Halloween is next week. This day marks the beginning of the holiday season, which can be very difficult for people struggling with an eating disorder. Nothing brings stress quite like social gatherings that include special outfits, food, and social gatherings.
Let me start by saying. I am sorry this is hard for you or your loved one. Eating disorders so often rob us of our most cherished moments. It doesn’t have to be the story this Halloween. There are some ways to make Halloween a bit more manageable. Here are my best tips:
- Focus on what you value. It seems like a weird thing to ask but what do you
truly value and cherish about this celebration. Is it laughing with friends? Getting spooked at a haunted house (not for me, ACK!)? Seeing all those adorable kids dressed up? If you are being truly honest with yourself I bet it isn’t the candy or your costume that you truly enjoy. Get a pen out right now and make a list about what you truly value. When your eating disorder starts to tell you that candy and the way your costume fits are the main thing, look down at your list and smile because the trick is on your eating disorder and the treat is yours! You can never go wrong when you are doing what you value!
- Make a Plan. Have a plan that really sticks to your values. It’s okay to not go to a draining party or event. It’s okay to say no. If giving out treats at home is what you really enjoy, voice that to your loved ones and do what you feel best doing. Going along with a plan that you feel uncomfortable with will only leave you feeling overwhelmed and resentful. Planning out the night in a way that seems best to you will help reduce the stress. Stick to your meal plan too. Don’t skip meals in an effort to punish yourself or prepare for eating candy later. Sticking to your meal plan will help set you up for success in recovery
- Stop Comparing. That woman at the fall festival in the skin tight cat suit? She is not more valuable or worthy than you are. I know that’s hard to believe, because your eating disorder will try to tell you that she is. Take a minute to think about what you would say to your friend feeling this way. Now say that to yourself and see items one and six on this list. Do those things until cat suit woman is just another person at the festival. She is worthy and valuable just like you. You both have friends and family that love you. Ambitions and goals. Values. Nothing will steal happiness away faster than comparing yourself to someone else!
- Give Yourself Permission. Whatever this looks like for you. Eating a piece of candy is not capable of harming you, but your eating disorder is. Give yourself permission to enjoy candy if you want it and don’t beat yourself up afterwards. Eating with guilt is not giving yourself full permission. Give yourself permission to take care of you during this season as well, it is the only way to recover and the only way we can ever care for others.
- Give Back. Have you heard of the teal pumpkin challenge? It is sad to think that there are kids, with allergies, who Halloween can be sad and scary for. The thing is, you can really empathize with this, I bet! Here are some ideas of allergy safe treats you can hand out. Plus teal pumpkins are CUTE! Volunteer at a local festival to run a game. As an eating disorder therapist I have noticed that my clients are some of the most compassionate people I know. Giving back can be a great step in recovery. If you feel ready for this step, you can even use this day as a way to advocate against diet culture and model what a healthy relationship with food looks like to those around you by not participating in food shaming or diet talk! Even if you don’t say anything to the people around you, a silent rebellion can be powerful. Plan to share this little rebellious victory with your treatment team or in group therapy! We will celebrate with you, I promise!
- Live Life. Living life fully requires self care and compassion. One of my favorite ways to practice this is through mindfulness and practicing being present. This might sound a little strange but it has really worked for a lot of my clients. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed take a step outside. Notice what you can see. Are the leaves changing colors in your town (they probably won’t be here in Tyler, Texas because its basically still summer)? Notice what you can hear. Are there kids giggling and yelling “trick or treat?”. Notice what you feel on your skin. Is the air crisp and cold where you are? Do you feel a breeze? If it is convenient slip your shoes off and stand on the ground. Does it feel cool beneath your feet? Notice what you can smell. Is it cold enough for people to have fires in the fireplace? Does the air have that unmistakable scent of fall? Notice what you taste. Take a deep inhale and notice the sensation on your tongue. Notice your breathing. Take a moment to really take all of this in and go back inside when you feel ready. Thank yourself for taking a minute to care for you.
Remember, no matter how overwhelming this season is you can make it through. You have come so far in your recovery! The holiday season is tough for everyone, reach out when you are struggling and know you are not alone.