When you are confronted with the aroma of roasting turkey and mountains of freshly baked sweets, it can be difficult to control what you eat during the holidays. If you are also struggling with an eating disorder, such as anorexia, bulimia, or Binge Eating Disorder, this temptation may be overwhelming.
If you have received eating disorder treatment, you likely prepared ways to be around food without falling into old habits. However, the holidays can be filled with temptations and stressors that can entice you to relapse into old behaviors.
Before heading to your Thanksgiving meal or other holiday celebration, it’s a good idea to be prepared. Here are some ways to manage your eating disorder during the holidays so that you can enjoy yourself without the risk of relapse:
1. Eat regular meals. Eat regular, well-proportioned meals in the days leading up to the holidays so that you aren’t tempted to overindulge because you’ve been cutting calories.
2. Practice portion control. It can be difficult to control the amount of food you put on your plate during the holidays, especially if food is served buffet-style. When you are serving yourself, visualize the proper portions and take only what you can realistically eat. Remember that you can always get more if you are hungry, but you don’t have to eat everything just because it’s there.
3. Plan your meal. Even if you don’t know what’s going to be served, you can decide in advance what types of foods you will eat at Thanksgiving dinner or during a holiday party. You can make a conscious decision to eat only proteins or vegetables so that you aren’t tempted by the plates of dessert. You don’t have to deprive yourself completely of the foods you most enjoy, but eat them in moderation.
4. Bring a dish. Make sure there is at least one dish that you know you can eat by bringing one yourself. That gives you some control over what you will eat and allows you to enjoy your meal without feeling guilty for eating other foods.
5. Avoid temptation. You know which foods are your triggers, so avoid them. Maintain your distance from the cheese and crackers and sit closer to the fruit bowl. That way, if you are tempted to reach for something, you’re more likely to grab something healthy. If you aren’t able to avoid your trigger foods at holiday functions, you can keep them out of your home. Don’t buy any extra sweets for the holidays and store them in your kitchen. If you get baked goods for a present, bring them to work or give them to somebody else so that you aren’t tempted to eat them.
6. Keep a food journal. Checking in with a journal every day can help you keep track of what you consume during the holidays. Taking note of everything you eat can help you better manage your eating and your diet, and leave you feeling more in control.
7. Minimize holiday stress. The holidays can be stressful, and can trigger your eating disorder as a way to cope. Decrease your stress level by reducing the number of obligations you commit yourself to during the holidays and be sure to take some time for yourself.
8. Get necessary support. Whether you are struggling with an eating disorder or in recovery from one, you may need some type of support to make it through the holidays without relapsing. Know what triggers your disordered eating and get support from your family, friends, or therapist to avoid those triggers. If you can’t avoid them, have people you can call if you feel overwhelmed instead of returning to old eating behaviors.
Thanksgiving and other holidays can be challenging if you are struggling with an eating disorder. Keep in mind that the purpose is to celebrate with the people you love. Don’t focus on how much you are eating or how much weight you feel you’ve gained. By finding ways to manage your eating disorder before being overwhelmed by a holiday meal, you can better enjoy where you are and who you are with.