc. Step away and breathe for a few seconds. I found it a lot more comforting to be at the ‘end’ of the line so to speak when it comes to getting the food so that I could take my time and really get what I needed and what I really wanted without feeling rushed.
5.Survey the table and food before putting anything on your plate. Generally your gut will tell you what you want and then it is common for that voice to chime in and tell you what you should or shouldn’t have. Eat whatever initially came to your mind because it is ok to have what you want!
6.Be aware of hunger cues and honor them. You can always have more later on, or you can go back for more if you didn’t get enough at first.
7.It is ok to say no. People have an awful habit of trying to feed other people and although it can come out of a caring place, it can get quite annoying for those that are just trying to survive the day. Even if someone made something special and wants everyone to try it, you can still say no.
8.Focus on the conversation. Trust me, people aren’t judging you or scrutinizing every bite you put in your mouth even if you are. If you are surrounded by people who know about your recovery you might feel overly ‘watched’ but try to make the day less about the food and more about the people.
9.Take care of yourself. I want you to challenge yourself and your recovery, but you need to also know that it is ok to put yourself first. If you need to step away or leave early, do it! I am not saying to use your eating disorder as an excuse to not eat or to get out of an uncomfortable situation, but you need to do what is best for your overall health. Family can be stressful and if you need to take a plate home and eat in a more comfortable environment then do it and don’t feel ashamed.
10.Be mindful and present. Enjoy the time with family and friends because that is what the day is really about. Keep your support network close and be honest if you are struggling. Having someone there with you to lean on can help tremendously. You don’t have to face the day alone.
These are just a few things that I have found helpful in recovery and I hope it can be of help to you too. Another last thing to think about – I find it really helpful to write down what you would imagine a Thanksgiving to be like fully recovered. What would you eat? What would you do differently than you do now? This gives you a vision to work towards and can give you hope. I never thought I would ever be able to get through a holiday dinner without behaviors, but I did and will continue to do so. Be patient with yourself. No one is perfect. I still get those negative thoughts but they no longer dictate my actions and I can move past them without getting stuck and I believe you can too. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!