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Mental Health

Tips and Tricks for Recovery: Thanksgiving Edition

TW: Discussion about eating disorders, depression, and body dysmorphia

If you are currently struggling with an eating disorder or depression, you are NOT alone. Help is always available.

We have come a long way from the long held beauty standards of a stick-thin body based on starvation; however, It still feels as if we live in a society that often perpetuates diet culture and glorifies eating disorders. I, myself, have seen several videos going around on TikTok discussing the so-called “perfect bodies” that eating disorders produce, neglecting to speak about the terrifying mental health suffering that comes alongside it. Often, the holiday season has a way of exacerbating diet culture and binge eating. Media stories, especially in women’s magazines, typically focus on weight loss measures and extreme diets to follow after what they call “holiday binge eating.” None of this is particularly helpful; in fact, it makes a worse impression on the younger generation of women in today’s society.

Most people often look forward to the holiday season and all the delicious meals that follow. However, those with eating disorders often dread the holidays and fear the large Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas parties. I’ve often experienced a lot of overwhelming anxiety during Thanksgiving, stressing over the rich foods and large portions. Most don’t have a supportive environments at home, adding an extra layer of stress and guilt. For those struggling, here are some tips and tricks I have learned to help cope with some of my food fears during Thanksgiving.

One of the most important things is to not restrict yourself. There are never any rules or restrictions when it comes to eating food, especially during the holidays. It is OK to eat what you want when you want, no matter the food and no matter the portion. One of the hardest things while recovering from an eating disorder is learning to not restrict yourself from certain foods. While it may be hard to wrap your mind around, all foods are okay, whether its a pumpkin pie at your Thanksgiving table or a Christmas ham. I find it helpful to treat these major holidays as any other day, which makes it easier to navigate the larger meals with family. There is always room for you to enjoy the holiday season meals despite often triggering comments about your relative joking about their diets starting the next day.

One of the things I felt most helpful last year during Thanksgiving was not overthinking about food portions and stressing myself out about calories. It was harder for me to see Thanksgiving as a family celebration rather than a pile of fear foods, but I tried to go day by day thinking about how thankful I was to still be around so many people who loved me. I didn’t want to lose myself to my struggle and not be able to enjoy the little time I got to spend with my family. One of the tricks I picked up was not seeing Thanksgiving as some large holiday and just experiencing it as a normal sit down dinner with a few extra family members. This really helped anchor me and discard my intrusive thoughts. Thanksgiving and the following holidays are NOT about the food or the meals. They are about being surrounded by those you love and enjoying time you don’t get to spend with each other often. While its hard to get this mindset, try taking it step by step as you would a normal day in recovery rather than taking a huge leap into a stressful situation.

Every body is unique, and every eating disorder is different. It is always important to surround yourselves with those who will love and support you through the process rather than be around negativity and unhelpful commentary. While some of these tips may not work for you and help others, I encourage those in recovery to explore what works for them in order to feel the holiday spirit and feel confident in themselves again no matter the time of year.

Megha is currently a second year global studies major and film, television, and digital media minor at UCLA. She has a passion for the arts, including photography, graphic design, and painting. In her free time, she loves reading classic literature, making jewelry, and learning new languages!
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