Thanksgiving has always been my least favorite holiday.
Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful to spend the day with my family. Many of my relatives live far away, so I am not able to see them as often as I would like. Even though I am fortunate enough to see my family, my eating disorder overpowers the happiness I feel from their presence.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a picky eater. My food palate is very limited because I only feel comfortable eating “safe foods,” or foods I have had before and I know won’t give me a stomach ache. My anxiety-induced eating disorder makes it difficult for me to try new foods, as I panic that they will make me sick.
As a result of my eating disorder, I struggle with body dysmorphia. Anytime I eat a meal, I fear I will gain weight.
In high school, I would avoid the cafeteria by spending my lunch break in an empty classroom. It was too humiliating for me to eat in public, especially during soccer season. I was worried eating before practice would slow me down.
I could barely face my school cafeteria, let alone Thanksgiving, a holiday centered around gluttony.
We typically celebrate Thanksgiving with my mom’s side of the family. My extended family is very big, and they uphold their Italian culture and traditions by hosting larger-than-life dinners.
Although my family’s smiles fill me with joy as they slice into the Thanksgiving turkey, the sight of the bird makes my stomach turn.
My Thanksgiving meal usually consists of a roll or two of bread. It’s not the most extravagant, but I know it won’t leave my stomach feeling uneasy.
I still find it difficult to attend Thanksgiving every year, but it isn’t even the day itself that is the most anxiety-ridden. My relatives realized it’s a challenge for me to consume new foods, so they no longer pressure me.
What causes me the most stress is the week that follows.
It’s not uncommon to see Instagram stories and tweets flooding with post-holiday diet plans because Thanksgiving is usually compiled with extravagant, bountiful and filling dinners.
I don’t eat much on Thanksgiving, but the social media posts around bingeing and dieting still prompt my body dysmorphia. Not only do I fear gaining weight during the holiday season, but these posts also prevent me from trying new foods. I worry that if I expand my palate, I’ll inevitably gain weight too.
This post-Thanksgiving social media content pushes me to maintain stricter diets and longer workouts throughout the rest of November and December. Although I cannot physically gain weight if I abstain from eating on Thanksgiving, my obsessive-compulsive disorder tells me otherwise.
Dieting posts may only seem like a few words or a harmless picture, but it can be extremely destructive to the mental health of struggling teens like myself.
I am learning to be kind to myself during the holidays. While others may be watching their weight after Thanksgiving, if my heart tells me to eat more or spend a lazy day in bed, I will listen.