It’s Okay not to be Thankful for Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is lauded as a holiday of thanks, togetherness, and harmony. However, this meal-centric holiday is also considered to be a goldmine of opportunity for advertisers. From commercials about new diets to gyms promoting memberships by promising that participants can “lose that holiday fat,” it’s easy to see why Thanksgiving isn’t always something to be thankful for.

For those struggling with food, weight, or body image, Thanksgiving can be a particularity triggering holiday. Not only are diet companies, beauty stores, and exercise facilities using the holiday to promote sales based off of body shame, but individuals are often subjected to critical comments by those they love the most. While often not intentionally, those around the Thanksgiving table may contribute to eating disorder thoughts and behaviors.

We often see in popular culture or in our own lives that Thanksgiving is a time to binge and then feel guilty. Movies are stocked with dinner table references of “having to buy bigger pants” and needing to exercise more in order to “work off” what was consumed. Family members may comment on the amount of food others are eating, on the butter content, or even pressure individuals to eat more, e.g. have that extra slice of pie! Meals may quickly feel like a time of shame rather than a time of joy.

Now, let’s be honest. You don’t have to be thankful on Thanksgiving. We don’t expect others to be thankful for their triggers or tough days, so we should grant ourselves the same permission. Thanksgiving is hard for some, and that’s okay! Sometimes, it’s possible to find moments of thanks even on the tough days (for example, like when you stick to recovery during the holiday!), but, it’s not mandatory and it doesn’t make you a bad person if you can’t find something to be thankful for. If you are struggling this week, just know that there is always next week and next week is just as good as any to vocalize what you are thankful for!

To those in recovery, who are struggling to be thankful during Thanksgiving we hope you know…

  • It’s okay!
  • The most important thing you can do during Thanksgiving is to stick to your recovery plan.
  • If you need support, it’s okay to reach out. That means you’re strong!
  • You don’t have to participate in everything. If meal preparation is triggering, it’s okay to hang out in a different room.
  • Listen to your body and your heart. Eat as much as you need, participate as much as you can, and prioritize your healing above all else.

To those supporting loved ones with eating disorders (and to everyone else!), please remember…

  • Talking about food, especially calories, sugar, and fats, can be triggering.
  • Comments about weight, appearance, and the amount of food eaten by others isn’t productive or necessary. Try to focus on other things like accomplishments, values, actions, and positive traits!
  • Have activities and distractions on hand. Set out a deck of cards or a board game so if folks are struggling and need a distraction, they have an easy option.
  • Thanksgiving doesn’t just have to be about food. Place emphasis on family and friendship rather than the meal.
  • Start new traditions! One of our favorite traditions was started by an Emily Program community member, who created a “Grateful Tree,” where her family writes everything they are grateful for under a tree that they created.

As always, if you need help, we are here for you! At The Emily Program, we are able to address each person holistically, allowing all factors going into their eating disorder to be properly addressed and worked though. If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, we strongly encourage you to reach out and get help. If you are ready, you can call us at 1-888-364-5977 or complete our online form.

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