Thanksgiving is just around the corner! For those of us suffering or recovering from Binge Eating Disorder this holiday can be tricky. The food, friends and family, many of whom we haven’t seen in a year or more, all combined with the other stresses of the holiday could easily send a person into a eating frenzy panic. It could be an emotional eating field day from noon until midnight. But this year I’m going to prepare ahead of time and have a plan for the day so I can keep my resolve and not binge eat this Thanksgiving.
Note: I originally published this article in 2012 but I’m sharing it again since it got so much positive feedback. Here’s the related podcast from 2012 as well: https://www.quitbingeeating.com/qbe002-binge-free-thanksgiving/ Read on for a list of 12 tips and suggestions!
Below are several tips gathered from various experts along with a few of my own that I’m going to try this year. These should also help emotional eaters as well who want to stop binge eating over the holiday.
12 Tips to Keep From Binge Eating Over Thanksgiving
- Don’t get worked up thinking about Thanksgiving. Reading tips and articles like this are great but you need to make sure you don’t work yourself up too much ahead of time. Stop thinking about the big day every waking moment from now until the final turkey leftovers are gone. I know it’s tough but living out the day ahead of time in your head will only cause you more stress. Just know you can handle it when the day comes.
- Try to be the host/hostess. It might be too late to change plans but if you were able to host this year, smart move. Hosting the big Thanksgiving Day feast gives you all the power over what’s going to be served and delegating who is to bring what. Though it’s been suggested to not think too much about the big day ahead of time, but if you’re actually planning the party then you’re going to be so busy with details that you won’t be thinking about yourself and what you are going to be eating. You are going to be busy thinking about how to make everyone else comfortable and entertaining them in your own home. Also hosting the party lets you dictate what’s going to happen with all the leftovers so you can make sure they don’t all sit in your refrigerator for eating later that night. (See tip 12)
- Focus on the reason for the holiday. Thanksgiving is a day of giving thanks. On the morning of Thanksgiving day make sure to recount all that you’re thankful for. Do this while meditating or when you have some quiet time. Then when you’re at the party or when you’re eating go back through that list in your mind and reflect. You’ll feel much more down to Earth and at peace and will not feel so out of control.
- Get some exercise Thanksgiving morning. Even doing something as simple as going for a long walk the morning of Thanksgiving will help reduce your stress and make the rest of your day better. In the back of your mind also know that you’re warming your metabolism up for the day and that definitely will help with the food you’re going to eat. Walking has done wonders for me. I can’t recommend it enough.
- Eat breakfast Thanksgiving morning. No matter what, do not skip breakfast. At least eat a regular breakfast and if your family Thanksgiving meal is later in the afternoon or at night then also eat a light lunch. Starving yourself is only going to make you feel horrible all day long and will make you feel anxious and even more stressed out. You’ll be so hungry at the meal you won’t have any self-control left.
- Have the support of a spouse, friend or family member. Make sure to let your significant other, a friend or a trusted family member know that you’re worried you might over-indulge. Ask them to help keep you in control and check in with you. With my wife we have worked out code words over the years that I know. When she asks me, “Did you feed the dog before we left?” I know to push back from the plate a bit. It helps to snap me out of it. If you can’t trust someone there at the party then call a remote friend or text before you get to the party. Make sure they are checking in on you. There is nothing like having support around when around all these potential binge triggers to keep you calm, rational and in control. Make sure they keep in touch throughout Thanksgiving evening as well. Often such a stressful day could lead to a late night binge when you’re home, up late by yourself in the kitchen.
- Try to stay away from the food until the main meal time. Unless you’re the host or hostess try to stay out of the kitchen and dinning room altogether until the time of the meal. Try to focus on talking with all the other guests or get involved in an activity that’s going on like a game. If there are kids there then try to spend time and and play with them. You’ll be establishing strong memories for them if you do, especially for young relatives that you don’t see very often. If there are older family members then try to spend time talking with them as well. If the guys are watching football try to talk and bond during commercials.
- Keep conversations away from weight gain/loss. When talking with other guests try to refrain from making comments about any weight loss or gains they may have had since you last saw them. Sometimes just telling people, “You look wonderful” or “You look so happy” no matter what you really think will make everyone feel better including yourself.
- Be prepared for observations and comments about how you look. We all have those relatives or family friends that seem to fixate on our weight or how we are looking. If you’ve gained or lost weight since you last saw them then have a short statement or two ready in case they ask. You can tell them anything you want or you can simply ignore the questions and turn the conversation around to something else. Just be prepared and never try to insult them back if what they said was an insult about the way you look. If you feel you need to respond and it was truly meant as in insult then you can always say quietly to them, “Wow, that was a very rude thing to say to me.” That will immediately put them in their place.
- Try to eat slowly and enjoy your meal. Thanksgiving is about family and friends and being thankful. Keep that thought in your head as you eat and truly appreciate the meal and what you have. Savor it like it might be your last Thanksgiving ever and you’re trying to lock in the smells, sights and tastes. Try to recall what you’re thankful for (remember your list from earlier in the morning?). Also make it a point to talk and laugh with the other guests as much as you can. Put your fork down when talking and linger over the conversation. You’ll eat much more slowly and will feel yourself getting full, keeping you from want to binge so much.
- Limit alcohol consumption (best to not have any). Too much alcohol lowers our self control so it’s best to not drink any alcohol at all during Thanksgiving. If you’re the host/hostess then you possibly can control not allowing any alcohol at the party in the first place. However if your family insists on drinking alcohol and you don’t have issues or an addiction still be careful. Try to only have one total drink and nurse it slowly. Any more than that and you may not be able to control yourself in what you eat, feel and say. Use at your own risk.
- What to do with all the leftovers? If it’s your party make sure to stock up on plenty of disposable plastic food storage containers so you can fill them up with leftovers and issue take-home bags to all your guests when they prepare to leave. Getting all that food out of your house is going to be important so it’s not there in the evening after everyone has left and tempts you later in the middle of the night. If you’re not hosting the party you can still take home your share of leftovers but when you get them home make sure to immediately put them in the freezer so they are frozen later and you’re not so tempted to eat them if a binge strikes you. Or if you can’t trust yourself then decline any leftovers. However if they are still forced on you (thanks Mom…) then give them away to a neighbor or someone else you know would like them. Worse case, throw them out, preferably not in your own trash at your home.
Finally, if you do happen to binge over Thanksgiving or later that night then don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s just another day. Focus on the future because tomorrow you will have another opportunity to try again.
Personal Note: Even though I’ve been binge free
most of this year and completely free since August almost two years now, I’ve always struggled with Thanksgiving in the past and I’m a little worried about this year. Thanksgivings have always been my worse binges ever. I’ll report back in after the holiday to let you know how I fared. Let me know your thoughts in the comments and also share how you did.
Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving holiday. Best of luck!