Advice by Kaela: Thanksgiving Is Coming Up And I Am Anxious About How To Navigate The Meal Time With My Family
By Kaela Scott
Question: Thanksgiving is coming up and I am anxious about how to navigate the meal time with me family. Any suggestions?
Answer: The holidays are always a challenging time when you struggle with an eating disorder. Food is often the main focus of Thanksgiving, which makes the whole weekend feel overwhelming. If your family knows you struggle here are a few tips that I recommend to make the weekend one that you’re thankful for:
- Be involved in choosing some of the menu items: I know that being involved in the whole food experience can be a little triggering, but from my experience, people who have some say in what will be made feel more prepared and less anxious when it is time to sit down for a meal
- Be honest with your family about what you need: Letting people know what does and doesn’t work for you means there will be realistic and clear expectations that each party can live up to. Try to be clear with yourself about what you can handle and what you need before talking with your family. Anticipate, if you can, the things that will be particularly challenging as well as the areas you feel you want to push yourself. Once you are clear, chat with your family members to let them know where you stand so that you can all be on the same page. This also helps increase accountability. We want to challenge ourselves to step into what is uncomfortable without doing things that feel intolerable.
- Set up a clear self care schedule before heading into the weekend and stick to it: Setting aside time to take care of yourself means you will have moments where you can soothe your anxiety and refill your tank so you can be prepared for the next family engagement. These weekends can be draining even for those who don’t struggle with food, so carving out time to take care of and prioritize yourself will increase the likelihood of the weekend feeling like a success.
If, on the other hand, your family doesn’t know about your eating disorder, here are a few tips to survive the weekend:
- Be involved in choosing some of the menu items: I know that being involved in the whole food experience can be a little triggering, but from my experience, people who have some say in what will be made feel more prepared and less anxious when it is time to sit down for a meal.
- Prepare for it to be a hard weekend: I know this seems unhelpful but the truth is, if your family doesn’t know about your eating disorder and you are required to engage in all of the activities, there is a strong chance that you will be overwhelmed and triggered on many occasions. If you head into the weekend knowing it will be challenging, you can plan accordingly. Before the weekend you need to do as much as you can to fill your tank and take care of yourself (this does not mean increase your eating disorder behaviors). During the weekend you need to remind yourself that it is only 1 weekend, that you will be okay and that you can get through this.
- Plan in a recovery day: After the weekend is over, give yourself permission to take a day or two to really take care of yourself and actively engage in self care and restorative practices. Encourage yourself to realize that despite how challenging the weekend may have been, you still managed to get through it and survive. Often what we feel will be impossible ends up being possible.
Getting through holiday weekends can be challenging, but there are things you can do to make it more manageable. Try implementing these tips above and see how it goes. Remember, you are stronger than you think and this Thanksgiving is an opportunity to lean into your healthy side.
Kaela Scott is a Registered Clinical Counsellor who specializes in Eating Disorders. She runs her own private practice and works with the Looking Glass Foundation in both their summer camp and their Hand In Hand Program. She has been passionate about working with eating disorders since freeing herself from her own struggle and realizing what it is like to be happy and well. When she isn’t working, you can find Kaela either cozying up with a cup of tea and her friends or up in the mountains going for a hike.