Skip to Content

Six tips for navigating Thanksgiving with an eating disorder


Thanksgiving marks the official start of the holiday season, but it can be a stressful time of year for individuals struggling with eating disorders.

Parties, family gatherings and social engagements all tend to be food-centered, which can present all kinds of challenges and triggers.

Six Thanksgiving tips

Dr. Michael E. Barrett of the National Eating Disorder Association has some helpful tips for navigating the holidays without compromising your recovery.

  1. Have a game plan. Before heading into dinners or social events, have a strategy. Know how you can get out if you need to, who you can talk to and what you’ll need to do in order to avoid temptations or triggers. Half of the battle is planning, and being prepared can help you get through the rough patches.
  2. Designate a "reality check” person. Consider designating a loved one as a "reality check” person. Allow this person to give you honest feedback about your food choices, portion sizes or progress throughout the holidays. Ask for this person’s opinion and be prepared to listen to it.
  3. Have a vision.The holidays are food-centered, yes, but it is also a time when you can focus on good things, like love, family, giving back and finding peace of mind. Write down some thoughts about what you'd like to focus on this holiday season. Hold onto this vision when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and allow it to guide your behavior.
  4. Avoid overbooking.Stress can be a big trigger for those with eating disorders, so make sure your holiday calendar isn't booked solid. Allow yourself time for rest, relaxation and solitude. There's nothing wrong with taking care of you – in fact, your recovery depends on it.
  5. Eat regularly. Try not to get caught up in budgeting your calories based on big meals or overindulgence around the holidays. Eat as you normally would, and allow yourself room for a little treat here and there. If you need help in this area, be sure to talk to your nutrition counselor, therapist or other trusted resource.
  6. Get support. The holidays are a great time to stay active in your support groups. If you don't belong to any, consider joining one. They can offer a safe place during this stressful time, and you will probably find more than one person who can relate to your struggles.
  7. Source: NEDA

    Photo by John Nyboer