Halloween Scaries with an Eating Disorder
As an eating disorder therapist in Cherry Hill...
I love seeing the excited kids in the suburban neighborhoods excitedly collect candy as they have me guess what they are dressed like. As folks grow older, the pressure of diet culture becomes more and more intense.
So what can you do to help the kids feel more confident and less focused on their bodies during this fun holiday?
Normalize All Foods
As a virtual therapist in Cherry Hill, I have not always been in New Jersey, nor have I always been virtual! Prior to being virtual, I would often have different snacks, including candy, to offer clients. We would eat them together and keep the conversation light. It can be helpful to eat more challenging foods alongside someone, to help show that all foods are okay.
Keep the Focus Off the Food
There are a lot of rumors out there that talk about how sugar can impact a kid’s energy level, leaving people to say negative things about having “too much sugar”. Well we know kids, when an adult says “don’t have too much sugar”, what is the first thing they want to do when they get a hold of sugar? Eat it ALL. Here is a podcast episode where the research behind sugar is broken down a bit. It explains how the sugar got its bad rep for making kids “hyperactive”. Take a listen to “The Trouble with Sugar”, by Maintenance Phase.
So if we are keeping the focus off the sugar, what is the focus on? Great question! Keep the focus on the holiday. The costumes, the decorations, and most importantly, the FUN. This is a holiday created for kids to have a blast, relax, and bring out their creative side. So lets help them get to the root of their creativity, have fun, and take the focus off the judgment around candy!
Planning ahead for fun halloween activities can be helpful in getting kids engaged in the holiday while keeping the focus off of food. Plan for halloween movies, parades, haunted houses, and costume parties! Engaging in these fun activities can help keep the anxiety around food lower.
Halloween is about fun and creativity, so try keeping costumes that way as well! When helping them choose a costume, guide them towards ones that help them feel comfortable and confident. Avoid costumes that may feel triggering or increase negative body image thoughts.
Be Mindful of Triggers
Being surrounded by candy can already feel very difficult. It is okay to take a break from difficult challenges and try to reduce triggers in order to enjoy the holiday with others. Have coping skills at the ready. This may include deep breathing exercises, grounding techniques, or creative outlets like art or journaling. Preparing ahead to have these skills ready can help when encountering difficult moments during Halloween.
Compassion and Empathy
Halloween is tough. Being surrounded by sweets and treats can be extremely difficult for an individual with an eating disorder. Recognize that it is okay for them to struggle during this time. Help them practice self compassion as they navigate through these potentially triggering events. Seeking extra support from a therapist may be helpful during this time as well. If you or someone you love is looking for an eating disorder therapist in the Cherry Hill area to help with support during Halloween, please reach out to us at Serendipity Counseling Services and we will be happy to help support you through the scary season.