For people with eating disorders (and those closest to them), food-focused holidays often include extra layers of worry. Some common concerns during gatherings can include: food being eaten or not eaten, too much family around, not enough family around, expectations and awkward or disappointing conversations. On top of all of these stressors, there is the disruption of many pillars of recovery support: travel delays, changes in routine and long-standing traditions you feel obligated to adhere to even though they may not really work for you. Feelings, which can be especially raw this time of year, can easily get hurt. For so many, not only is there turkey on tables, there are also eggshells beneath feet.

So much build-up for one meal and then it’s over after the pie is served.

This tricky holiday requires a tried-and-true strategy, and one of the best I know is the practice of gratitude.

Gratitude is my favorite fix. It’s an instant attitude changer and expert-level shifter of perspective. In fact, gratitude is so powerful to the mind and body that it continues to be studied as a determinant of health! It’ll help you sleep better, strengthen your immune system and improve your personal relationships. It can ease depression symptoms, and make you treasure what you have. Gratitude will help you gain and maintain friendships and influence people. It will change your outlook on the world and improve the quality of your life. Basically, gratitude costs nothing and helps everything, and is accessible to everyone.

Gratitude would be a snake oil if it didn’t actually work!

The great thing about the practice of gratitude is that you don’t have to limit your expression of it for when you bless the big meal. Expressions of gratitude are endless!

Here are a few practices I like to use this time of year:

Make a “Ta-Dah!” List

Holidays often prompt us to make long “To Do” lists. This year, add a “Ta Dah!” list: make note of all the things you did do, and feel good about. Focus on what you accomplished more than what is still left to do. When you are tempted to think you haven’t been productive or “enough” consult the “Ta- da!” list. It helps! Sometimes I add an “even though” to my list (“I went to the grocery store even though it was dark and cold outside, and I didn’t want to).

Start a personal tradition

The only rule is that it’s something you really look forward to. It doesn’t have to be big or dramatic, or something you do forever, but let it be something that brings you joy right now. For years, before social media, Thanksgiving morning was the day my best friend from college and I had our annual phone call. Other years, it was the day I wrapped all the holiday presents. For the past two years, we’ve taken our annual vacation.

Perform a secret act of kindness

A wise woman once told me that the quickest way to change your mood is to do something nice for someone else-but don’t get caught. The lack of recognition boosts the joy. This one never fails. I can’t tell you what I’ve done or will do this year, or it wouldn’t be secret!

I wish you extra helpings of whatever makes you grateful this year and that however you choose to celebrate nourishes the ‘all’ of you – body, mind and soul.

See related posts:

Eating Disorders and the Holidays: 5 Tips to Support Your Loved One

7 Eating Disorder Recovery Tips for the Holidays

6 Helpful Tips for Navigating the Holidays with an Eating Disorder


Stephanie Haines, M.Ed., CHES, is an engagement specialist for Walden Behavioral Care. Her role is to help our patients to navigate the admission process. Before becoming a member of Team Walden, Stephanie was a Senior Prevention Specialist at FCD: Prevention Works!, part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation located in Newton, MA. Stephanie is a member of the National Wellness Institute and is a member of a number of training and prevention-focused committees. Stephanie earned her master’s degree from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, where she served as a graduate assistant to Margaret Burckes-Miller, founder and director of the university’s Eating Disorders Institute.