Thanksgiving, the Eating Holiday: How to Cope

For many folks Thanksgiving can be a holiday of overeating a little too much and even perhaps the beginning of a few pounds of weight gain between November and the New Year. 

We hear about the topic of holiday weight gain and how to combat this from just after Halloween through January – at least.

Others folks have just the opposite experience toward this holiday and feel overwhelmed with the amount of food and focus on eating and overeating. This can trigger anxiety, depression, disordered eating,overexercise and further expand an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.

What can you do over the holiday period, specifically Thanksgiving, if you have an eating disorder or disordered eating?

  • Plan ahead, but be flexible. Try to know  what may be offered at the table for the larger meals and in the places you’ll be traveling.  Understand what will be best for you to eat or avoid in keeping your own needs and feelings in check. If you’re visiting family or friends ask if you can make a dish that you know you will eat and feel safe with as this can potentially decrease further behaviors.

    Bringing your own dish is also a contribution to the meal which is what Thanksgiving is all about – bringing to the table. Be flexible as things can change quickly. Try to realize this is one day or a few days out of a whole year and as one of my very astute clients shared with me this week ‘The world will not end if I have the insert food name here.’

    Also bringing some of your own snacks may help if eating regularly is not part of the agenda where you’re spending the holiday time. Try not to make your Thanksgiving meal your only meal for the day.

  • Recognize your trigger and fear-challenge foods. Trigger foods can be defined as those with perpetuate further behaviors. Fear foods go with the words’ own acronym – false experiences appearing real. Why give foods this power?

    Change the vocabulary of ‘fear’ foods to ‘challenge’ foods. When we challenge ourselves we are looking to rise above and conquer. We are trying to learn how to succeed and work with a particular subject matter. Speaking of ‘challenge’ foods over the words trigger or fear creates more room for feeling better and succeeding rather than succumbing to associated behaviors.
  • Participate in activities outside of the kitchen.If you’re around family most of the day, bring something you enjoy doing that creates space for yourself and others away from food. Ideas such as reading, knitting, indoor games (alone or with others such as word or card games), or joining a turkey trot.

    Planning activities including exercise  – within reason & within your control, can increase the associated positive endorphins and help decrease stress. It may be there is a special yoga class on Friday morning or Wednesday night to help combat holiday stresses. Join with a friend or go yourself. Make the time, but make exercise about balance not about burning everything off which can be triggering.
  • Schedule time to connect with a friend. If you feel comfortable in your recovery journey schedule a call to a supportive friend after the holiday gathering is complete.

    Talk about strategies to help balance and create time on Friday or the weekend to bring this about for your self.  Remember to keep appointments with your clinicians and care team during the holiday period.

These websites can provide further information to help combat eating stresses & triggers around the holidays:

MEDA has local to Massachusettes and national resources from clinicians to groups.

NEDA has national resources and a great blog with poignant holiday pieces. is sponsored by Monte Nido and includes blogs from many prominent clinicians in the field of eating disorders.

Recovery Record is an app for your phone that allows you to journal your intake, feelings, goals, coping skills and meal plan. This app even allows your clinicians to follow along and help remotely.

These few quotes might also help with food and holiday challenges.  If you’re finding it difficult to get out of the triggers of the moment and this holiday in general, perhaps write one of these quotes down, notice how it speaks to you, and journal feelings and positive behaviors:

She turned her cant’s into cans and her dreams into plans. – Kobi Yamada

I am perfectly imperfect. – A few authors to this quote!

I am not what has happened to me: I am what I choose to become.  – Carl Gustav Young

When situations get tough, love yourself harder – Adapted for this newsletter from multiple other quotations

Remember, you’re worthy of recovery and you’re worthy of eating – of nourishing your body. Taking care of yourself and being thankful for your body and all it accomplishes every day is also part of this particular holiday time.

If you are a current or former client please don’t hesitate to reach out over this holiday week. I am available and will get back to you. You can reach me by emailing me at