Okay. It’s Thanksgiving again. The hardest holiday for those with binge eating issues. Don’t panic. It’s only one day out of the year and it doesn’t have to start off a mult-week binge that continues for the rest of the year.
1. Start off by telling yourself that you can eat whatever it is that you want. However, only give yourself full servings of the things you really want, and give yourself very small (read 1-2 bites worth) of the things you want to sample. So if there are 4 different types of pie you want to sample, give yourself one slice worth of the 4 different types.
2. Keep it all to one plate. Don’t refill your plate several times. Make yourself one big plate and eat it slowly. Allow yourself to enjoy it.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. If there is a buffet, stay away from the buffet table. Be on the other side of the room as often as you can.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. Eat slowly and mindfully. It’s not a race to the end. You can enjoy good food and good conversation.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. Bring your journal with you so that you can sit and relax and process your feelings during the meal rather than stuff your feelings.
13. Bring your ipod with some mediation music or relaxing music that puts you in a calm mood.
14. Make a gratitude list! Think about what you are grateful for during the holiday.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.