Why Halloween Is Still Hard, Even Though I'm in Eating Disorder Recovery

I’ve always wondered why every holiday has to include so much food.

Halloween, food. Thanksgiving, food. Christmas, food. Birthday, food.

As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, this has taken a lot of the fun out of holidays for me. I would look around at my friends on Halloween, laughing and enjoying their candy, while all I could think about was wanting to go home, eat all of my candy and then go to the gym for hours on end to make sure that I “earned” the candy I had just eaten.

I remember sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table, watching everyone smile and reconnect with distant relatives while eating pumpkin pie and stuffing.

None of it made sense to me. 

I wondered if people actually enjoyed holidays, or if like me, they were also putting on a front.

This year, although I consider myself further into my recovery, I can’t help but still feel fear as the holidays are approaching. I want to go out with friends, I want to celebrate holidays, but doing those things while also having an eating disorder is hard.

I think that as society, we have the tendency to assume that eating disorders are there — and then they’re gone. And I think for a long time, I had those expectations for myself as well. I had gone through treatment, so why is food still so hard? After all, I should be recovered! Or so I thought…

The problem is that what the movies and books don’t tell you about eating disorders is that treatment might not always cure them. They don’t tell you that eating disorder recovery isn’t usually beautiful. They tell us that you get admitted to a hospital for being underweight, and then you gain weight, conquer fear foods and you’re recovered.

If there’s anything that I wish I knew when I started recovery, it’s that eating disorders aren’t what they look like in the media.

I began recovery with this false hope that once I ate the foods I was afraid of, I’d be healed. I thought that after I discharged, I’d be eating candy with my friends on Halloween and that I’d be sharing cake with them on my birthday. That was my experience, though. And now that I realize that, all I can do is figure out what my recovery looks like.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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