Thanksgiving and Eating Disorders

[Read Transcript]

Hi there. It’s Dr Courtney Raspin, and it is almost Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday, even after 20 years here in London. I always look forward to Turkey Day (we call it Turkey Day in our house).

It’s the only holiday that is all about stepping back, giving thanks, being with your friends and family, and diving into the food. It’s a holiday that is really set around the feast, and for that reason I just love it. I love it.

And I know that for people who are struggling with their eating, binge eating and bulimia particularly, it can be an especially challenging time. So, I wanted to do a quick video for you that might help you get through the day and hopefully help you enjoy it a little bit more.

Now, the first thing you need to remember is that everybody overeats at Thanksgiving and that just because you overeat doesn’t mean you’ve had a binge. Because remember, in order for something to qualify as a binge, you need to feel out of control of your eating and you have to feel unable to stop.

People who have a healthier relationship with food go into a day like Thanksgiving and they say, “you know what? I’m going to put on my stretchy pants, and I am going to enjoy myself. Because today is about literally giving thanks for the harvest, celebrating with people that I care about and love and being grateful for them and everything that’s around me. I’m going to celebrate that in a symbolic way by enjoy these good foods and these wonderful flavours.” These are things that you don’t get really any other time of the year. I mean, it depends where in the U.S. you’re from, but for us it’s sweet potato casserole, stuffing, green bean casserole, pecan pie, oh pecan pie. All these wonderful things.

Of course, you’re going to want to have more of them, because you’re not only eating for your stomach. You’re not only eating for your sustenance and physical nourishment. You’re eating to satisfy your senses. You’re eating to break bread with the people around you that you love, and to share in that pleasure together. That’s what the celebration of Thanksgiving is about.

Now, when you have binge eating disorder and when you have bulimia, what happens is, you have a big meal. You have that second piece of pie, which you should totally do on Thanksgiving, and rather than sitting back and feeling, “oh yeah, that was fantastic”, guilt and panic begin to set in. And it’s the guilt and panic that will drive you down an unhealthy road, not the eating the big meal.

Eating the big meal is good. But when you start to say to yourself, “oh my goodness, I shouldn’t have had that. Oh, I ate too much and now I’m going to get fat. Oh, I can’t stand how this feels”, you are outside of your body and totally in your head.

Your sympathetic nervous system gets stimulated. You start to feel funny, and what can happen is you go back to the buffet, you go back to eating to numb out those feelings of anxiety, and you’re no longer in touch with them, maybe you’re feeling a bit full and you get tremendously full.

Or you move into the, “I’ve already blown it, so I might as well keep going” mentality. And then you eat and eat and eat and eat until again, you are bursting.

With bulimia, what can happen is you eat and you think, “oh goodness, I shouldn’t have had this. I need to get rid of this”. And then that sets into motion that horrible binge and purge cycle. We don’t want either of those for you on this really special day.

Go into Thanksgiving believing that your body knows what it needs to do to even things out. Your body is wise. One day of eating a lot will not make you gain any weight. In a week’s time, everything will be balanced out, because your body knows what to do with one day of an excess of calories. Nothing bad will happen, I promise.

Plan to have a good time with the food. This doesn’t mean feeling out of control. This doesn’t mean moving into a place where you feel unable to stop. It means really, really savouring all the beautiful flavours, looking around the table, being with your loved ones, giving thanks, and just really feeling good.

So, put on your stretchy pants, have that second piece of pecan pie, because you know what? When else do we eat pecan pie? So, from my family to yours, from the Altum family to yours, have a fantastic, safe, and enjoyable Thanksgiving.

If you are struggling with disordered eating and would like some help, please click here to get in contact with us.

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