How to survive Thanksgiving (with annoying family members)

Thanksgiving can be the hardest day of the year for someone in recovery. And I’m not talking about the food.

What I hate most about Thanksgiving is the fact that people feel the need to make incessant diet culture comments. The food is actually my favorite part.

Hearing our friends and family members make negative comments about foods/bodies/eating/dieting/working out can be hard enough as it, and pair it with the stress that Thanksgiving can bring some people in recovery and you’ve got a recipe for a really tough day.

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Thanksgiving used to be a really tough day for me in my early recovery. I would feel nervous and stressed right when I woke up.

Again, I wish I could give people the magical tips that helped me recover, but I truly think that recovery is SO unique and different for every person, and I think the only thing that truly helped me recovery was an intense desire to get to know myself better, be compassionate with myself, and a desire to keep changing/growing.

But still, Thanksgiving can be stressful still, not just because of the food, but because people don’t stop talking about the food and their diets and their *cheat days* and their working out and various disordered comments that burn my ears.

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I feel like I am constantly towing the line between being a jerk when someone makes a disordered comment aloud (i.e. “wow sounds like you have an ED”) and being too nice (i.e. not saying anything). So far I’ve found that my happy balance is saying something along the lines of “I try to not think about those things since I’m in recovery.”

Here’s a list of possible triggering comments you might hear and possible responses:

  1. Comment: Wow, there are so many calories in X
    Response: I’m not concerned about calories, I focus on trusting my body to use food as fuel!
    Response 2: I’d rather focus on enjoying the time I’m spending with friends/family than worry about the calories!
  2. Comment: I’ll need to workout after this!
    Response: You should’t punish yourself for enjoying yummy foods with friends and family!
  3. Comment: Today is totally my cheat day!
    Response: Enjoying yummy foods (or feeding yourself a variety of foods in general) isn’t cheating! It’s normal to enjoy different foods for special occasions.
  4. Comment: I’ll need to diet after this!
    Response: You don’t need to restrict your intake because you ate more than usual today. Your body is equipped to make up for the natural changes in eating!(Side note: I was looking for some science to back the above response up and found this article. The first dietitian I ever worked with would always be reminding me about how eating more food one day won’t change your metabolism, it won’t change your body. Our bodies are equipped to adjust to the changes we put them through. It would take probably weeks to actually see a change in your body size.)
  5. Comment: I can’t eat too much, it will go straight to my X
    Response: Your body is actually very smart and will put nutrients wherever they need to be!

I hope you get the gist. I could go on and on and give a million more comments that could be triggering, but I won’t. The key to dealing with these types of people is a) ignoring them, b) giving them science to educate them, and c) telling them that you’re not interested in talking about food/diets/weight/recovery/whatever it is.

Remember, family members (especially older ones) might not understand your struggle, and what they think is a helpful comment might be triggering. NEVER FEEL GUILTY FOR SPEAKING UP FOR YOURSELF AND SETTING LIMITS WITH PEOPLE.

Cause hey, it wouldn’t be the holidays if you didn’t have to set limits with stressful family members, right?

 

 

 

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