When autumn comes around, eating disorder issues tend to stir up. Besides the emphasis on food and partying, having family or lack of family around can be difficult. It starts in October with all the limited edition flavors and foods and doesn’t end until New Year’s Day when all the resolutions and diet pushers start in.
But you can keep yourself safe this year.
Halloween is particularly difficult because there is candy everywhere and there is also the fact that for many women, it is a time to put on their sexiest, skimpiest outfits.
Halloween is a great time for people to embrace their shadows and have fun with their sexuality within the safe containment of the holiday. However, this can also be incredibly challenging for many women. It’s a time when some women feel more free with their bodies and displaying more skin while others begin to negatively compare themselves to other people.
Although many women with food and body image issues tend to make unfair comparisons between themselves and other women, Halloween can create a scenario where the comparative thinking is extremely magnified. Feeling bad about yourself and being surrounded by candy and alcohol is not a situation that is great to find yourself in.
If you do celebrate – remember this
If you choose to go out for Halloween, find a costume that you love and that is fun and – more important – you feel comfortable in.
If you notice that you are comparing yourself to someone else, try to gently remind yourself not to engage with those thoughts – remind yourself that comparative thinking is all part of the disorder, but that you don’t have to do it. Just because someone looks good, doesn’t mean that you look bad. This is called compare & despair. You compare yourself to someone else and you immediately then beat yourself up.
Remember that you are great, even if someone else is great too.
If you notice that someone’s outfit is triggering you, don’t judge or berate them, not even silently to yourself. That will create anger or resentment inside.
Men aren’t the only ones who are capable of objectifying women. Sometimes women will label other women “sluts” or “whores” if their appearance triggers comparative thinking or insecurity. It might be good to talk to them and see that they are human, not someone to be objectified or degraded. They might be just as intimidated by you and your appearance.
If this is someone who you’d rather not talk to, simply avoid them. Don’t let their outfit affect your good time.
Don’t want to go out? It’s okay
If it’s too hard this year, don’t go out. Or just invite some safe people over for pumpkin carving and hanging out. It’s okay to take care of yourself by avoiding a situation that can be potentially harmful.
If you choose to stay home and find yourself surrounded by Halloween candy and nervous about acting out in eating disorder behaviors
Ask yourself: “Would I eat this if I could have it anytime? If I eat this, will I set myself up for a night of ED behaviors? Will I spend the evening bingeing and purging? Will I spend tomorrow over-exercising or dieting?” If the answer is yes, be kind to yourself and tell yourself that it’s okay to skip it this year while you are gaining strength and momentum in your recovery.
Here are a few more of my best tips for surviving Halloween.
1. If you feel good about it – go for it!
But definitely set some loving boundaries around it and enjoy it! Give yourself a limit of how much you are going to eat or ask someone to help you decide on the portion and when you do eat, take the time to taste it and eat it mindfully and without guilt.
2. Evaluate your anxiety
If you find that you are very anxious about bingeing on Halloween candy, choose not to have it in the house this year. That’s totally okay to keep yourself safe when you need to. It’s totally okay to not keep something around that makes you anxious. Other alternatives to candy for Halloween are:
3. Have a plan
If you find yourself triggered in stores where all the Halloween candy is out (like Target, Walgreens or the supermarket) make sure that you have a plan before you go into those stores. Make a list of what you need to buy and leave your ATM card at home. Bring cash so that you can’t compulsively grab something. And don’t go shopping hungry.
4. Be mindful
If there is candy sitting in bowls at the office, again, if it won’t trigger eating disorder behaviors, then by all means, consciously allow yourself to enjoy some. Be cautious that you don’t substitute candy for lunch. If you think that eating that candy will trigger your eating disorder, stay away from the bowl. Have a plan and be mindful when you have to pass that bowl. Keep non-binge foods that you love and make you feel good in your body available for yourself (I love to have apples and nuts and dates on hand).
5. Talk back
If the office candy bowl is haunting you, calling to you throughout the day, try to talk back to it. Tell it that you’re trying to prevent yourself from bingeing and the instant gratification that you will get from it won’t be worth what you do to yourself later that night, that you’d rather have long term recovery and get solid in your recovery this year. It doesn’t mean this is forever, but for right now, you are giving yourself some space to stay safe in order to keep the binging at bay.
Good luck and stay safe out there, Warrior!