For so many of my clients, whether working on recovery from an eating disorder or letting go of diets, the Thanksgiving holiday can be filled with dread!
Living in diet culture, we are surrounded by people inadvertently judging food choices, while at the same time commenting on their own food intake and body image.
Here are some strategies for dealing with the unofficial start of the holiday season, when you’re recovering from chronic dieting and/or disordered eating:
- Mentally prepare yourself by working with your team to strategize the holiday.
- Follow your meal plan (if you have one) and visualize your plate. Meal plans act as safety nets for when you feel lost with food. If you are giving up diets, remind yourself that all foods fit and there are NO RULES. There are no good or bad foods. Remember, this is only one meal, in one day. There is no need to compensate for a meal with any behaviors. Plan how you want your plate to look!
- Have a support person. Can you have a friend or family member sit close by or next to you for moral support?
- Survey the scene. Walk into the room and see which foods are on the table, including desserts. The more mental preparation you have, the easier it will feel.
- Distract yourself. If you feel anxiety coming up, see about distracting yourself by taking some deep breaths, counting the light bulbs in the room, or having a grounding tool like a fidget in your hands. Leave the room if you need to.
- Find your gratitude. Try and remember that the Thanksgiving meal comes from a lovely tradition of sharing gratitude for all we have. Can you work on finding what or who you feel grateful for this year?
- Plan responses to diet or body weight discussions. Examples:
- I don’t like to discuss my body or food plan with anyone. It is my business.
- Have a list of go-to topics if you need to change the subject: “Let’s talk about my new puppy.”
- Remove yourself from the room for a few minutes if you need to.
- If someone keeps talking about their diet or body and you don’t want to discuss, set a firm boundary and say, “Let’s talk about xyz,”…over and over again!
- Work on some mindfulness. Plan ahead to check in with hunger before you eat your meals, halfway through and towards the end of the meal. See about pacing yourself with another person.
- Do not restrict beforehand, or compensate afterwards. Remind yourself that the holiday is just one day and that you do not need to compensate for the meal with over-exercise or undereating. Our bodies have mechanisms in place to balance out our food intake.
- Practice good self-care and self-compassion. Make sure to get adequate rest and unfollow social media accounts that talk about dieting or negative body image. Remember that there are people who want to help you. If the day doesn’t go as planned, have compassion. Remember that letting go of disordered eating patterns is hard work that takes time and lots of patience.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that is usually about connection with our loved ones – friends and/or family. You are not alone in your struggle. There is no need to feel “good” or “bad” about eating any foods, or being in your body.
Reach out for support and allow yourself to be honest about any struggles you may be having.
If you want some added support as you head through the holiday and food seasons, take a look at all our Intuitive Eating Self-Study and Group Support programs.
Intuitive Eating Essentials for Midlife, Menopause and Beyond: This is a self-paced program that explores your relationship with food, your dieting history, readiness to integrate intuitive eating into your life, and teaches you how to use your values to make peace with food. This program is geared for women in Midlife, Menopause and Beyond with special lessons dedicated to how we change as we age and what role nutrition can play. Click here for all the details!