Thanksgiving can be a nightmare for anyone dealing with binge eating, bulimia or other compulsive eating issues. For many people, being around the stress of family coupled with giant amounts of food can be a recipe for acting out excessively with food. Be prepared before you go to Thanksgiving Dinner.
1.)Have an intention around food and drinking. Think about what you are going to choose to eat and drink and how much. Making this intention will help you to empower yourself around food and alcohol rather than letting the food take over. Share this intention with a family member or supportive friend or a therapist.
2.)If you don’t have anyone supportive at the Thanksgiving meal, see if you can bring a a support resource with you, a friend who might be going through recovery with you or someone you feel safe with. If you cannot do that, have a support person who you can talk to on the phone intermittently throughout the meal.
3.)Make sure that you eat a good solid breakfast before you go to Thanksgiving dinner. Don’t show up hungry. If you do, your hunger might take over and squelch your intention.
4.)Just because there are several new and interesting foods there, you don’t have to eat everything. Make sure that you let yourself have a solid dinner, with protein, vegetables and a starch if you wish. If you just snack or graze on a bunch of different foods, you will inevitably wind up feeling unsatisfied, as though you’ve not really had a meal. This could lead to feeling too full and trigger a binge.
5.)Talk to people in rooms away from food. You don’t have to sit on a couch in front of a giant platter of cheese and crackers and nuts and hors d’œuvres talking to your aunt. Try to concentrate on conversations with people.
6.)Eat slowly and mindfully. It’s not a race to the end. You can enjoy good food and good conversation.
7.)Don’t compulsively overexercise in anticipation of “eating extra calories.” It will leave you very tired and hungry, again, unable to empower yourself to hold your intention.
8.)Take walks or time outs. Let yourself leave the situation and take mini breaks. Let yourself get away from the stress of the food and the stress of family that sometimes exists. If it’s too cold or not realistic for you to leave, take your cell phone into another room and say you need to make an important call and talk to your support person.
9.)Bring your journal with you so that you can sit and relax and process your feelings during the meal rather than stuff your feelings.
10.)Bring your ipod with some mediation music or relaxing music that puts you in a calm mood.
11.)Make a gratitude list! Think about what you are grateful for during the holiday.
12.)If there are children there, spend time playing with them. If there are elders there, spend time talking to and getting to know them. Both things that will be enriching and get your mind off of food.
13.)Mediate. Sit quietly in the bathroom for five minutes and take deep slow breaths into your belly. Inhale slowly to the count of five and exhale slowly to the count of five. This will calm your body and allow you to let go of any stress or anxiety that your body is holding on to.
14.)Remember that if it seems like it might be too hard this year, you don’t have to go. It’s true, you might let some people down. But you can always explain to them that it’s important for you to take care of yourself in this way this year. If you don’t think that they’d be amenable to this, or you think that they will accuse you of being self centered or self absorbed, don’t offer any explanation that might leave you vulnerable to being shamed or insulted.
15.)Create loving boundaries for yourself. Think of your inner child and think about how you would help your child if they wanted to eat all the pie and all the mashed potatoes. You would be kind and understanding but explain to them that you didn’t want them to get a bellyache! So of course they are allowed to eat pie and mashed potatoes, but in moderate amounts. A good rule of thumb, keep portion sizes for your Thanksgiving treats to about the size of the palm of your hand.
For information on how to help a loved one with an eating disorder, please read this article.
I would love to know what kind of intentions people are setting to make their Thanksgiving safe and fun this year. Please don’t hesitate to post your Thanksgiving intentions in the comments. If you have any additional ideas on how to make the holiday safe, please post those as well!