Today’s nutrition blog focuses on the approaching Thanksgiving holiday.
Although not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, the majority of Americans do in one way or another. For many, Thanksgiving Day often involves family rituals and traditions with food as an integral part of the festivities. Depending on your situation, this can either be fraught with worry, tension, and uncomfortable interactions or filled with the joy of connection, warm hugs, and time together with cherished family members and friends. It’s most likely to be a little bit of both.
As we all know, food is the focus of Thanksgiving Day for the majority of people. How many times have you said or have heard others say “I can’t wait for Thanksgiving and all the food I’ll get to eat!” or “I better save up my calories for Thanksgiving day!” or “I better go on a diet after the holidays…” If you stop and think about it through the lens of someone who struggles with food issues, the way many Americans discuss the Thanksgiving meal can seem pretty disordered. So, what’s a person in recovery or someone trying to normalize their relationship with food to do, not only to survive but to thrive?! How can you focus on the joyful aspects of Thanksgiving when you have an eating disorder or a challenging relationship with food and your body?
Let’s explore that very question! It is possible that with some planning, you may be able to experience the Thanksgiving holiday in a more positive way.
1. Set the tone. Consider starting your day with a clear and realistic intention. This is not meant to be a rule or regimen you need to follow. Just consider a quote, mantra, or focus that you align with and that helps you ground. Not something you may rebel against or feel like you have failed if it doesn’t work out. Some examples:
a) Today I will do my best
b) I can create my future through my efforts
c) It’s a Process, not Perfection
2. Participate in a self-care practice before or after the meal. Maybe you start your day with a few yoga poses or a session. (If you work with a yoga instructor at The Emily Program, they can be a great resource for ideas.) Maybe you go for a mindful walk, take a bath, listen to some calming or uplifting music. Maybe you journal out your feelings, including worries and anxieties. Perhaps you draw or color out your emotions. Participating in an activity that you know works to help you calm, center and ground could prove to be really helpful in managing pre or post-holiday/meal stress. If necessary, check-in with your therapist or other members of your support team for some great ideas.
3. Fill up your “Tool Box” with recovery-minded tools. Plan ahead. People, Props, and Positive Thinking can be really important tools! Know who you can reach out to and see if they are available Thanksgiving Day if needed for a ‘reality check’ and some positive perspective. Let that person know how they can help. Here are a few other “tools” you could consider:
- Bring a journal with you or have your favorite quotes/reminders on your phone
- Create a small deck of “coping skills cards,” e.g. one that has a positive affirmation, another with your favorite yoga pose, mindful movement, or breathing technique, another with your meal plan or plan for eating, and another with a list of skills for grounding to provide a quick reminder of what is helpful.
- Check out The Emily Program’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages for positive affirmations and advice.
4. Plan and Prepare.
- Ask yourself: What do I need to feel successful?
- Eat for your recovery prior to the meal. Restricting your intake prior to the meal is not recommended. It will likely increase your chances of feeling irritable, anxious, indecisive, overwhelmed, or prone to overeating.
- Think about the food. Similar foods are served at most Thanksgiving meals. Put some thought into that. Decide what you enjoy, what your challenges are, and how you fit those choices into your meal plan or plan for eating. If you’re working with a registered dietitian, they can be a great resource!
- Have an after-meal plan. Consider making a plan for after the festivities. What support will you need after the meal to ride out any urges, anxieties, or intense emotions?
5. Kind. Compassionate. Confident. Be kind to yourself! Look, you are reading this blog post, which means you are either reinforcing what you know to be true for you or are considering other recovery-minded ideas. Knowledge is power! Practice Compassion with yourself and others. You are doing the best you can. You are enough. And someone is bound to say something negative or not so helpful about food, weight, and so on at Thanksgiving. Consider practicing compassion for that person who also may be struggling or just doesn’t understand. You can choose how you respond or react to unhelpful comments. It may help to direct loved ones to this previous post on The Dos and Don’ts of Thanksgiving for Family Members. Make a game plan of anticipated interactions and practice how you may respond. Your therapist, dietitian, or a friend could be a great person to practice this with. Be Confident! You CAN DO THIS! You really can. Each time you plan for success, you are in the beginning stage of creating a new “recovery route” for yourself. No matter how it turns out or how far along you get, the effort is something to be proud of and thankful for!