Ohhh turkey day... it is almost upon us. Along with the quality time I will get to spend with family, I can humbly include this 2018 thanksgiving holiday on my list of things to be thankful for. Each year that passes since beginning recovery, Thanksgiving has become less and less of a trigger. I no longer dread but rather look forward to the experience I get to healthfully share with my loved ones. Unfortunately, that wasn't (and still isn't) always the case for myself and the 30 million other Americans who have or still struggle with disordered eating. For many, holidays can create elevated intense levels of anxiety and depression. I vividly remember the hours of mental isolation and panic that would follow a short-lived delicious feast. The process was always the same (addictive behaviors are normally habitual - sometimes strategically so). The day would start with minimal food if any, for I knew what the evening would entail. Immediately after the lunch or dinner I would sneak off to the bathroom to "rid" the meal by force. Of course that only provided immediate and brief relief before the immense feelings of guilt and shame would set in. I would have my mind trapped for the remainder of the evening. Everyone was focused on enjoying each other while I was concentrating on fighting the battle within. I would try to be present, try to breathe, try to understand but all I felt was alone. I was afraid my family would notice and say something because it took all of what little energy I had to keep the tears from escaping. I couldn't stand myself and couldn't imagine anyone else could either. Long story short and if you relate to any of this, you're familiar with the darkness of mental illness and addiction.
I digress. I went into detail to give insight. Recovery and peace of mind is 100% possible if one is willing to work hard for it. I had to fail many times to learn what I know and even now, I wouldn't go back and change any of it. Do I still experience anxiety with my weight or moments during sanctioned holidays that promote over eating and gorging? Yes. Just like every other conscious human being on this planet, I imagine I will always be faced with the choice of giving into old urges and living a happy/healthy life. One option seems like the obvious choice but that doesn't mean it's always the easiest one. If I could relay any beneficial advice that was either given to me or that I had to learn the hard way would be to be patient with yourself. No one is perfect and slip-ups are apart of the learning process. Be vocal. Be honest with yourself and those you trust. Don't lounge around and wish. Do something nice for someone else. Write down affirmations. Count your blessings that outweigh any amount of hardships you may be experiencing. Feed your mind, eyes, and ears with positive messages. It IS possible to make it through the holidays with less stress.
Thanks to the tools I've adopted over the last year and since I began my journey through recovery, this is one of the first years I am genuinely excited for thanksgiving and Christmas. I feel whole now. I can be here and be present with my family. I can enjoy the food on my plate and not give into disordered compulsions. And guess what? I can return to my normal eating routine of fueling my workouts and muscle recovery at any time. Not to mention now that I have rehabilitated my metabolism, my body will more than likely benefit from the big meals this weekend. Whatever happens this season, don't give up on yourself. Keep fighting and know you are as worthy of happiness/healing as anyone else on this earth. And most importantly… be thankful.