Surviving Meals With Your Family Over the Holidays

by Anonymous

(Trigger warning: eating disorders)

Thanksgiving can be a stressful holiday.

For many students, the start of college can bring about anxiety around eating, with overwhelming threats about the “freshman 15”, the stress of having to plan and be in charge of all of your meals, and the general disruption of the eating habits one had while at home. And for many people, myself included, those stressors can manifest into more serious eating problems. With the holidays approaching, I know firsthand how daunting the thought of having to eat big meals while surrounded by your entire family can be, and I imagine that I am not alone in this. I’d like to offer some tips to get through these holiday dinners as peacefully as possible, so we can all enjoy the holidays for what they are really about.

1. Anticipate. The best thing you can do if you are worried about going into a holiday dinner is to anticipate what you think you might be feeling. If you can identify potential problems in advance, you will have more time to come up with solutions, rather than having to deal with them on the spot as they come up, which can be too overwhelming.

2. Surround yourself with a family member that makes you feel comfortable and at ease. I am lucky enough to have a big family and a lot of cousins that will be around on Thanksgiving. Although I know some of my family members to be triggering around disordered eating habits, I find comfort in knowing that I can choose to avoid those people and instead be around family members who make me feel happy and safe. Even in smaller family settings, try your best to spend your time around even just one person who provides you with the most support.

3. Have a friend who is ready to take your call or answer your text. Although everyone will be very busy on Thanksgiving, it could be helpful to reach out to a friend beforehand and let them know that you might need some support. I’m confident that no friend would say no to being sent a quick text or taking a five minute phone call if things start to go awry. A few days before, you can say to them, “I just want to let you know that I might need to call you or text you on Thursday if I start to get overwhelmed around my family. Is that ok with you?” Knowing you have an outside source that is there for you will make it that much easier.

4. Know the menu, and offer to cook a dish you know you will be comfortable eating. The vast array of foods can be a lot to take in. If possible, try to get a sense of what will be served beforehand so you can take time to process it. Also, try to prepare and bring a dish or two of your own that you know you will be able to handle. Again, this preparedness will take away the anxiety of the unexpected.

5. Be kind to yourself. This is always the hardest part, but please remember that the holidays are a time to be thankful for life and for what we have. It might not go perfectly and there will be some struggles, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying your time at home. The setbacks you might face are normal and valid, and try not to let the possibility of those occurring cloud your judgment or your hard work.

Good luck, and Happy Thanksgiving!


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