Dear Dr. Dorie: As we head into Fall, I’m already feeling anxious as I anticipate all of the upcoming “Food Holidays.” I tend to feel upset when I’m around specific family members, and then I overeat as a means of coping. What can I do to cope a healthy way this year?
– Family Triggers Anxiety
Dear Family Triggers Anxiety:
You are not alone in having to deal with difficult family members, and there are several solutions I can offer you to manage your anxiety, instead of using food as a means of coping! I applaud you for reaching out for help – this year you can enjoy healthy “Food Holidays.”
Let’s take a closer look at a typical family scene you might have experienced in past years. Imagine that it’s Thanksgiving, and you’re at a family gathering. Your uncle comments about your weight, and suddenly you’re reaching for another serving of appetizers. Your mother probes about your relationship, and now you help yourself to more mashed potatoes. Your grandmother asks where you’re going with your life, and you wish you could eat the entire pumpkin pie.
Your specific situation may be a variation of this scene, but if you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, you probably have emotional triggers. And your family probably knows exactly how to push your emotional trigger buttons. Thanksgiving can be a challenging Holiday, because food is usually available in abundance, making it very easy to turn to overeating or binge eating as a means of coping.
In preparation for your next “Food Holiday,” create an action plan you can use for healthy coping. First, replay your last family gathering in your mind. What were some challenges? What were some successes? Knowing this information, how can you make your upcoming gathering a positive experience? What can you do if any intense emotions surface, rather than turning to excess food?
Carry a list of affirmations with you which you can read if you are feeling judged or criticized by a family member. Have a pre-planned reply if you are asked questions about sensitive areas of your life. Take a break at some point during the gathering to call a friend for support. These are just a few options.
Create your action plan today, that you can use tomorrow if necessary! And do your best to enjoy the upcoming Holidays!