Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. It’s full of love, laughter, family, and of course…food. The word many of us genuinely fear going into that third Thursday of November. I think Thanksgiving will always cause a little bit of a spike in my anxiety, but I also know a few ways to get through that day and end it with a smile and a mind full of peace instead of fear.
For me, the part of Thanksgiving that caused me the most anxiety was actually the variety of food and the build up of my mom cooking everything and laying it all out on the table. I wasn’t so much scared by the visual of the food, but the anticipation leading up to it and the idea that I would be putting so many calories into my body. Keep in mind though, “so many calories” for me meant consuming maybe 200 calories as my meal.
That being said, this is how I make it through Thanksgiving.
- I remain aware of how much I am eating. However, I do not mean this in the sense of caloric intake, but rather the physical amount of food and how my body feels while eating it. I remain intuitive to when I feel like I am getting full or when I know I am full and I put the fork down there and say I’m done. I respect my body and I do not worry about other people may be thinking.
- I am also aware of when my anxiety is telling me I’m full and when my body is actually physically full. They are two very different feelings. The anxiety based feelings are more thought based. For example, I’ll be thinking “That’s a lot of food” or “There has to be a lot of calories in this Turkey, I think I can be done”. When I’m actually physically full though, it’s less of a mental thought process and more of a feeling in my stomach. A feeling that I finished my plate of food and my body feels satisfied. It takes time to learn the difference, and I still struggle with it sometimes to be honest, but that is something that has really helped me get through my family meal.
- I eat slowly. This is probably the most important part for me. I used to rush through my Thanksgiving meal because I just wanted to get it in my body without thinking about it. I wanted to show my family that I was totally fine, there were no problems, I was eating and smiling, but I HATED that I was eating “so much food”. So instead of savoring it, I shoved it down and either forced it back up or got very depressed and anxious over it. So now, I purposely take my time with my food. I put a little bit of everything I want on my plate and I eat it slowly. I savor it. This gives my body time to process what I’m putting into it and time for my brain to tell me “hey you’re full”. It gives me time and when I eat slower, I actually end up eating better because I’m much more engaged in conversation and paying less attention to getting the food from the plate to my mouth, which in turn reduced my anxiety and ED related thoughts.
- I remind myself when I am finished eating that all I did tonight was nourish my body. I gave it what it needs to fuel my brain, my muscles, my organs, to keep me alive and healthy. I remind myself that I ate a normal amount of food and I pride myself on staying calm. If I start to have thoughts of purging, I again remind myself that all I did tonight was eat. I did what everyone does on Thanksgiving and that is perfectly okay. Throwing up will hurt the body that works so hard to keep me alive and I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to hurt the thing that keeps me going. I want to protect it. If I start to feel worried that “everyone’s going to see how much I ate”, I remind myself that you don’t gain 10 pounds over night and your body doesn’t change over night. I will look no different the next morning, and if I do, it’s probably just bloating and that is natural occurrence of the human body.
So, that is how I get through Thanksgiving. I hope this helps someone and if you have any tips for me or want to share how you personally get through Thanksgiving while in recovery/post recovery, I’d love to hear what you have to say. 🙂