With Halloween becoming more and more popular with young people, we want to discuss how it can be a challenging time if you have an eating disorder and share our top tips for coping with Halloween when in recovery.
Fancy dress costumes, decorations, pumpkins, trick or treating, parties and horror movies. The whole occasion is designed to combine fear and fun. But it’s not just ghosts, zombies, vampires, witches and skeletons that make it scary. There are several triggers associated with the annual event too.
The most important message is that you don’t have to celebrate Halloween if you are not at a point in your recovery journey where you feel you are able to.
It should be an enjoyable time and although you may feel that you are missing out being with your friends, the thing to remember is that Halloween is celebrated every single year, so you will get your chance to enjoy it when you are ready. Let people around you know that you are struggling so that you don’t have to deal with the situation on your own.
Recovery varies from person to person but can be a long process. Every small step forward is so vital and there will be relapses at times, making the recovery journey even harder to face. Never put added pressure on yourself to do something you are not ready for, it will just put you back even further.
If you do feel ready, giving yourself permission to enjoy and celebrate Halloween is a big step in your recovery process.
The amount of sweets you would get whilst out trick or treating, the food at parties and choosing your costume are all possible triggers you would need to be able to face and deal with.
Firstly, decide who you are going to go out with. Choose a person/people you know you can trust and feel safe with.
Remember that if you do not find a Halloween fancy dress outfit which makes you feel good, that’s okay. You and the way you are feeling must come first, not a costume.
There are so many different costumes to choose from these days. (Shockingly, eating disorder Halloween costumes such as ‘Anna Rexia’ are still a thing). When choosing a costume, you just need to focus on yourself –
- Which outfit do you love?
- Which one are you most comfortable wearing?
Don’t let this stop you though. You can still take part – go out in clothes which you are ready to wear and perhaps just add a witch’s hat, cat ears, devil horns, just a pair of Halloween earrings, or maybe enjoy getting creative with makeup or nail art (a great mindfulness activity). It really doesn’t matter if you are not wearing a full costume but if you are, try to avoid comparing yourself to what others are wearing.
This should be done every day but prior to the build-up of Halloween, take care of yourself.
Preparation is important while you’re still battling an eating disorder.
- If possible, try to find out prior to attending, what food will be available at the party and any games/competitions that could be difficult for you.
- Practice breathing techniques so that if at all you are feeling anxious when you are out, you will remember these.
- Nourish yourself with regular balanced meals.
- Prioritise as much sleep as you need.
- Journal around any anxieties and/or talk about how you are feeling.
- If you’re hosting, only buy what you think you’ll need.
Eat slowly and mindfully, without guilt. Try to listen to your body.
When out trick or treating or at a party, where there are opportunities to get copious amounts of sweets and food, restriction, bingeing and purging are all potential behaviours that can occur. Here are our top 5 tips for getting through Halloween without a slip-up:
- Focus on the taste and the texture so that you savour every moment.
- Set some self-loving boundaries – you can be in control, not your ED voice.
- Avoid going out hungry.
- If you don’t want to eat candy or other Halloween treats, just say no. Your friends/family should respect this answer.
- Remind yourself that you do want to recover and that you can and will.
If you are celebrating Halloween this year, have fun but don’t be afraid to leave early if you are not having fun or encounter any stressful situations.
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