How To Survive (And Savor!) Thanksgiving As An Emotional Eater

How To Survive – And Thrive! – During Thanksgiving As An Emotional Eater

By Kate Summers

Tis the season for quality time with friends, family – and food.

Lots and lots of food.

The combination of socializing, stress and sugar can be a trifecta of anxiety for people who struggle with disordered and emotional eating.

As someone who’s spent more than one Thanksgiving alternating between fear of the unknown casserole dish, passing on the crescent rolls because ‘no carbs allowed,’ and furtively sneaking whipped cream out of the whisking bowl when no one else is in the kitchen, I get how tough Thanksgiving can be when you have a complicated relationship with food.

It began to click when I gave up diets for good – during the holidays, too – but that takes time, patience and a whole lot of self-compassion.

Here’s what I learned about not just surviving, but thriving through the holidays without feeling crazy around food.

Don’t try to “save up.” The diet mentality, which so many emotional eaters are caught up in, says that you should hold out until the main meal. Under no circumstances is Thanksgiving dinner (or any other meal, for that matter) an excuse to restrict earlier in the day. It doesn’t do what you think it will, and it almost always backfires. Eat in the morning when you are hungry, snack if you feel like it – because let’s be honest, it would be pretty tragic to go into the main meal so ravenous you don’t even taste what’s on your plate.

Treat yourself. Make time for self care and indulge in something that has nothing to do with food. Sleep in. Take a morning bubble bath. Give yourself a bright manicure. Have a Friends Thanksgiving marathon on Netflix (they do it up right every season). Whatever it is, dedicate time to you – doing what makes you feel good. It will help you feel more relaxed and grounded before you head into the hustle and bustle of the kitchen.

Acknowledge you’re struggling. If you don’t already have a confidant in your partner or a family member, try to identify someone who can give a little extra support. Whether it’s sitting beside you at the table with a quiet reminder to breathe, or to simply check in with you after the meal, knowing that you don’t have to face the anxiety alone can be comforting. No one in the family who fits the bill? Arrange a phone call with a friend pre and post-festivities to debrief.

Make an after-dinner date. Whether it’s a family walk, watching the football game or – as much as it pains me to suggest this – hitting the mall for some pre-Black Friday madness, have a plan in place post-dinner. This is the time you may find yourself rehashing the mashed potatoes if guilt tends to take over, or distractedly picking leftover turkey and pie crust off plates while you’re “helping wash dishes.” It’s important to get out of your own head, and that calls for good old-fashioned distraction.

Keep it in perspective. Remember that it’s one day. It may seem trite, but Thanksgiving really is just one day. One meal, in fact. Don’t let the diet industry convince you that you have to repent for any Thanksgiving sins. You have permission to enjoy the meal, and then move on. There is so much talk about how food shouldn’t be emotional, but that’s just not realistic. Food IS emotional – it’s part of how we show love and joy and gratitude. And that is okay. Acknowledging that food makes us feel good doesn’t give it power; it just adds more depth to our senses. And the best celebrations are sensory experiences.

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