Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday—not even close, in fact. As someone who was raised in a large, boisterous, Italian American family, I understand the importance of seasonal traditions, quality time with loved ones, and communal expressions of gratitude. But as someone who is also in eating disorder (ED) recovery, the overt emphasis on food this time of year can still cause ripples of anxiety to surface. So, as another holiday season rounds the corner, I want to share with you a list of ED recovery affirmations to remember on Thanksgiving. I often repeat them to myself when I feel overwhelmed or anxious during the festivities, and I hope these affirmations calm and re-center you as well.
Why am I, a queer woman of mostly European descent, talking about the movement to decolonize body image? The answer is simple: because it matters—therefore, it must be talked about. In the United States, November is recognized as National Native American Heritage Month, which makes this as ideal a time as any to further the conversation.
Confession: I'm hesitant to use the "trigger" label at this juncture in my eating disorder (ED) recovery. To be clear, though, as someone who has been part of formalized treatment communities for the past 10 years, I understand why it's useful—or even a source of comfort—to be conscious of triggers in the earliest stages of recovery.
If you have been following the news lately, then chances are, you know about the global supply chain issues projected to loom over this holiday season. And while the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms there is no current food shortage in the United States, grocery stores and supermarkets across the nation could experience low inventory of certain items on their shelves. So, what does this mean if you have a complicated or difficult relationship with food to begin with? Be conscious of the possibility that food shortage anxieties can fuel eating disorder behaviors.
This article is not meant to be a universal claim about eating disorders, as I can only speak from my own observations and experiences. But in many cases, I believe that eating disorder behaviors manifest on the surface to mask a fear of rejection deep within.
The way I choose to interact with my body has an impact on my eating disorder recovery. So, it's crucial to make sure that I practice mindful interactions with my body, rather than using harmful words or behaviors to abuse my body and interrupt the healing process.
I will be the first person to confess that physical rest does not come easily to me. In fact, one of the most persuasive lies from my eating disorder, which I'm still working to dismantle, is that I am not allowed to rest. For years, I assumed that a body in constant, relentless motion would equal strength, power, and control, whereas a body at rest would signal weakness. However, as recently as this past weekend, I had no choice but to pause and remember that rest is an essential part of eating disorder recovery—and health overall.
Around this time last year, I was in serious need of a social media detox because doom-scrolling on Facebook and Instagram had monopolized most of my free time and sabotaged my mental health. This habit morphed me into someone who was constantly anxious, irritable, tense, and frantic. I could not seem to redirect my thoughts from the vitriol that spewed in the comment sections on my newsfeed, so to regain some measure of control, I turned to a familiar distraction: my eating disorder.
This letter is to you, the person who wants to quit eating disorder recovery.
There will often come a time in the healing process when you feel an impulse to share what you've learned with someone else and invest in their eating disorder (ED) recovery as well. I have experienced that urge in my own personal journey, and I've also watched it manifest in other ED recovery warriors I know.