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Thanksgiving in Recovery: What to Think About

The holidays can be a really rough time for a plethora of reasons. Being in recovery and spending time with friends and family during a holiday that is chiefly focused on food can be especially challenging. Luckily, I have some ways for you to get yourself prepared for the day... and especially for that particular family member who just cannot ever stop commenting on your body.


First thing to think about: What is your meal schedule for the big day? The very first thing that needs to be said about the schedule is this - make sure you eat breakfast! Ok, now that that's out of the way, onto the rest of it. Does your family eat Thanksgiving dinner at a weird time or do does it align with a typical meal time, like dinner? Are you planning on being flexible with how you typically have meals? How can someone help hold you accountable to making sure that you are eating throughout the day so that you're not facing issues in terms of restricting or feeling like you need to overeat as you approach the thanksgiving meal?


Speaking of someone helping to hold you accountable: Who is your support system around meals or around a family environment? Who are your pressure points in a family environment and how can your support person help you emotionally prepare for that?

For example: if your mom is your support system, how can you both prepare yourselves for the likely event of grandma saying something about weight loss or your aunt saying something about your body? Being aware that these things may happen and preparing responses to them with your support person can help you navigate uncomfortable moments.


Are you telling people in advance what your boundaries and expectations are? For example, when Aunt Sandra says something to you like "oh it looks like you've gained weight" you can respond with "Hey Aunt Sandra, I'm not commenting on people's bodies and I'm hoping that you can reflect the same back to me. Otherwise, I will be walking away because it's something that's not helpful for me at this time."


A little while back, I wrote an entire post about how to respond when people can't keep themselves from commenting on your body. You can choose your own spice level and everything! Find that post here if you want some more inspiration on how to respond to Aunt Sandra.


Thinking about the environment and, specifically, the food environment: Is your family a grazing family that has lots of appetizers available? If so, are you grabbing a plate? Are you maneuvering yourself away from sitting in front of the food? If someone places an appetizer in front of you, are you moving yourself away so you don't feel that you have to eat them or are you snacking on them because they're there and not because you're hungry or actually wanting these things?


Thinking about eating off of a plate: Are you mindfully putting things on your plate? Are you engaging with what's in front of you or are you distractedly watching football that doesn't really matter because the Bills aren't even playing?


Let's not forget about self care: Are you taking the opportunity for a break when it is needed? Whether it is a step outside for fresh air or it means stepping away from the table to de-escalate from some challenging feelings ... what is your self care plan if you need it?


Having a plan of action: This is important for when dessert is brought out or for when someone says to you "is that all you're going to eat?" or "wow you must have been so hungry!". Preparing some responses ahead of time for these situations is a good idea so that you are ready to go when it inevitably happens on the big day. Remember that I've got a whole blog post just overflowing with ideas about how to respond to comments like these!


Some responses for when dessert comes out:

"I am not hungry right now but I would love to take some dessert home for when that changes because it looks like you really put a lot of effort into it and I definitely want to try it."

"Can I have a bite right now and I'll see how I feel and if I want to have more?"


For when people comment on your plate or the amount of food you've eaten or are eating:

mild - "I don't appreciate people commenting on my plate. It makes me really anxious and I hope you can respect that."

"Haha yes this is what I am eating but I would love to hear more about your vacation to Florida"

medium - "Haha is that all you're eating because that doesn't look like enough... looks like you're on another crash diet!"

"Is your life so boring that you need to talk about what's on my plate?"

hot - "Wow... I didn't realize you were a medical professional"

"Yeah this is the amount of food that I need in order to not be a total b****. So if you want to comment on it I can keep going..."


I just want to wrap up by letting you know that you got this and I'm sending you wishes for a safe and secure holiday experience.

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