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Tricks for Treating: Eating Disorder Recovery Tips for Halloween

woman in witch halloween costume holding a Jack O Lantern and wand

It’s the time of year for trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, haunted houses, and theme parties! Many of us look forward to these activities and spending time with friends and loved ones. For those with eating disorders or struggle with body image, the ‘holiday’ can often feel a bit overwhelming. Planning your Halloween experience ahead of time can help make October 31st a little less spooky and a lot more fun.

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind for anyone in recovery when planning your Halloween activities.

Set Expectations for Trick or Treating

Trick-or-Treating is a Halloween classic that is meant to bring people together for a fun shared experience. Candy and treats are part of this experience and are meant to be enjoyed! To make the most of your night, talk to your eating disorder treatment team or support system and set expectations ahead of time.

Comfortable Costumes Are Key

Dressing up can be fun at any age. If you have plans with friends, think about a fun group costume. Most importantly, make sure you pick something to wear that you feel both physically and mentally comfortable in. Pinterest is a great resource to find fun, DIY costumes. Black shirt and witches’ hat is a fan favorite!

Have a Plan for Parties

If you are attending a party, be prepared to see some unfamiliar food, drinks, or people. Just like any new situation, this may stir some uncomfortable emotions. Make a plan for the night – are you eating before you go, what time are you going to stay until? It is helpful to buddy-up with someone you trust who can navigate the event with you.

Make Alternate Halloween Plans

If trick-or-treating, costumes and parties aren’t your thing, and you still want to celebrate, think about alternate holiday plans. Many local non-profit organizations hold events like “trunk-or-treat” where children can safely show off their costumes and collect candy. There are also opportunities in senior homes or assisted living residences to help deliver treats to their residents or to those who are homebound. Invite a support person to stay in and watch scary movies for the night!

So, whether you attend a costume party or bring Halloween cheer to your neighborhood, plan ahead, brainstorm ideas with your treatment team, and support system and do your best to enjoy your experience.

Remember, each new challenge that you overcome in your journey builds your skills for a lasting recovery experience.

Melissa Orshan Spann, PhD, LMHC, RTY 200, is Chief Clinical Officer at Monte Nido, overseeing the clinical operations and programming for over 50 programs across the U.S. Dr. Spann is a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and clinical supervisor as well as an accomplished presenter and passionate clinician who has spent her career working in the eating disorder field in higher levels of care. She is a member of the Academy for Eating Disorders and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals where she serves on the national certification committee, supervision faculty, and is on the board of her local chapter. She received her doctoral degree from Drexel University, master’s degree from the University of Miami, and bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.