Thanksgiving is around the corner, and while most Latinas are ready for the pavo, days off from work and reuniting with our long-distance primas, for those of us in eating disorder recovery, the anxiety is already kicking in.
Every time abuela comments on someone’s size or weight — “estás engordando,” “eres demasiado flaca” or the well-intentioned “nunca se veía mejor” — you battle between “disrespecting” your elders by politely asking them to not participate in body talk or spending the entire evening remembering that to your relatives, and most of society, your value is placed on how much fat, or the lack thereof, you have on your bones. And just like that, your morning affirmations seem moot.
Then, of course, there’s the mountain of arroz con gandules, pasteles, ensalada de papa, pan, pavo and pernil waiting to be devoured. While papi’s salivating, you’re starting to sweat. Ahead of you is one of your biggest annual battles. If you are recovering from anorexia, there’s the panic of having to eat, and enjoy, everything on your plate. If you are bouncing back from bulimia or binge eating disorder, the urge to binge and purge are going to be at an all-time high.
With so many anxiety-inducing moments ahead of them on Thanksgiving Day, emotions are heightened for people who’ve lived with an ED. If there’s someone in recovery at your holiday dinner table, know that these are some of the thoughts racing through their head on that joyous and memorable, yet scary and humiliating, day.
1. You start off with the pep talk and tell yourself, “Te ves bien, and you’re going to be fine.”
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With photos of everyone looking like gold in their holiday garbs, there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a challenging body image day for you. So you wake up telling yourself repeatedly that you’re a baddie — and not just physically. Your triggers will be on 100 tonight, but you’ve come this far so you know you’re strong and need to remind yourself that you got this.
2. Then as you go to saludar abuelita, you pray. “Please don’t talk about weight. Please don’t mention sizes. Por el amor de Dios no one say anything about the way I look.”
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You’re heading to the party and know that abuelita can’t resist commenting about someone’s weight, but you’re still sending a prayer to the heavens that this holiday marks the start of a new beginning — or at least that the fat talk doesn’t take place around you.
3. Self doubt quickly follows as you wonder to yourself, “Did I put enough/too much food on my plate?”
Time to eat. You have so much anxiety around food that you can’t discern if the amount of dinner on your plate is too little, too much or just right, so you scan the room and compare your serving with everyone else’s.
4. “Am I eating this too quickly/slowly?”
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The food is bangin’, and you want to chomp it down, but you know that, while tonight everyone else is doing the same, for you this could lead to lots of guilt and disappointment. So you are focused on your every bite, trying not to binge, but then wonder if you’re eating too slow.
5. But you remind yourself, “You don’t need to purge. You’re OK!”
Dinner’s done — thank God. Whether you ate a lot or not enough, you still feel ashamed, like your disorder prevented you from enjoying another holiday with your loved ones. That guilt is triggering, and you’re thinking about purging for comfort, but you know that you shouldn’t.
6. Then you pray once more, “There better not be a scale around here.”
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You’re looking at everyone’s pants unbuttoned and stuffed bellies creeping from the top of their belts and wonder if you’ve gained the trillion pounds you feel like you just put on. While you’re doing your best to block out negative thoughts, you’re wishing on a star that you don’t run into a scale, because you’ll be tempted more than ever to hop on, and that’s never a good idea.
7. But in the end all you tell yourself is, “Yesss, girl, you survived another Thanksgiving.”
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Whether you resisted every urge to listen to your eating disorder or you relapsed (it’s OK!), along with the fear, guilt and stress of the evening, a part of you also feels good knowing it’s behind you, so you give yourself a worthy shoutout.
After all, your recovery is something to be thankful for.