If you've ever struggled with an eating disorder in any form, Thanksgiving can be a very difficult time. Eating disorders and recovery look different for everyone, and the process is never linear, especially on such a stressful holiday. Make sure you always do what's right for you and follow professional advice first and foremost.
But to get through Thanksgiving and the holiday season, you might want to try out these tips:
1. Make a plan before the holiday. You don't have to go in unprepared. Decide what you are going to do beforehand—what steps can you take? What's helped you in the past? What helps you feel in control? Mark down an eating disorder hotline, compile some resources that have helped you before, and see a therapist or professional if need be.
2. Let a family member know what's going on, and have a support person. This can be difficult if you're not close with your family, but having someone on your team who can change the subject if someone starts talking about food or who can offer support can be a valuable support mechanism. If you feel comfortable, of course, you can of course let your family know you'd rather not discuss certain things.
3. Allow yourself to leave if things get too uncomfortable. There's nothing wrong with taking a break or a walk, going into another room, going for a drive, or asking that a family member or friend that you trust come pick you up. You're also not obligated to stay and help prepare or clean up; being around food as it's getting prepared can be difficult for those in eating disorder recovery, and you need to prioritize your own health this holiday.
4. Avoid diet advice and health blogs during this time. This is always a good rule of thumb, but try to keep away from any beauty bloggers or anything that might make you feel bad about your body image. Instead, follow body positive and body neutral accounts, like Jameela Jamil's i_weigh or @effyourbeautystandards. It's also ok to specifically avoid family members who make toxic comments.
5. Give thanks for what your body can do. Our bodies are not things to be looked at and judged and changed. They help us move, dance, hear music, feel, and live in every respect. Giving thanks for all your body can do looks different for everyone. It can look like putting on your favorite outfit, loving yourself and appreciating the skin you're in, of course, but sometimes that's too difficult or not appropriate for specific situations. If you prefer a body neutrality approach, try avoid looking in mirrors, wear clothes that make you feel safe and secure, and think more about how you're feeling than how your body looks or compares to others'. It's a bit cliche, but practicing gratitude, focusing on the positives, and visualizing the kind of holiday you want to have can also be helpful.
6. Realize that you might be triggered anyway. You don't have to get mad at yourself for not having a good time or for being triggered at Thanksgiving. Realize that hearing your family members discuss food (and seeing your family in general, sometimes) can be very stressful, and forgive yourself for feeling upset when these conversations come up. Accepting your emotions is part of your journey to recovery, and sometimes suppressing your emotions can be even more damaging than just letting yourself feel them. Remember, you've gotten through this before, and you will again. Thanksgiving is a stupid colonialist holiday, anyway—you aren't obligated to enjoy it.
If you're in a position where you can support others who might be struggling with the stress that accompanies Thanksgiving this year, there's a lot you can do to help, too. Here are some tips:
1. Focus on your language. Instead of remarking on a loved one's appearance, comment on anything else at all.
2. Comment on how good the food is, not how much food there is. Thanksgiving can easily turn into a series of lamentations about how much everyone's eating, but why be negative about it? Don't make comments about how much or how little someone else is eating; instead, compliment your relatives on their cooking. There's no reason to discuss diets or how you're failing your health plan during Thanksgiving or over any holiday.
3. Never make a comment about how much or how little food someone puts on their plate or eats. Really, just don't. They're already aware of it, and you don't need to mention it. Don't bring up a loved one's eating disorder unless they bring it up first, also; it's just not necessary, especially during an already stressful time.
4. Make sure to do your research. If you know what specific kinds of struggles your loved ones are going through, there are lots of personalized guides to helping out.
5. Remember that you never know what everyone else is going through—someone could be struggling and you might have no idea. So err on the side of caution, love, and gratitude. Stop family members when they start making unpleasant comments. Focus on being grateful for the chance to spend time with family and for everything you have and how far you've come, and always remember to revolt against colonialist holidays and beauty standards, which, strangely, tend to go hand in hand.