8 Tips to Navigate Food and Emotions this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be about gratitude and joy for some and for others’, it’s extremely stressful – especially if you’re dealing with or in recovery from an eating disorder.  Here are some things you can do:

1.      Be Gentle with Yourself:

Remind yourself that this is just one day out of the year and it won’t make or break you.  Give yourself permission to eat foods that you like.  BREATHE and know that you are doing the best you can.

2.    Get Grounded:

BEFORE you leave your house.  What grounds you?  Do something that feels very grounding for you and set an intention to keep checking in with yourself during the day.  One of my favorite ways to get grounded is to ask myself “Where are your feet?” – then look down at them; wiggle my toes, feel my feet on the floor or in my shoes.  When I do that, I can rest assured that right here, in this moment, I am safe.  In this moment, where my feet are, I am okay.  Here are some other examples of grounding activities:

Prayer and meditation


Coloring mandala’s or other coloring

Going for a walk

Make a list: of anxieties, gratitude’s or plans, etc.

Have a bit of a plan for the day – perhaps write it down in the morning.


3.    Contain the Food:

Do your best to eat meals at the normal times you usually eat them.  So instead of skipping breakfast and going to Thanksgiving hungry, eat your normal breakfast.  When you get to your event, check in to your hunger cues – on a scale of 0-10, with zero being extremely starving, 5 is having a light sense of satisfaction – being neither hungry nor full and ten being the most stuffed you’ve ever experienced.  How hungry are you?  Aim for letting yourself empty out to a 2-3 before eating a meal.  See if you can stop eating at a 5-7.  Once you are hungry, rather than grazing on all the different foods, make a plate.  Allow yourself to put at least a little bit of each food you love on the plate or foods you’d like to try.  Skip the foods that don’t interest you much.  Sit down and really savor the foods you chose.  Check in with your hunger and satiety signals a few times while you eat your plate.  Once you are satisfied, tell yourself that you can have more when you are hungry again and follow through.  Making a practice of using hunger and satiety cues is extremely helpful in finding balance with food.

4.   Keep Your Boundaries:

People tend to project their OWN food and body issues onto others’.  So if you notice yourself engaged in a conversation with someone who’s trying to talk you in or out of eating or commenting on your body, take a step back.  Check in with yourself and see what YOU NEED, rather than what this person is trying to get you to do.  Saying you need to use the bathroom is always an easy out to give yourself some time and space to check back in with yourself and get grounded.  Take some deep breaths, splash some water on your face and ask yourself what you need in that moment to take care of yourself before you leave the bathroom.  Here are some examples of things you can say to people who are pushing you: “No, thank you”

“I’m okay right now”

“Yes, I’m going to enjoy this food right now”

“I’m not hungry”

“I’ll let you know when I’m ready for ...”

“I’d rather not discuss my body with you”

Practice saying these boundaries out loud BEFORE the holiday, so that when you’re in the moment, they flow easily and effortlessly.

5.    Make a Self-Care Plan:

If you notice yourself getting overwhelmed, come prepared with an exit strategy.  Here are some examples:

Playing outside with the kids (or adults)

Going into another room for a breather

Taking a walk with a trusted person

Making a phone call to someone from your support group

Taking a time out to journal or color

Going for a drive

6.    Ask for Help:

Enlist a member of your support group to be ‘Holiday Buddies’ to practice what I call ‘Book Ending’:  Have a few agreed upon times you with check-in with one another throughout the day – perhaps before, during and after.  You could plan to call or text one another to report how things are going.  If you don’t hear from your buddy, shoot them a text to see what’s going on.  In this way you have another person who has your best interest in mind to be accountable to.  This practice is also helpful in getting your mind off yourself and your own difficulties.

7.    Be of Service

If you’re feeling social anxiety, focus on what you can do to help.  Be it washing dishes, entertaining the kids, setting the table, taking out the trash – if you make it your mission to help out as much as possible, you’ll find yourself busy and this can really diffuse social awkwardness and anxiety.

8.    Trust:

Trust your body to make up for any ‘mistakes’ you may make.  One day, one meal, one bite at a time.  This day will not make or break you.  Try to turn it over and enjoy as much as possible.