Thanksgiving Triggers and Living with Binge Eating Disorder

Woman working on Long-Lasting Recovery from Anorexia

Thanksgiving is intended to be a time of thankfulness and relaxation.  For the 3.5% of women, and 2% of men, that experience Binge Eating Disorder (BED), it can also be a time of turmoil and anxiety [1].  Triggers seem unavoidable during a time of year that centers on food and social gatherings.

Knowing what triggers to expect and how you will deal with them could mean the difference between relapsing or having a joyful holiday.

For a time when most people have off work and stay at home all day, Thanksgiving can actually be quite tense.

“Treatment professionals frequently see increases in eating disordered thoughts and behaviors in patients during holiday season. Often, these lapses in recovery are a response to the anxiety that can accompany gatherings of friends and family [2].”


The pressure of perfect meals, clean homes, social gatherings and the anticipation of Christmas pressure are enough to stress even the most “zen” person out. For someone with BED, this overwhelming anxiety may trigger unhealthy bingeing behaviors in an effort to cope.

Be aware of what you are taking on as you approach Thanksgiving and consider the potential for stress in these responsibilities. You don’t have to count yourself out of helping at all but safeguard your mental and emotional health by only taking on as much as you can handle.

Should you find yourself overwhelmed, plan some healthy coping mechanisms so that you don’t revert to bad habits.


Being surrounded by those we love is a blessing, there is no arguing that. But, when loved ones don’t know how to speak to someone struggling with BED, a pleasant conversation can feel like an attack in an instant.

While the intentions of family members and friends may be virtuous, holiday conversation often turns to food, portion size, and appearance.

What may seem like a harmless remark of “really loading up on the mashed potatoes,” can be interpreted differently by someone who is struggling with their relationship to food.

Prepare for how you will respond to remarks like these. It is unfortunate that they may come up, but they won’t blindside you as much if you prepare for how you will deal with them at the moment and afterward.


Thanksgiving may feel like walking into the lion’s den for someone struggling with BED, with tensions high and unlimited food. True, the trigger of food is almost impossible to avoid this time of year, but by planning ahead, you can set yourself up for success.

Work with your therapist or treatment team to discuss a meal plan for the day. A meal plan doesn’t mean restriction of your favorite items but can help with planning what you are actually looking forward to eating that day as opposed to merely eating food because it is there.

The suggestion about coping stress works with this as well – plan some healthy coping mechanisms you can use when you’re feeling tempted to binge.

Reading about these Thanksgiving triggers may be stress inducing to begin with but knowing what may challenge you gives you the upper hand in combatting it.

Think about what other personal triggers may come up for you on Thanksgiving Day and work with your treatment team and support system on how you will face these triggers head-on and overcome them.

Sponsored by Magnolia Creek

Peacefully nestled in 36 wooded acres and located just outside of Birmingham, Alabama, Magnolia Creek Treatment Center for Eating Disorders treats women (18 years and older) who struggle with eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, attachment disorders, dissociative disorders, personality disorders, and co-occurring addictive behaviors. Magnolia Creek’s phenomenal team of therapists, doctors, nurses, and dietitians is dedicated to providing the highest quality of care using current research-supported methods in a cozy, retreat-like setting. With a dual license to treat eating disorders and mental health disorders, we work collaboratively with our clients to create an individualized treatment approach for each client that not only nourishes the body but also strengthens the spirit.

LindasmithAbout the Author: Linda Smith is the Chief Executive Officer of Magnolia Creek Treatment Center for Eating Disorders in Columbiana, Alabama. Prior to joining Magnolia Creek, Linda served as an Electronic Interchange Consultant for Comprehensive Radiology Groups throughout the state.

She also worked with one of the leading facilities in addiction, Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services located in Hattiesburg, MS. She has extensive experience in inpatient, outpatient, residential and partial hospitalization treatment, and is well versed in eating disorders, co-occurring mental health disorders, substance abuse, and love and sex addiction.


[1]: Steinhausen HC. Outcome of eating disorders. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2009 Jan:18(1):225-42

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on November 4, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 4, 2017.
Published on