Thanksgiving has been a pretty difficult holiday for me in the past. Once word got out that I was in treatment for an eating disorder, there was no hiding it anymore. No more sneaking away to dump my plate. All eyes are on me on Thanksgiving. I was in treatment for several years, from residential treatment to individual therapy. I did several Thanksgivings while in treatment, and I’ve picked up some tricks along the way that help me enjoy the holiday. I am recovered now, and I have a healthy relationship with food and my body, praise God!
With Thanksgiving focusing so much on food, I’ve found that lightening the mood helps me a lot. I always bring games for my family and I to play. When I laugh my anxiety takes a back seat. As my anxiety gets back under control my stomach feels better and it’s so much easier for me to eat. Plus games bring my family together like nothing else.
Another thing I’ve learned is to not go into Thanksgiving worrying about what other people think of me. There was one Thanksgiving (while in treatment) when I was determined to appear as though I was “like everyone else”. I wanted to eat a lot at the Thanksgiving meal in front of my family so that they would think I was doing well. I wanted them to be proud of me. But the truth was I was still terrified of weight gain. I decided I would just eat all of my calories at one meal, Thanksgiving dinner. It backfired horribly. Going from empty to super full was too much for me to handle. While some people might be able to eat just one giant meal on Thanksgiving, I think for a lot of people in recovery going from empty to stuffed is pretty overwhelming. It certainly was for me. I might have pulled off the illusion to my family that I was doing well, but it cost me. In a panic, I ended up in tears after using eating disorder behaviors to get rid of the fullness. I had not used eating disorder behaviors in several months and was so disappointed that I had let myself slip up. All because I was so concerned about what my family thought of me.
Finally, as I have healed, I have learned how to stay in my own lane. My recovery is MY recovery. My family and friends will make comments about how fattening their Thanksgiving food is. They will make comments about their weight. And they will talk about their post-dinner exercise plans to “make up for it”. It’s all they know. It has nothing to do with me, the way I eat, or the way I see my body. While I don’t like their comments, I acknowledge that they haven’t taken those thoughts to the extreme obsession that I have in the past. Their “stuff” is separate from mine. I know they have no way of truly understanding the living Hell that eating disorders are, and what I have been delivered from. So I lead by example. All eyes are still on me at Thanksgiving, but now for a different reason, I think. I eat what I want without guilt. I talk about how yummy the food is. I keep my eyes on my own plate. I don’t owe anyone an explanation for what’s on my plate and I have nothing to prove. I laugh, I play, and I give thanks.
My tricks for enjoying Thanksgiving in recovery have nothing to do with food. These are things that help calm my anxiety and change the way I think. I hope this finds everyone well this holiday season. I pray that this Thanksgiving will be a time of thanks and grace in the lives of those in recovery and their families. Full recovery is possible. Healing is possible.