How to Handle Triggering Eating Disorder Situations During the Holidays
Updated: Apr 21
So the holidays can be such an exciting time, but I also know they can be filled with anxiety and dread if your eating disorder is invited. Sometimes it isn’t invited but just shows up. And then stays the rest of the evening. I want to provide you with some tips, tricks, and insights as to how to kick your eating disorder out of the party, unable to return! You deserve an eating disorder free holiday.
Holidays can also be filled with situations you can prepare for and expect and situations you can’t prepare for. It’s important to be ready (as much as you can) for both in order to enjoy your time with family and friends. This is a day and time of year you want to fondly look back on and remember the laughs and yummy taste of pie.
We all have that family member that for some reason will bring up weight, diet talk, body shaming, treatment, appearance, how much one (or themselves) is eating or not eating, how Thanksgiving is filled with “bad” foods, all the negativity!! All the things no one wants to talk about, especially if you’re in ED recovery. The things people say can be expected to an extent, but sometimes people are unpredictable. Also if you know the menu, you can prepare some coping mechanisms beforehand. But if you don’t, it’s still important to be prepared and have handy tricks in your pocket for the unexpected.
Basically, I want to give you some tools to use during the expected and unexpected situations. You may prepare yourself all you can before Thanksgiving, but sometimes triggers just come out of nowhere and you’re scrambling to get your mind to calm down. I’m not saying my tips are foolproof, but may be super helpful like they have been for me.
~Remember to Breathe
-Before visiting with family, take a few minutes to yourself to practice some deep breathing. Calm your mind, remember your goals in recovery, and the true meaning of this day. Or think about nothing at all- clear out your mind and start the day fresh.
~Redirect the Situation
-Going back to the whole fam member saying something that could be triggering our uncomfortable to you/your ED.
You can redirect the situation a few ways: you can reply by telling them how happy you are to see them, asking about their job, even something as simple as mentioning the weather. You don’t have to reply by commenting on their appearance, diet talk, body image etc. You can shut it down by redirecting the subject and talking about something different to signal you don’t want to discuss these negative topics.
Building off- if someone makes a comment about the food, calories, or body image in a negative light, you can make a comment about how happy you are to have everyone together or how excited you are to play card games later.
~Remove Yourself From the Situation
-If someone ends up to make a comment that makes you uncomfortable or you start having triggering thoughts, it’s okay to remove yourself from the situation. Go sit in the bathroom or in another room for 5-10 minutes. Breathe, talk to yourself, regroup for as long as you need. Bring yourself back to the present.
~Keep a Note to Yourself
-The day before, make a little list of affirmations for yourself or things you can say to your ED to shut it down. These can be things as simple as:
“you’re funny, you’re smart and surrounded by love”,
“you got this,” “you’re a rockstar today,”
“you can conquer all your fear foods today” or things like
“hey ED, you’re not invited today,”
“ED, you have no hold over me,”
“I am stronger than my ED.”
It can be really hard to calm your mind in the moment so sometimes being able to pull out things you know you need to tell yourself physically written on a piece of paper can make it easier to get rid of your ED.
~Appoint Someone Your Recovery Partner
-It’s SO helpful knowing you’ve got someone in your corner and that they’ve got your back. Talk with someone before going to Thanksgiving festivities, like mom, dad, sibling, favorite cousin, about some of your triggers or points that might be difficult throughout the day. Make up a little signal with that person, like a wink or nose scratch, when you’re struggling during the day so they can come over to you and give you a hug or squeeze on the hand. Nobody will know the difference and the physical touch will be able to bring you back to reality.
~Practice Self Care
-This week, practice a little self care and show yourself some love before Thanksgiving. Might make it a bit easier to get through the day having some self love on your side.
-Recently my best friend came out with The No Worries Workbook: 124 Lists, Activities, Prompts to Get You Out of Your Head and On with Your Life. This book is an amazing resource with super fun activities. My friend has such a way with words, and I find myself getting so lost in the book. She’s got activities like:
“experiment with roll breathing,”
“check off your strengths,”
“identify your values,” and the perfect one for Thanksgiving-
If you order today, you can have it available by tomorrow or Wednesday and work through it to ease your worries before Thanksgiving!
Remember- you are stronger than your eating disorder and it does not have to be invited to such a fun, family filled time! Despite the day being hard, it is so worth it. My favorite quote ever is something along the lines like “your worst day in recovery is far better than your best day with your eating disorder.” That could be totally wrong but it’s just a reminder that recovery is still so much better, no matter how bad the day may get.
A few years ago at Thanksgiving, I was having a moment and I grabbed my aunt and ran upstairs and just completely lost it. She calmed me down, let me cry it out and vent. What was truly amazing was that one by one my mom, grandma, aunts and cousins all made their way upstairs wondering where all the ladies had gone. We all sat on the bed upstairs, talking and comforting one another, as we were all overwhelmed with life. I felt SO much better knowing my family understood and was there to comfort me.
On a day like Thanksgiving, find people in your lives that will sit on a bed and cry with you if you need it.
We don’t need body shaming, diet talk, or our eating disorder in our lives on this day or ever! Remember you worth and know you can enjoy that second plate of food or third slice of pie with ALL the ice cream and whipped cream.
Visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org for additional resources!