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A room decorated for Halloween, including pumpkins and a bowl of candy
October 27, 2022

Celebrating Halloween in Eating Disorder Recovery

Halloween can be scary in more ways than one for people with eating disorders. Being surrounded by candy, wearing a costume, and attending social events are some of the potential triggers this holiday can bring. Despite these challenges, it is possible to celebrate in a recovery-friendly way. 

Read on for helpful tips on how to enjoy Halloween while also prioritizing your eating disorder recovery.

Halloween Tips for Those in Recovery

Make a plan

Making a plan for Halloween with your support system—including your professional care team—is essential. Work with your loved ones, therapist, dietitian, and other providers to identify strategies for navigating the season in a way that honors your recovery. 

If your recovery includes a meal plan, for example, Halloween could be an opportunity to incorporate fear foods (like candy). Or, if you know that you can get overwhelmed at large social events with an abundance of food (like many Halloween parties), preparing some coping methods is the right move. Your plan for triggers may include removing yourself from the party and calling your support person, getting some fresh air, or practicing your breathing techniques. 

Wear what YOU want

If you choose to dress up this season, the most crucial factor to consider is what makes YOU feel comfortable. A Halloween costume doesn’t need to be about your body; it can be about playing dress up, expressing your creativity, and even having fun!

Seeing others in costume can lead to self-comparison as well. This is normal. If you catch yourself comparing your body to others, be gentle and self-compassionate. Recognize your comparative thoughts and turn your attention elsewhere. 

Celebrate your way

If you need to avoid big parties or food-centric activities to prioritize your recovery, that is perfectly all right! There is plenty to do during Halloween that doesn’t involve potential triggers. Here are just a few examples of non-food-related spooky season activities: 

  • Carving pumpkins
  • Watching a scary movie
  • Decorating your home
  • Playing a spooky board game or video game

Set boundaries

You may be seeing friends and family during Halloween that you haven’t seen in a while. They may ask you questions about your eating disorder. If you decide that you don’t want to discuss your illness, or if you’re not ready to discuss it yet, it is acceptable to tell people that you would rather focus on other topics.

In addition, you may encounter triggering language about food at Halloween gatherings. People may joke about gaining weight because of all the treats they are eating, or comment on their own or other people’s bodies in costumes. If you feel ready to educate people on why these comments are harmful, that’s great! Removing yourself from the conversation is also perfectly acceptable. Do whatever feels best to you.

Recognize that treats are just food

Remember that Halloween treats—including candy, cookies, and more—are part of an “all foods fit” mentality. People with eating disorders often see food as “good” or “bad,” and sweets often fall on the “bad” side of that equation. Remember that sweet treats are just a snack, and eating them says nothing about our morality.

It is common for people to have large bags of Halloween candy on hand for trick-or-treaters. Depending on where you are in your recovery, festive treats in the home can be challenging. If this is you and you still want to pass something out to the kids in your neighborhood, you might choose to pass out stickers, bubbles, bouncy balls, or play dough instead.

Practice self-compassion

On Halloween (and throughout the year), things might not go exactly according to your plan. Maybe you planned to eat a fear food but decided against it, or you bought a costume but struggled to put it on. No matter what happens, give yourself some grace. Halloween can be a stressful time and you are doing the best you can. You have already come so far and you should be proud of yourself. 

While Halloween can be a frightening time for those in eating disorder recovery, it doesn’t have to be all scary. We believe in you and your ability to manage triggers with support and practice. We hope these tips help you navigate this spooky time with some ease. 

If you think you or a loved one is exhibiting the signs of an eating disorder, Veritas Collaborative is here to help. Please reach out to us at 1-855-875-5812 or fill out our online contact form.