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10 Tips for Getting Through Halloween With an Eating Disorder

Halloween is right around the corner! People are putting out their pumpkins, hanging up purple and black lights and decorating their yards with ghosts hanging from trees and spiders up the staircase railings. Halloween is an exciting time for not only children, but adults too! It’s a time for parties, seeing friends and family, dressing up and sending your kids out to trick or treat. But for people with eating disorders (ED), Halloween may be a scary holiday.

Halloween is a holiday hallmarked by candy. Whether you are handing out candy to trick or treaters, going out to a party where they have candy, or trick or treating yourself, there’s bound to be candy around.

As someone who struggles with anorexia, Halloween is both an exciting and scary holiday for me. I love to dress up and go to parties, but I am terrified of the candy! I hope this Halloween I can cope better with these triggers and help others to prepare for those triggers, too.

Here are 10 tips for getting through (and enjoying) Halloween as someone with an eating disorder:

1. Buddy up.

If you’re planning on going out for Halloween, hang out with someone who you trust and feel safe with. Plan to be with a friend — don’t go alone. When you are alone, it can sometimes make it more difficult to resist urges to binge, purge or restrict.

2. Set small goals.

If you have restrictive behaviors and are dreading having to eat candy, set small goals. You don’t have to eat a ton of candy! Challenge yourself to eat maybe just one piece and to listen to your body. If you’re craving a specific candy, focus on the taste and the texture of your favorite candy rather than the nutritional content, and remember, one candy won’t change anything!

3. Wear what makes you comfortable.

Don’t feel pressured to wear a Halloween costume if you are feeling particularly body conscious. You can wear what you would normally wear as an everyday outfit and add some cat ears, devil horns or Halloween earnings to jazz it up!

4. Define Halloween by something besides food.

Since Halloween is often centered around candy, it may be helpful to come up with a new tradition to center Halloween around, like inviting up your friends for a party or throwing a haunted house for the younger children in your neighborhood.

5. Make cards to explain your situation to teachers who may be handing out candy at school.

You can get an index card and write something as simple as, “I have a condition that prevents me from eating candy. Please do not offer me any.” This could also be applied to work or other events. This way, you do not have to explain yourself and you have fewer chances of getting into a situation that could potentially trigger anxiety.

6. Bring fidgets with you to parties.

It sounds silly, but I always have a stress ball or putty with me! It can be grounding if you find that anxiety is coming up.

7. Wear colored tights or a long-sleeved shirt underneath your costume.

I am personally very self-conscious about my legs. I know that some people with eating disorders have particular parts of their body they are particularly aware of. If it is your arms, wear your short-sleeved or spaghetti strapped shirt with a long-sleeved shirt underneath. If it’s your legs, pair a dress or skirt with tights! Instantly cute!

8. Don’t be afraid to say no.

If you find that you’re too anxious to eat a particular candy and you feel you are being pressured, remember that it is your right to say no. It can sometimes be a hard thing to assert yourself, but remember, you do not deserve to feel cornered into something that you may not be ready for in your individual recovery journey.

9. Have another kind of Halloween snack.

If you are not in a place in your recovery where you feel ready to eat candy, try another fun Halloween themed snack! They often sell Halloween pretzels and goldfish. (The pretzels might even be shaped as bats and pumpkins!)

10. Have your treatment team on speed-dial.

Sometimes, it gets to be too much to handle on your own, but you shouldn’t have to do it on your own. Keep your treatment team’s (dietitian, therapist, doctor) numbers available if contacting them outside of sessions is something you are able to do. Know your limits. It’s OK to ask for help.

Have a fun, safe and as close to and ED-free Halloween as you can get!

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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Thinkstock photo via Pixland