5 Tips for Navigating Halloween in Eating Disorder Recovery

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Halloween is a time of celebration for all things spooky! Shopping for costumes while walking the store aisles overflowing with candy and decorations while talking to friends and family about a Halloween party. It’s a joyous time to get together, have fun, and enjoy our favorite holiday goodies.

For someone recovering from an eating disorder, Halloween can be challenging and frightening. There are countless ways a person with an eating disorder may try to cope with anxiety surrounding the holiday. Those struggling with anorexia may become withdrawn to avoid consuming any foods, while those with bulimia and binge eating disorder overeat which could also result in purging behaviors. Restricting, binging, and purging – are all attempts to suppress feelings of fear surrounding food and the body. Developing a plan with your treatment team and/or support system to identify triggers ahead of time can help you feel empowered and enjoy Halloween without that ED voice in your head.

Here are 5 tips for getting through (and enjoying) Halloween as someone recovering or still struggling with an eating disorder:

  1. Permission to say “no”

Did you know that “no” is a complete sentence? No explanation or justification is needed! Boundaries are a way to protect yourself, and during a holiday that can be triggering, there is no shame in protecting your recovery. Whether you’re saying no to attending a friend’s party or pressure to eat themed treats, it’s important to give yourself permission to make the best choice for you. Saying yes when you want to say no can generate resentment and potentially trigger a lapse in your recovery if you don’t prioritize your wants and needs first.

  1. Dress comfortably

Wearing a costume that naturally will draw attention to your appearance can increase your anxiety regarding body image. When costumes don’t fit right – too big, too small, too revealing – this can also increase feelings of self-consciousness, diminishing your ability to have fun being preoccupied with how the costume looks on your body. Finding the right materials, making your own costume, or keeping it simple with fun t-shirts, jewelry, and spooky accessories can keep the focus on enjoying the holiday.

  1. Buddy Up

Eating disorders thrive in isolation. Making plans to spend the evening with a friend or supportive person who understands your needs in recovery can help ease feelings of loneliness or boredom which are common triggers to binging, purging, or restricting. Sharing with your support person how they can specifically support you will increase success with navigating urges and triggers. Support can sound like not commenting on candy eaten, asking to not praise for eating candy, commenting on appearance and body, and encouraging you to eat something you don’t want to eat. When we are clear with others about how to support us, it takes the guessing game out of what would be helpful vs. hurtful.

  1. Be Consistent

It is tempting to “save all your calories” from the day to enjoy Halloween treats in the evening. This can be a trigger for eating disorder behaviors such as binging, purging, and or restricting the next day to compensate for candy and treats consumed. Setting yourself up for success by following your meal plan/eating regularly on the day of Halloween can be helpful to reduce feeling overly hungry later which can lead to overeating. Avoid the “all or nothing” mindset by giving yourself permission to enjoy the treats you want to eat and forgive yourself if you do overeat. Overeating doesn’t have to be a trigger for further behaviors if there is flexibility with food. Being consistent with your meal plan and consuming adequate nutrition can safeguard your recovery.

  1. Start a new tradition

Halloween is often centered around candy and treats, yet many other activities and traditions don’t involve food! Attending a pumpkin patch, taking a hayride, watching scary movies, decorating, and touring a haunted house can keep Halloween from feeling like a dreaded day. Sharing your ideas and making plans with supportive people can help start a new tradition in recovery!

Developing a positive relationship with your body and food takes time. Those in eating disorder recovery can learn to manage and regulate their emotions around treats, gatherings, and costumes. No matter what you decide to do this Halloween, don’t let ED trick you into believing that you can’t enjoy Halloween on your terms!

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, we would love to help! At Virtue Recovery Center, we treat anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, compulsive exercising, and other disordered eating behaviors with body image issues. Reach out to our team today and learn about how residential treatment can accelerate your eating disorder recovery. Learn more about our program at