For most people, Thanksgiving is a time of celebrating the things that we are thankful for, be it family, friends, or just lots of football. It is also a time where binge eating is the norm. The expectation is that we will all eat ourselves into a coma and feel full for a week. For most of us this is fine. We bounce back from this binge and go about our everyday lives. For someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, this is a nightmare. Someone who restricts their food intake sees nothing but a day of avoiding all the sights, smells, and meals of the day and someone who binges feels like their dirty little secret has been discovered and will spend the day looking for ways to compensate. How can someone who has struggled for so long to eat in a healthy way participate in such an unhealthy style of eating? Can Thanksgiving become something more than just a day to stuff ourselves on turkey and pumpkin pie? I thought I’d put out some ideas for folks who need some grounding during this holiday, whether recovering from an eating disorder or not.

Firstly, let’s all take a step back and try to remember that Thanksgiving is about giving thanks (it’s in the name of the holiday) and not about how many pumpkin pies you can eat. Allow yourself to be thankful for the people who prepared the food and the hard work that went into the planning for this meal. Make every attempt to enjoy the company of those you care about. For people who have struggled with an eating disorder, this might be the first holiday you’ve experienced where you could actually allow yourself to enjoy the food, and that truly is something to be thankful for. It will also most likely be difficult and you may struggle. That’s fine. Get your support system lined up before the holiday rolls around and you’ll be able to handle those stumbles.

Also, rather than gobbling up all the turkey within arm’s reach, take a few minutes to savor the food. Make an attempt to eat more slowly and truly taste the flavors. Many families save these “special” foods for the holiday season, so take the time to actually taste it. If you’re feeling really rebellious, make the decision to have these foods more than once a year. That can often take away the urge to overeat these “special” treats. If you have struggled with restricting it will most likely be scary to participate in a holiday where everyone else goes back for seconds and more. Work hard not to compare your plate to that of others. This is good food, and you deserve to enjoy it!

Now this last bit might be touchy for some of you. Some people love Thanksgiving because they get to spend time with family they don’t see often. Others dread it for this very same reason. It can be difficult to be around family members that you may have been avoiding since last Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution for this. If you family is abusive, the healthiest decision may be to forgo the traditional celebration. This is difficult, but you have to make the decisions that are right for you. However, if you’re just annoyed by your family it may be grin and bear it time. There are a lot of ways to deal with this situation – have a stress buddy that you can call at the end of the day to vent, rely on your significant other to keep you sane, and plan a little alone time throughout the day to keep a check on your sanity. As with the thankfulness piece, focusing on the positives of the day rather than dreading the tension can also make this holiday much easier to endure.

I hope you can use some of these tips in your holiday celebration, if only to remind yourself to focus on giving thanks. May you and yours (whoever they may be) have a blessed holiday that truly encompasses the meaning of Thanksgiving.