It’s late November, and Thanksgiving is upon us. I’ve always found it appropriate that before the holiday season of giving and receiving comes the holiday that focuses on gratitude for what we have, or at least that was the original intent. As the American tradition has evolved, it appears that more and more of the focus is on the gathering and the feast: who’s cooking the turkey, who’s bringing the stuffing and sweet potatoes, who’s bringing the pumpkin pie… and then perhaps who’s bringing the family drama? Then when dinner is over, it’s all about chasing Black Friday deals and watching football.

For those struggling with anxiety, depression and or toxic family members, it can be about surviving the holidays rather than enjoying them. For someone struggling with an eating disorder, Thanksgiving week can be one of the hardest weeks of the year. If you live in constant fear of gaining weight and have significant guilt with eating, approaching the Thanksgiving table may be quite terrifying. Similarly, if you tend to use food to comfort or to numb emotions, that full spread of food can feel like an inviting way to avoid dealing with that one person in their family who brought the drama. Or perhaps your facing grief this year, as it’s the first Thanksgiving without a loved one and either overeating or under-eating can be ways of numbing the sadness. Then there’s those comments from family members who can’t resist commenting on body size, and who don’t realize how much they’ve been influenced by diet culture:

  • “I haven’t eaten all day to save up for this meal.”
  • “I’m going to have to add an hour to my usual workout to burn this all off.”
  • “You look like you’ve filled out a bit this year.”
  • “Wow! What a full plate! Are you really going to eat all of that?”
  • “I’ve lost X pounds recently, but calories don’t count on Thanksgiving.”

Whew! All that negativity added to the stress of preparing a feast leaves little room for the heart to find gratitude. I’ll mention a few possible comebacks to such comments, and then I’ll add some reflections to help shift perspective. In response to any of these comments you could simply say, “That’s inappropriate.” If there’s a lot of talk about weight you could say, “I haven’t seen you in quite a while, and there are much more interesting things that I’d rather talk about than weight.” In regards to judging food you could say, “Judging my food choices makes it hard to be grateful. Please stop.”


Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines thanksgiving as follows: 1.(Capitalized) Thanksgiving Day: a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness 2. the act of giving thanks 3. a prayer expressing gratitude. All 3 of these definitions point to giving thanks to God for His goodness. Food is certainly one way that God provides for our physical needs, and it is very appropriate to celebrate that provision through a comforting, delicious meal. In addition, gratitude for all of our gifts in life serves as protection against the scarcity mentality. Eating disorders are fueled by the lie that says, “You are not enough.” Often perfectionism teams up with the eating disorder and says, “Nothing you do is ever enough.” When stuck in this mindset, the result can be shame, resentment and depression. A dose of gratitude helps to rewire the brain and shift the focus from scarcity to abundance. If you have a relationship with God, and acknowledge Him as the giver of all good things, then give thanks. If you’re not sure what you believe about God, keep curious and practice gratitude all the while. It’s good for your health regardless. Some ideas for putting gratitude into practice include:

  • Keeping a daily gratitude journal
  • Listening to guided meditations on gratitude
  • Taking a mindful nature walk and appreciating all of the sights and sounds
  • Mindfully savoring a delicious meal and expressing appreciation
  • Be intentional about showing thanks and appreciation for the kindness of others
  • Spending time in prayer

The reality is that the holidays are usually a stressful time for most, and honestly, rarely a joyous blissful occasion that is negativity free. I want to remind you that it is OK to choose to spend them in the best way that serves YOU and brings YOU the most peace and happiness. We all need to be reminded of the goodness in our lives and what we are most thankful for, and sometimes spending the holidays around our family and extended family, just isn’t what is best or good for our mental health, happiness and over all well being. Sometimes the best reflection and feelings of thankfulness and gratitude can happen when we are alone, and can take the time to practice good self care. Sometimes it can happen surrounded by friends and realizing that the “family” we have, are the ones God has given us and not the ones we are related to.

I hope that some of these thoughts and ideas help you in cultivating joy as you focus on the abundance of goodness in your life! Regardless of how, where and with whom you spend your Thanksgiving, may it be filled the love and peace you so richly deserve! Happy Thanksgiving.

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