How do we support a loved one in eating disorder recovery when a holiday is as focused on food as some traditional Thanksgiving celebrations have become? Previously, I have offered up the possibility of simply skipping a holiday that makes being in treatment for an eating disorder even harder than it already is. My perspective is, families need to choose what works for them to make the day as tolerable as possible for a loved one who is struggling with food and body image from an eating disorder. And if that means skipping a typical celebration for them, then do it. 

Perhaps we take the focus off the food and place it on learning about where this Thanksgiving holiday actually came from. That might help your loved one with the ed to see that this particular holiday really isn’t about food and perhaps they might feel less stressed if the day is spent exploring what it means to the indigenous people of this land. 

When I was a child I was quite confused about the story we were told about this holiday. It didn’t make sense to me. I wondered, “How could it be that the native people living on what was then called Turtle Island were celebrating with the people who came over on boats and massacred them in droves?” 

An idea may be finding a new tradition that is in alignment with your values and those of your loved one with the eating disorder. Some families volunteer to help out a cause that matters to them. It may be finding a way to honor Native traditions

There are so many possibilities:

  • Helping serve meals to people who may be without a meal that day.
  • Spending time with people who might otherwise be alone on the holiday. 
  • Resting. 
  • Raising awareness about eating disorders. 
  • Helping dismantle diet culture. 
  • Finding out how your loved one’s treatment team might support you in having this be an exposure if your person is far enough in recovery. 
  • Learning about the myths we were taught about the Thanksgiving holiday in school. 

What works for you, your family, your values and your loved one in recovery/treatment or an entrenched untreated eating disorder? 

Whatever you do, please be gentle with your sweet selves, we are now into the darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere and with that can come many challenges. It’s okay to slow down and do what serves you instead of “shoulding” on yourself.