It’s the time of year for trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, haunted houses and theme parties!  Many of us look forward to these activities and spending time with friends and loved ones. For those with eating disorder histories, the ‘holiday’ can often feel a bit overwhelming. Planning your Halloween experience ahead of time can help make October 31st a little less spooky and a lot more fun.

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when planning your Halloween activities.

Trick or treating:

Trick-or-Treating is a Halloween classic that is meant to bring people together for a fun shared experience.  Candy and treats are part of this experience and are meant to be enjoyed! To make the most of your night, talk to your eating disorder treatment team or support system and set expectations ahead of time. For instance, will you eat dinner before heading out?  How many houses or neighborhoods will you be visiting?  Can you incorporate candy/treats into your meal plan as exposure foods?

Costumes:

Dressing up can be just as fun for teenagers/adults as it is for kids!  If you have plans with friends, think about a fun group costume that will feel physically and mentally comfortable based on your journey. Pinterest is a great resource to find fun, DIY costumes. Great examples that I found included doctors from a medical drama, sitcom buddies from the 90’s or fun family quiz show contestants.

Theme parties:

Theme parties can really help get your creative juices flowing! If you are attending party, be prepared to see some unfamiliar food or drinks, especially if your host is really trying to out-BOO themselves!  Just like any new situation, this may stir some uncomfortable emotions. As such, it is totally okay for you to ask the host what’s in the “monster mash dip” or “pirates punch.” Don’t let the name or odd presentation scare you off. New experiences are part of the treatment and eating disorder recovery process.

Alternate plans: 

If trick-or-treating, costumes and parties aren’t your thing, and you still want to celebrate, think about alternate holiday plans.  Many local non-profit organizations hold events like “trunk-or-treat” where children can safely show off their costumes and collect candy.  There are also opportunities in senior homes or assisted living residences to help deliver treats to their residents or to those who are homebound.  Additionally, many communities host a post-Halloween clean-up and recycling day that may be fun and rewarding for you to get involved in.

So, whether you attend a costume party or bring Halloween cheer to your neighborhood, there are many options for enjoying this holiday!  Plan ahead, brainstorm ideas and possible responses/interventions with your treatment team/support system and do your best to enjoy your experience.

Remember, each new challenge that you overcome in your eating disorder journey builds your skills for a lasting recovery experience.

For more information on eating disorders and mental health, please check out these blogs:

  1. How to Help a Loved One with an Eating Disorder
  2. Getting Eating Disorder Support: 7 Common Barriers
  3. 7 Eating Disorder Recovery Tips for the Holidays From People Who’ve Been There

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Joanna Imse, LICSW, CEDS is the Clinical Engagement Specialist at Walden Behavioral Care. In this role she is responsible for ensuring appropriate transitions and plays a critical role in creating a successful  patient journey throughout the system of care. Prior to her current role, Joanna served as the Program Director of Walden’s Amherst, Worcester, and Milford MA clinics. Her career at Walden began in 2011 when she served as clinician for adolescent IOP in Waltham. Prior to her current role, Joanna spent time as a clinician in Waltham, Worcester, Braintree and Peabody sites. She received her masters of social work at Salem State University in 2007.