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If you suffer from an eating disorder now or have in the past, please email Joanna for a free telephone consultation.



Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.


Quick imagination challenge: What is the best, most fantastic and just right Thanksgiving celebration? Close your eyes and let your images of that terrific Thanksgiving come through your mind.

What did you get? Was it a big family dinner with everyone smiling and getting along? Was it the man of the house carving the golden brown turkey? Was it a mother pouring gravy over your mashed potatoes? Maybe it was children eager and vying for a drumstick.

Or maybe you took the day to a cabin in the woods where friends and family gathered for Thanksgiving and cooked on an open fire while gathering wood and berries on a nose-chilling walk.

Could you leave the Thanksgiving images pressed upon us by tradition and media? Perhaps your image is a trip to a beautiful place with someone you love.

Did you go off in your imagination to the Caribbean, Paris or Hawaii? Maybe your image was of being with people who are no longer in your life. Maybe they are no longer here.

If this is a hard time economically for you, as it is for many people this year, maybe your image is of a warm, safe place for you and your family, with enough food of any kind to help you smile through the day.

These images can be delightful entertainment. They can be themes of movies you see and stories you share. But if you let them take over your mind as expectations, you can set yourself up for terrific anxiety and disappointment.

Imagination soars well beyond reality. It's easy to imagine a fabulous Thanksgiving. Even if you create a fabulous Thanksgiving, it won't be the one you imagined. And if you expected the one you imagined, the fabulous one you created will be a disappointment to you. Your imagination will feel cheated.

If you have an eating disorder, you have a hungry heart yearning to be filled with a Thanksgiving so perfect that you will feel whole, happy, loved and free of eating disorder anguish and loneliness. Corralling those images of fabulous Thanksgiving and placing them in storybook land rather than your real life will give you a much better chance to enjoy your Thanksgiving your way.

Letting your own curiosity venture forth may not be as dramatic as a binge on imaginary perfection, but it allows you to be real with real people for the actual experience you can have.

Expectations are like prison bars that block the possibility of you having a good experience. If you acknowledge where you are, who you are and what resources you have now, you can let yourself be curious about how all that can come together for your Thanksgiving Day.

What might be possible for you this Thanksgiving?

Instead of going to the cultural imagery of the day, look to the meaning of the day. What and who are you thankful for? Find a way to express that.

For example, call someone who helped you and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving, or write them - pen and ink - not e-mail. This could be someone you know, but it could be people at the library, fire department, or local school, or someone who created a resource on the Internet or someone who runs a shop that is valuable to you.

Go to your Thanksgiving event with friends and family with the intention of listening more attentively to what each has to say. Let yourself be curious about how that will affect your experience and theirs. If you are alone, find a way to share your bounty.

Maybe you invite friends or acquaintances to your home for a meal. But maybe you share your bounty in other ways, like giving art or stories or a helping hand to a neighbor or volunteering at a food distribution service in your community. Let yourself be curious about how this will affect you and other people.

Eating disorder recovery involves dropping impossible expectations. We can feel terrible when our expectations aren't met. But we can feel wonderful if something turns out better than we thought it would.

What might that something be for you? Let yourself be curious, and please, share with us what you discover this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Links

My First Thanksgiving

Celebrating Thanksgiving without Disordered Eating

Setting Boundaries a Key to Holiday Happiness

Celebrating the Holidays Without Eating Disorder Relapse

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Written by Joanna Poppink, MFT. Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD, and adult development.

She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, and UT. Author of the Book: Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering from Your Eating Disorder

Appointments are virtual.

For a free telephone consultation, e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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