Intuitive Eating for the Holidays: 5 Tips For Survival.
Want to survive the holiday parties? Worried about over-indulging? Afraid of falling off your diet?
Here are 5 tips holiday eating survival guide so you can stay connected during this time of the year.
1. Give yourself permission to eat enough of your favorite holiday foods.
Say what? Yes, you heard me right. The holidays are once a year, so go ahead and enjoy! Avoidance of your favorite holiday foods causes cravings to increase, not decrease which is always going to be a set up to over-indulge in these foods.
Giving yourself permission to enjoy your favorites is not a license to overeat. Permission to eat WHATEVER you want is contingent on you staying connected to your body. Staying connected to your body while you eat these foods most likely will prevent you from overeating. Overeating happens when there are thoughts of scarcity and deprivation such as, ‘I won’t be able to eat this for another year, so might as well go for another slice.’ When the attention shifts from your body, redirect it back to your internal fullness cues. Notice what your mind is telling you, notice if you start to want to race ahead and eat another without regard to your body cues. Stay connected to your body and listen with curiosity to what your mind tells you.
2. Trust that your body knows how to self-regulate.
If you eat too much during this time of the year, your body will make adjustments over time. So what if you gain a few pounds during the holidays? If this puts you over your set point weight, your body will naturally adjust back down over time with ‘normal’ eating, and ‘normal’ activity. It is normal to have seasonal weight fluctuations of a few pounds during the year. It is important to be flexible with these fluctuations knowing that weight is not fixed but rather a fluid range depending on the seasons and activity patterns. The media and magazines exaggerate claims of “holiday weight gain,” instilling fear that weight gain is inevitable. Basically, we are all doomed to watch our weights balloon year after year if we don’t play careful. The media does a fantastic job inflating this fear to support a 65 billion dollar diet industry. Fear inspires people to buy diet pills and potions. Turn off your television and stop reading those crappy “health and fitness” magazines that do nothing but instill fear and stress. I wonder how much of this fear actually drives people to stress eat- to numb out the worry and fears by grabbing another cookie. Almost sounds like a conspiracy theory. Jokes aside, I do think that stress eating is driven in part by the need to silence the worry caused from our toxic food culture.
3. Self- care 101: What is self-care?
How do you know when you are stressed out? What does it feel like in your body? How do you cope with stress? Do you reach for the cookies, or do you go for a power walk around the block? It’s important to develop a daily self-care practice to reduce and manage stress. The most effective stress reducing practice is meditation and breathing exercises. Breathing is free and can be done anytime, anywhere. Even as little as 5 minutes a day can dramatically reduce your stress levels. Other forms of self care include: yoga, massage, walks in nature, sleeping in, reading, cooking, dancing, playing music, writing, reading poetry, and other forms of pleasurable escape. When you learn to identify what stresses you out and what needs to be done to take care of yourself, it will be much easier to stay connected to your body. When you have a practice of staying connected to your body, you will be more in tune with your hungers and know how to feed them appropriately.
4. Protect your hunger before the party starts.
Most diet advice is to avoid, manage and suppress hungers- especially around holiday parties. Before you go to the party, make it a practice to check in with your body. Notice your breath. Notice your level of hunger before you begin to eat. What sensations are you feeling? Unlike conventional diet advice, I would recommend going to the party hungry- but not too hungry!
Conventional diet advice is to eat before the party to avoid over-eating. This is actually a set up to eat more, not less. If you want to avoid over-eating, go to the party hungry (but not starving), choose what you most want to eat, sit down, stay connected and enjoy. It’s best to set an intention before going to the party that you want to stay connected and that you want to leave the party feeling satisfied not stuffed. It’s easy to avoid over eating if you know these foods will be around (abundance factor). However, the truth is, that some of these foods are not around much at all during the rest of the year, so this makes it more challenging to stop eating when satisfied. There are some foods that will demand more awareness as well as ‘loving limits.’ Foods that pose a particular challenge to stop at satisfaction require loving limits. Loving limits is a practice whereby you agree to limit yourself in a loving way to protect yourself from feeling stuffed. For example, with Halloween candy, my loving limit might be 5 fun size pieces a day. My hope is to honor this to feel good and to exercise my discipline muscle of wanting to feel good and honor my truth- not saying no out of deprivation or avoidance. If you don’t have a plan with these foods, it is easy to go unconscious and over-consume, or under-consume if you are struggling with unconditional permission. Again, avoidance doesn’t work, but loving limits gives you permission while setting healthy boundaries around how much to support your body in feeling balanced and energized as opposed to stuffed and lethargic.
And, here is the thing about over-eating. If you do over-eat, no big deal. Everyone on the planet over eats. It’s not a crime to over eat, it a normal behavior. Remember that intuitive eating is not perfect eating. Please don’t beat yourself up for not being a perfect eater. Intuitive eating means imperfect eating and with that, occasional over eating. Every time you feel like you didn’t do it right, learn from this and then move on. Tomorrow is a new day to keep practicing and fine tuning your intuitive eating powers.
5. Once the parties are over, please do not go back on another diet.
I know it is tempting to want to go back to another diet, especially after the holidays and the winter hibernation that sets in. Remind yourself how every diet you went on only worked short term. Remember that once you went off the diet, the weight came back, plus about 10% more from when you started. The best way to regain a sense of control is to redirect the focus from outside of yourself (scales and diets and points and calories) to inside yourself. Reconnect to your hungers, reconnect to your body. Focus on slowing down enough to hear the subtle cues of hunger and fullness. Practice getting into your body every day to shift the awareness from outside to inside. Your body craves movement just as it craves rest and relaxation. It takes some discipline to train your body to crave this, so in the beginning it does take some effort. One of my teachers once said that it takes great effort to become effortless. Intuitive eating and intuitive exercise is just this- great effort in the beginning before it becomes easy, habituated and integrated.
Wishing you a warm, tasty and healthy holiday season!