Why I Hate Thanksgiving

Trigger warning: the following article contains graphic descriptions of anorexia nervosa.

I hate Thanksgiving. Seriously. It’s the worst holiday.

Of course, there’s the horrible colonialist history. Let’s gather around a feast and celebrate the fact that some American Indians took pity on us. Then let’s begin committing mass genocide against those very people! Thanks for your help in surviving a New England winter.

I think for the most part, people realize how messed up the history of America is and don’t make Thanksgiving about history. It’s supposed to be a time of celebrating what we have to be grateful for.

But I hate Thanksgiving, and it’s primarily because I have anorexia nervosa.

You probably don’t need me to tell you that anorexia sucks. It’s a well-publicized eating disorder that has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders, due to malnutrition and suicide risk. Beside the statistics, it sucks to live with anorexia. Every day is a challenge, and every mealtime is so fraught.

The worst time of the year is the holiday season, specifically Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday all about eating. And I hate to eat.

When I’m eating, I don’t want to think about it. I eat because I know what happens when I don’t eat, and I don’t want to fall into those depths again. I eat because I know what it’s like to slowly waste away. I eat because I can’t bring myself to come that close to death again.

And every moment that I eat, I hate it. I hate the feeling in my stomach that grows into a pain that begs me to eat. I hate the chewing, the swallowing, the absolute disgusting process.

Simultaneously, eating is amazing. Food tastes so good when you haven’t eaten in so long. I want to eat everything all at once, to shovel it all down.

And the moment I stop eating all I want to do is retch it all up. I want to rid myself of this gross weakness called “food” and be light and pure and happy.

And then there’s Thanksgiving, and I’m expected to stuff myself and love it. I’m expected to eat until I’m bursting and say thank you.

This isn’t supposed to be some dig at my family. It’s not like there’s retributions for not showing adequate thanks. But both sides of my family treat the holidays, and Thanksgiving in particular, as food centric. Food is the thing that brings us together, the thing that we talk about, the thing that we cook and consume together.

Thanksgiving is also fraught for me because it’s the first holiday I had after being diagnosed with anorexia. I vividly remember my grandmother and aunt lecturing me about how skinny I’d gotten. I was really sensitive at that time. I refused to admit that I had a problem until my doctor said it to my face. Funny how stupid I can be. You would think that I would have realized that something was wrong when I found myself weighing in in the low 80s.

That day, I was so aware of everything I was eating. Not only was I judging myself as I had been for a long time, I was keenly aware of other’s eyes on me. Watching me eat. Asking me about food. And talking and talking and talking about the food. I wanted to scream at them to stop, to shut up. I hated every mouthful I ate.

I’ve gotten a lot better since then, but I’m not going to pretend I’m healed. And even in the state I’m in now, with my anorexia in partial remission, I can’t often bring myself to talk about food.

I don’t know what sort of change I’m trying to provoke by writing this. I guess I’m just hoping that other people can relate to what I’m saying. And it’s a desperate plea for people to please, please think before they speak. There are people with eating disorders everywhere. Be careful.