The holidays represent different things for all of us, positive and challenging. Of course, there are challenges and joys surrounding family (both those you are able or not able to see) additional responsibilities and for those struggling with food and body image new challenges around food.
A plate of cookies at the office or a holiday party can be a major stress. Holiday meals with family may make you feel out of control. Watching others plate your food or wondering how meals were prepared can send you into a panic spiral.
As a therapist that works specializes in eating disorders, I know the food challenges start at Halloween (hello candy) and extend through the New Year (weight loss resolutions anyone?). It can be so overwhelming to be constantly surrounded by food. It’s also so frustrating to be around co-workers or friends making comments about their weight loss resolutions, or saying out loud that they shouldn’t be eating a cookie, etc. If you’re struggling through the holidays here are a few simple tips to help you maintain your sanity;
- Remind yourself that you can say no
It can be hard to say no to others plating your food, a second portion or dessert when you’re full. Family dynamics can come into play here as well. You may feel obligated to clean your plate, eat as much food as you’re served or try everything. But you can say no. Trust me no one will die if you turn down dessert. There is nothing rude about taking care of yourself and setting boundaries. A polite, “that looks great, but I am so full” Can go a long way.
- Give yourself permission to enjoy your food (nothing is off limits)
Holiday events often involve lots of foods that may cause you to feel anxiety or fear. Some of us may go into “last supper eating”. This is what happens when we are surrounded by “bad’’ or “sinful” foods we normally don’t allow ourselves to eat. We may feel a rush of excitement and anxiety. We tell ourselves “I never get to eat (cheese, or cookies or whatever). We over-eat this food thinking that we won’t get to have it again until next year. That rush of anxious excitement is followed by feelings of guilt and maybe even a stomach ache. This holiday you can avoid the cycle by giving yourself permission to eat anything. Nothing is off limits. This may sound crazy but by giving yourself permission to eat whatever you want, you’ll get rid of that last supper thinking. If you remind yourself you can eat a cookie or hot cocoa whenever you want, you won’t feel the need to stuff yourself. You’ll even start to be able to tune into your hunger cues and stop eating when you’re full.
- Tune into your hunger cues
We often confuse our physical hunger with our appetite. Our appetite is the desire to eat a particular food or cravings. Hunger is the physical cue your body sends you when it needs fuel. It’s easy to confuse these two, especially around the holidays. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by either wanting to over-eat or anxious about eating anything, try tuning into your physical hunger. Notice if your body is giving you any cues that it’s hungry (grumbling stomach, your mouth salivating) or signs of fullness. Our appetite can be confusing and influenced by lots of things, but you can always trust your physical hunger.