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Turkey Day!

Who's ready for another edition of “Alana tries to help people navigate the holidays through tips which she hopes are helpful”?!

Last time I did this I discussed Halloween- a holiday that can take a major toll on anyone suffering from an ED or anyone recovering from one but this Thursday comes another holiday which may be just as bad: Thanksgiving.

Just like Halloween, Thanksgiving is a holiday known for food; turkey, stuffing, potatoes, pumpkin pie, gravy, cranberry sauce… the list continues. When you enter a thanksgiving feast, the unspoken rule is that you are allowed, and even encouraged to stuff yourself. This may not only be a major trigger for anyone who has in the past, or currently, severely restricts what they eat since they are confronted by heaps of food and expected to eat it, but it also poses a risk to those suffering from binge and purge disorders since they have access to all of this delightful food and have permission to eat as much as they want, meaning they know in the back of their heads they can just get rid of it later on. Yet, unique to thanksgiving, is that, besides food, the other major component of the holiday which acts as a trigger for many, is family. For some, their family is their support system, the ones who have helped them along a bumpy road to recovery but we cannot be naive to say that all families are equally as supportive. For many others, their family are the reasons why they have ED in the first place, the crux of all of their insecurities, the epicenter of their pain and stress. In other words, Thanksgiving provides a double whammy for a lot of people who have suffered or who are suffering from ED; the dangerous combination of food and family can be extremely overwhelming (personally, Thanksgiving is a holiday that has always caused me immense stress) so please consider these few tips about how to help yourself over the next week or so:

  1. Identify a Support Person: I mentioned above that not all families are capable of helping those with an ED but that does not mean that you, alone, need to face a huge mass of people. You might not have the best relationship with your parents, or you might have that one crazy, drunk uncle who makes inappropriate comments but I encourage everyone to find at least one person that will be at the Thanksgiving table with them who they can turn to. I am lucky enough to have the most amazing, wonderful mother who I know I can tap out at any second. When I was younger, we even had a secret hand motion that meant I needed her. But it doesn’t have to be a parent; consider a sibling, or a cousin. If there is no one there who you feel you can lean on, ask a friend to be available should you need something. Remember: you are not an inconvenience to them or to anyone else! Always seek help if you need it. Thanksgiving can be extremely stressful and exhausting, so don’t go through it alone.

  2. Time-Out’s: Thanksgiving is a hectic holiday for anyone, regardless of whether or not they may be dealing with an ED; grandparents asking what you want to do with your life, aunts and uncles wondering why you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend, catching up with distant relatives or family friends who you sincerely don’t have any commonalities with, trying to keep up with the latest family drama. IT IS TIRING! So, I recommend taking a break. Even if it is in the middle of the meal, excuse yourself to use the bathroom or go play with any animals that may be in the house. Allow yourself to use your phone for a few minutes, even if your parents told you “this year, we’re going screen-free.” Do whatever you need to do. If this requires a little planning ahead, even better. Think about strategies you can use if you start to feel overwhelmed. Maybe pack a book, some music, coloring pencils and paper, anything that has helped you in the past that you can escape to. If you find you are incapable of leaving the table, BREATHE. In through your nose and out through your mouth.

  3. Plan in Advance: A lot of people go on fad diets before and after Thanksgiving, trying to compensate for the iconic thanksgiving meal. DO NOT DO THIS. Go about your day as normal, plan to eat breakfast and lunch, depending on what time your meal is. Before going to sit down at the table, look at the food that’s available and create a reasonable plan for yourself. If you don’t think you can handle dessert, then know that before hand and go for a little extra potatoes instead. Plan before, how many servings you need and if you will go up for seconds. It sounds odd, but it will help you get through the daunting dinner. Finally, don’t let what others are saying change your plan. There tends to be a lot of talking about “being fat” and diet fads at the Thanksgiving table so try your hardest not to listen. If you need to, write down your plan on a piece of paper and carry it with you. As hard as it is, work on setting boundaries and try to remember that the issues others have with food are not your own.

If you do not find these tips helpful, go looking online. There are so many out there and each one caters to individual need. Overall, don’t forget to think about yourself this Thanksgiving. Gratitude is important but caring for yourself and ensuring your own health is even more important!

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