The challenge with the holidays is there’s a lot of focus on food and eating. There are multiple holiday parties, family food gatherings, and it seems like holiday cookies are everywhere. The problem however is NOT the Holiday food itself; the problem is our attitudes about foods the rest of the year. Diet culture encourages avoidance of “unhealthy” foods, which causes deprivation and increased cravings. The scarcity of holiday foods only compounds these feelings. Throw some judgments into the mix and sprinkle on some guilt, and you’ve got the recipe for feeling crazy around food.
How to stop feeling crazy around food during the Holidays?
Give yourself permission to eat ALL of your favorite holiday foods.
Avoiding these foods is a set up to feel deprived which is a set up to over eat. Furthermore, the sense of scarcity around foods during this time of year definitely drives us to want these foods more, not less. Scarcity around foods in general does not help us relax, it does the opposite. If we believe that this is only time to eat this cookie, AND the cookie is ‘bad’ (diet mentality), this elevates the desirability of the cookie. The irony here is that permission to eat the thing actually does not result in increased eating of that thing (at least not in the long run).
Giving yourself permission to eat ALL foods is the catalyst to restoring trust and control around food.
Mindful Eating 101.
During the Holidays, it’s important to take time to slow down and check in with what the body truly needs to feel nourished.
Ask yourself before eating anything:
- How hungry are you?
- Does your body want to eat this now?
- How do you want to feel in 20 or 30 minutes?
Before automatically grabbing the cookie, slow down enough to check in with your body first. Ask your body what it really needs and wants. Some days it might want the cookie. Some days, it might need a quick walk around the block to get some fresh air, or a cup of hot tea. Mindful eating is a practice to encourage you to slow down and pay attention to what is happening in the present moment. It’s gets you “out of your head,” and, “into your body.” And, we try to do this without judgment, without ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldnt’s. When we are in judgment mind, it’s nearly impossible to access the wisdom of what the body really needs.
Take time to slow down and really connect to how the food tastes. Ask yourself: Do you love it? Is it worth it to keep eating? How satisfying is this food? How does this food make you feel physically? emotionally? Do you want to keep eating? Could you save it for later?
Remember, if you don’t ask the questions, you won’t get the answers.
Mindful eating works to increase your pleasure and satisfaction with eating because it allows you to stay connected to the full experience of eating, moment to moment, bite to bite.
Mindful eating is not ‘perfect’ eating.
It’s common in the early stages of IE to turn it into the ‘hunger-fullness diet.’ I know I did this when I was first re-learning how to eat. I told myself I would only eat when hungry and never overeat. Obviously, this black and white thinking only led me to feel like a ‘failure’ at IE especially when I broke my own rigid rules and eventually overate.
We need to accept that we are human, and there is no such thing as ‘perfect’ eating. The end goal of IE is also called, ‘normal eating;’ normal eating is over eating at times as well as under eating at times. And, during the holidays, we will overeat. So, give yourself permission to overeat. And, do it with as much mindfulness and forgiveness as you can. Trust that your body knows how to self-regulate as well as maintain energy balance and homeostasis over time. Over eating one meal or several over the Holidays does not equate to instant weight gain. Your body is amazingly adaptive and actaully resists changes to keep you within your homeostatic range. This should feel reassuring for those of you afraid of ‘Holiday weight gain.’ Please let these unhelpful fears go, and trust your body to guide and protect you. Keep listening to your body, and your body will support you.
Eat consistent meals and snacks throughout the day.
Avoid skipping meals and snacks. Eating throughout the day is the best strategy to avoid getting into the danger zones of ‘too hungry,’ resulting in ‘too full.’ While it might be tempting to save up your appetite for the holiday parties, or big meals, this can lead to low blood sugar and intensify food cravings. This is often a set up to overeat as well, which can undermine your ability to trust your body. Eating regular meals that are balanced and satisfying will protect your blood sugar from getting too low and protect you from the chaotic too-hungry-too-full pattern. This is a solid eating strategy to follow year round, not just during the holidays.
Self-care 101: Stress Management.
Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during times of stress. The holidays are a very busy time of year, and with this busyness comes a hefty dose of stress. The stress of the holidays is important to keep in check so we can protect ourselves. Having a plan to reduce or manage stress will help you feel calmer and more in control.
Here are some examples of daily practices to manage stress: practice mini meditations (insight timer or calm app), take a short 10 minute walk outside to get fresh air, find time to connect with people that make you laugh, set boundaries with your time and energy: practice saying NO to people or social events that you wouldn’t mind missing. Set boundaries around time spent around folks who can’t stop talking about their new diet or any other forms of diet/food/body talk. Remember that you can change the subject and or walk away. Removing yourself from these triggers is good self-care.
Resign from the New Year -New Diet Resolution!
Promise yourself you will not fall into the trap of starting a new diet in January.
Part of what drives the out of control feelings around food is the belief that you will ‘start’ over on Monday, January 1st. This belief system either consciously or subconsciously will set you up to continue to feel deprived. The threat of future deprivation will fuel the restrict-binge cycle of eating. As tempting and tantalizing as new diets are, remind yourself of why diets have failed you.
Here are a few reminders: increased preoccupation and obsession with food, increased feelings of guilt after eating, increased fear around weight gain, weight gain over time with each “failed” dieting attempt, feeling out of control around food, feeling more vulnerable or primed to use food to cope with stress, feeling hungry or deprived because you can’t eat what you really want, avoidance of social events, feeling isolated, anxious and depressed, and so on. Make your own list of all the negatives you have experienced from dieting. Gently remind yourself of these for when or if you feel the pull back towards dieting as a solution to control your life.
Intuitive Eater’s Holiday Bill of Rights.
My teacher Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD, author of the book, Intuitive Eating, wrote the Intuitive eater’s Holiday Bill of Rights. These are fantastic reminders as you navigate the challenges this Holiday season.
1. You have the right to savor your meal, without cajoling or judgment, and without discussion of calories eaten or the amount of exercise needed to burn off said calories.
2. You have the right to enjoy second servings without apology.
3. You have the right to honor your fullness, even if that means saying “no thank you” to dessert or a second helping of food.
4. It is not your responsibility to make someone happy by overeating, even if it took hours to prepare a specialty holiday dish.
5. You have the right to say, “No thank you,” without explanation, when offered more food.
6. You have the right to stick to your original answer of “no”, even if you are asked multiple times. Just calmly and politely repeat, “No, thank you, really.”
7. You have the right to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast.
What’s your favorite one from the list above? Comment below! (P.S. Mine is #7: Pie for Breakfast!? Yes please!)
Wishing you all a warm, delicious and festive Holiday season.
Love & Light, Karen