The holiday season is literally weeks away. Time to welcome all that comes with this wonderful time of year. This includes spending quality time with loved ones. Taking the time to enjoy the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in the company of family and friends. Another holiday favorite is participating in Black Friday which is the official kick-off of the holiday shopping season. But I’m forgetting one of the most important parts of the holiday season and that is the food! Something that can cause significant stress is the abundance of food at parties and gatherings. This leads to concerns regarding weight management and adhering to a healthy lifestyle.
Overindulgence during the holiday season is also responsible for many people abandoning their healthy lifestyles. Others may decide to jump on the diet bandwagon at the beginning of the year. Turning to the gym and restrictive eating habits are a common coping mechanism after the holidays as a way to deal with the “holiday bulge”.
I’ve totally been there before. This cycle used to be my story. But since transitioning to a holistic approach to my nutrition I have shifted my mindset. I began to apply intuitive eating principles, mindful eating habits, and conscious food choices. This allowed so much freedom when it came to my health and nutrition. I walked away from the food struggle and found flexibility when it came to food. Ever since I have truly been able to enjoy the holidays with no guilt or shame. Today I’m going to teach you the same principles I use to this day to govern my health and nutrition. My goal is to set you free from the unhealthy mindset and relationship surrounding food. So, you can achieve peace and freedom during the holiday season and throughout the year!
Common Compulsive Eating Triggers
The first step is going to be to understand what are the unique triggers that cause you to overeat or over consume during the holiday season. We all have our own unique and individual reasons as to why we are drawn to second, third and fourth helpings. Some of the common reasons associated with overeating during the holiday season are an abundance of food, emotional stress, and an unhealthy relationship with food.
An Abundance of Food.
There is so much food available to eat during the holidays! Think multiple courses, sides, desserts, snacks, cocktails, wine, champagne. Everything looks beautiful, tempting and mouthwatering and you have the intention of sampling a little bit of everything because you don’t want to insult your host or hostess. Yet, before you know it it’s gotten out of control and you’ve sampled a little too much and you’re stuffed. This can happen multiple times during the holiday season especially if you are participating in work parties, special events and occasions with friends, in addition to your family traditions. It’s easy to see how this can quickly get out of control if you’re not prepared and understand how to handle these situations.
Anxiety and Depression.
For those that are struggling with loss or any type of stressful situation during the holiday season feelings of anxiety and intense emotions can lead to turning to food as a way to cope and escape the situation. As Psychologist Dr. Nancy Darling stated in her article on Psychology Today entitled Enjoying Holiday Eating (1)
“Many people eat – and overeat – in response to emotions. They can evoke positive emotions that reduce anxiety and negative emotions. The holidays can produce both positive and negative emotions. Eating too much – especially eating fat and sugar – are common response.”
Learning how to handle and manage these negative emotions during the holiday season and not using food as a coping mechanism can prevent overeating tendencies.
Unhealthy Relationship with Food.
Having a poor relationship with food and restricting yourself can be counterproductive. When you begin to demonize particular food groups or avoid eating certain foods because they will make you “fat” or they are “bad” you end up preventing yourself from simply seeing food as food. This can make you feel as though you are missing out and unable to participate in the holidays. Chances are when you do cave in and take a bite of that “forbidden” morsel of food can contribute to temptations and desires to eat ALL THE FOOD.
As a reformed “clean eater” and “chronic dieter” I’ve been there. That mindset would lead me to fall off the proverbial diet wagon every single time. And when I fell off I would fall HARD. Improving your overall relationship with food is important. This is because becoming more flexible and less rigid allows you more grace and room to a variety of different foods and experiences. Refraining from excessive restriction can eliminate those urges to overeat and then punish yourself after.
3 Helpful Guidelines on Enjoying Holiday Meals
There are three guidelines that I have applied to my life that I want to teach you. Learning how to manage my emotions, apply intuitive eating principles and practice mindful eating habits changed my relationship with food. This changed my unhealthy concept and relationship with food. Maintaining this mindset and approach has been a journey. But it has eliminated food guilt, yo-yo dieting, and disordered eating tendencies. I can finally enjoy the holiday season without going overboard. I’m going to teach you how you can too.
#1. Manage Your Emotions
There are a variety of lifestyle circumstances that can cause anxiety and depression during the holiday season. Dealing with issues such as losing a job, a failed relationship, tight finances, or struggling to handle grief. All of these are tough issues to deal with outside of the holiday season, going through these issues during the holidays can be extra difficult. The first step is to not try and go it alone. Isolating yourself will only make these emotions and feelings worse.
Seek to get professional help or find a good support group in your area. This will help you get connected and plugged in with others that can help you navigate those emotions and feelings. Turn to healing self-care habits in the place of comfort food. Simple habits such as taking a walk in your neighborhood, a warm bubble bath, journaling, going to watch a movie, or spending time volunteering and giving back. All of these choices are great activities to work through feelings and handle your emotions.
#2. Practice Mindfulness
Intuitive eating is the process of becoming more in-tune with your body’s natural hunger and satiety cues. Learning how to avoid imposing a specific set of guidelines or rules as to what foods you can and can not eat. The focus is instead placed on what your body needs and what makes you happy and healthy. You will become Better able to understand and identify your authentic hunger cues. When you are hungry you will know that your body is communicating with your that it’s time to eat. Once you’ve had your fill and are satisfied you will simply stop eating.
Another important aspect of intuitive eating is releasing the idea that there are “good” and “bad” foods. Eliminating the strict and restrictive rules when it comes to the foods you do and don’t eat. Knowing that one holiday meal is not going to cause severe health problems or lead to obesity overnight. The habits you have in place throughout the year is what will determine your overall health and well-being. Begin trusting yourself and your body and develop a more flexible and balanced approach to what you eat. This intuitiveness allows you to enjoy foods and enjoy the holiday season while creating a less stressful approach to the eating process.
#3. Savor Every Bite
Mindful eating is taking the time to savor the meals and foods that you eat and consume by eating slowly, and thoughtfully. Taking your time to enjoy the tastes, textures, smells, and temperature of the foods that you’re eating. Thoroughly chewing your food before swallowing. Savoring the environment and the company that surrounds you as you’re consuming your meal. Mindful eating allows you to treat eating as an experience. You get the opportunity to take note of the ambiance, the environment, the beauty of it all. It’s the essence of being in the moment, except you are actually eating in the moment and truly in tune to the process. This will help you become more connected with your hunger and fullness cues, as well as increasing your satisfaction of the foods that you’re eating and curbing the need to overdo it and eat more than what your body wants.
Cultivate A Healthy Relationship with Food
When it comes to surviving the holiday season learning to know what triggers the desire or need to overeat and consume excessive amounts of food will help you to create and come up with a plan that will help you in preventing overconsumption throughout the holiday season. Whether you find that you overeat due to the abundance of food, emotions, and feelings of anxiety and depression or a shaky relationship with food. Putting into practice the habits of managing your emotions, practicing intuitive eating principles, and becoming more mindful when you eat and consume meals are all pretty simple and basic ways you can enjoy the holidays and time with family and friends.