top of page

8 Tips for the Thanksgiving Table: Eating Disorders and the Holidays from a Westchester,NY Therapist

eating disorders and the holidays

Hello All! It seems as if November has flown by in the blink of an eye. With Thanksgiving very quickly approaching, here are some tips for anyone struggling with their relationship with food.

Given that Thanksgiving is completely about food, it can be difficult to enjoy the day when you have thoughts in your head about how certain foods are bad for you, fearing gaining weight, or fearing the urge to binge-eat. A lot of people struggle with this holiday and it can be hard to figure out what to do to make the day as low-stress as possible.

Tip #1: Advocate During Uncomfortable Conversations

A holiday surrounded by food is usually spent talking about the food, how full someone feels or about how much they just ate, etc. It is okay and encouraged for you to advocate to change the topic of a conversation that you are uncomfortable with at the dinner table. This does not strictly go for food, weight, body image, exercise, etc., but really anything that your relatives are speaking about that could be triggering to you.

If you have trouble advocating for yourself, it's also okay to ask someone you trust to advocate for you. If you are seeing a therapist regularly, this would be a great topic to talk about as well.

Tip #2: Prepare Activities that Do Not Involve Food

Coming from a big, Italian family, we are usually sitting around the table for most of the day on Thanksgiving, partly to eat and partly to catch up with family members. If this isn't something that you want to do or you feel that it would be too overwhelming, try to plan some activities that take you (and your loved ones) away from the table or kitchen.

This could be playing a board game, hanging out outside, watching a movie or something independent like reading a book or coloring. Anything that pulls you away from the table will give you a break from staring at your plate and being inside your head.

Tip #3: Use Your Supports: either via text or face-to-face

If you are spending Thanksgiving with a loved one that you trust, speak with them beforehand to come up with a plan on the chance that you get overwhelmed. Don't be afraid to shoot them a text across the table saying "I need help, change the subject please" or "I need a break, will you sit outside with me?"; your loved ones are there to help! You can also reach out to a supporter who is not celebrating with you for a bit of a pep talk if the day gets overwhelming.

Tip #4: Create a Gratitude List

Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, so take some time to focus on something other than food and prompt yourself to think about the positive aspects in your life. Consider creating a gratitude list or journal where you write down things you are thankful for. This can shift your focus away from food-related anxieties and help you appreciate the non-food aspects of the holiday.

This is also something that you can maintain throughout your recovery to remind you there are more things in life that can help build motivation, determination and hope.

Tip #5: Mindful Eating

If you choose to partake in the Thanksgiving meal, practice mindful eating. Take your time with each bite, paying attention to the flavors, textures, and smells. Mindful eating can help you stay present in the moment and enjoy the experience without feeling overwhelmed by guilt or anxiety. Mindful eating can help you slow down and potentially keep binge-eating urges at a minimum.

Tip #6: Plan Self-Care for the Day

In addition to non-food activities, plan some self-care rituals for yourself. This can either be on the day of Thanksgiving or days before/after. Self-care can help you maintain a baseline level of energy, resiliency and positive self-talk which all adds up to you being able to combat the negative thoughts and feelings a bit better. Self-care can be a powerful tool to manage stress and promote a positive mindset.

This is extremely important during the Holiday season as it can be stressful.

Tip #7: Modify Your Plate

If the traditional Thanksgiving feast feels overwhelming, consider modifying your plate. Choose a variety of foods that you feel comfortable with and maybe only one challenge food to make sure you are still comfortable eating. Remember that there's no one-size-fits-all approach, and it's okay to tailor your meal to suit your needs and preferences.

If you are someone who is seeing a dietitian, this can be something that is talked about before Thanksgiving Day. Working out a plan that fits with where you are at in your recovery journey is key.

Tip #8: Focus on Connections

Thanksgiving is about spending time with loved ones. Instead of fixating on the food, focus on the connections you have with family and friends. Engage in meaningful conversations, share stories, and create lasting memories. Building strong connections can make the day more fulfilling and distract from any negative thoughts about food.

A reminder to be gentle on yourself because this isn't easy. A reminder to be proud of yourself as well. Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving :)

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or disorderd eating, please reach out for the help you deserve.


eating disorders and the holidays, eating disorder therapy, trauma therapy, eating disorders Westchester

Stephanie Polizzi is a licensed psychotherapist (LMHC) in Scarsdale, NY at Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, serving clients living in NY, NJ and FL.

Stephanie specializes in working with children, teens and adults struggling with anxiety,eating disorders, behavioral challenges, life transitions and trauma.


bottom of page