If you have a challenging relationship with food and/or your body, this can be a really vulnerable time of year. There’s a lot of tasty food around that gets a bad wrap from the media which can leave you feeling stressed, frazzled and in fear of your body changing during the holiday season. And all this noise can be quite the distraction from actually enjoying the holiday season and living in line with your values. My hope in writing this post is that no matter where you are in your journey, this holiday survival guide gives you some tools you can use to have a healthy holiday season – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Remember, most “healthy” eating advice you’ll read and hear about in the media sends the message that our minds are smarter than our bodies, and that food is to feared and hunger should be managed, suppressed and controlled. Food does things FOR your body, not TO your body. Just because somebody around you is skipping meals before a party, counting calories, exercising in a way to micromanage their body size and blabbing away about their “healthy” New Year’s resolutions….doesn’t mean that is what is best for you. We live in a world that is fearful of food, untrusting of the human body, and obsessed with micromanaging body size. You can expect triggering and annoying things like this to come up. Everybody is swimming in diet culture. You can have compassion and empathy for those people that are exerting energy on these things and then instead choose behaviors that align with your values.
Here are a handful of blog posts I’ve written in the past that I hope are helpful for you. Read them now, or tuck them away and read them throughout the holiday season when you need to root yourself in what really matters most to you.
Real Life RD Blog Posts
Five Steps to Cope With Diet Talk | depending on where you are in your journey, one or all of these steps could be helpful
Creating a Non Diet Bubble For Yourself | here is a boat load of resources, people to follow on social media and other helpful websites, accounts and podcasts to follow during the holiday season and beyond – maybe you take a walk and listen to a podcast in the morning to ground yourself before starting your day, going to an event, or being around people who make you feel vulnerable
How to Feel Less Stressed Around Food During the Holidays | I wrote this blog post last year around – included are practical tools and strategies to implement into your daily life to help you feel less vulnerable and more empowered this holiday season – try each tool out and see which works best in different situations
Other Blog Posts
Here are some more fantastic blog posts from others with lots of helpful advice, tools and strategies that might also resonate with you…
Best Tips to Navigate Holiday Eating | lots and lots of good stuff tucked into this post
Self Care During the Holidays | if you don’t like the word “self care” insert another world here…adulting, skills to help me live a better life, etc…whatever jives with you
Holiday Bill of Rights | read these, write them down and post them somewhere you can be reminded of them often
Intuitive Eating Holiday Survival Guide | If you’re in the process of practicing IE skills, this post is for you
3 Tips for Coping Over the Holidays in Eating Disorder Recovery | If you’re in recovery from an ED, this post is for you
A Really Helpful Resource
Alex Raymond, an ED and non-diet dietitian from Empowered Nutrition emailed out this PDF resource she created. It walks you through a plan and strategy for the holiday season that you can do on your own or with the help of your treatment team. Great resource!
HOW TO CARE FOR YOURSELF AFTER BINGE EATING
You’re human. And maybe things don’t go as you planned and you end up experiencing a chaotic, out of control, stressful eating experience over the holidays that leaves you feeling overly full and even ill. You might even experience episodes of binge eating which are characterized by including at least three of the following… 1) eating more rapidly than normal 2) eating until feeling uncomfortably full 3) eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry 4) eating alone due to feeling embarrassed eating around others 5) feeling disgusted, depressed or very guilty after eating.
It’s okay to be where you’re at. Remember, food is not about perfection or never having a hard day. But what can you learn and how can you move forward? Here is some guidance that is just a starting point. Given your own experience, health and emotions these tips might resonate and they might not. And there are always many other things to take into consideration, but I hope this is helpful!
- Practice self compassion – If that feels weird and awkward, that’s okay. Can you shift your mindset from one of judgement to one of curiosity? What are you feeling right now? Can you identify what you’re feeling and then recognize that you are human, those are hard feelings to feel and give yourself some compassion? If that feels hard, think about how you would talk to a good friend.
- Don’t get on the scale – Maybe you don’t own a scale, but maybe you do and you’re tempted to hop on there and get some objective feedback. Stop bullying yourself and don’t do that. That isn’t going to do anything for your physical or mental wellbeing. Our bodies are dynamic and they shift weight quite often. Your weight has no bearing on you as a person.
- Recognize the impossibility of perfection – You are not perfect. You are human. A huge part of coming to peace with food and your body no matter what your history is learning to live in the gray instead of the black and white. You’re human and sometimes you will make choices that don’t serve you best. That’s okay. Just because you made a decision that you wish you didn’t, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. And it doesn’t mean you need to self destruct and bully yourself. You’re learning – there is no perfect way to eat or perfect body size to be and even though it feels true at times, eating a certain way or being a certain size have no attachment to your value as a person. And it is not the pathway to happiness. That is a fact. It will never satisfy. You’re human and that means you’re imperfect and messy and you don’t have it all together – that’s normal. Allow yourself to experience your humanness.
- Continue nourishing your body – One of the most problematic things you can do after a binge eating episode is not eat. This puts your body in a really vulnerable place physiologically. By eating regular, balanced meals that include all the macronutrients you’re sending the message to your body, “I will not deprive you of food.” which is a huge step in allowing your body to find equilibrium. From a metabolic and hormonal standpoint, regulating your eating patterns helps you become better attuned to your bodies needs and internal cues, which in turn decreases your body’s physiological vulnerability to binging. If your body isn’t well nourished, no matter how much emotional work you do, your body is still going to be vulnerable to binging.
- Process through your emotions – Once you take care of the physiologic vulnerabilities then you have more space to work on the emotional piece. The emotional and physiological can certainly be worked on at the same time, but it’s really helpful to make sure you’re nourishing your body adequately first. Can you get curious and journal/process through what you feeling before/during/after a binge? What emotions are you trying to avoid with food? As you identify the precipitating events you can learn skills that help you better care for yourself and appropriately meet your body’s needs. DBT and ACT skills learned in therapy are a really powerful part of this process.
- Care for yourself the best you can – Get good sleep, go on a walk in the fresh air to feel your body move, eat in a nourishing way, try to avoid other numbing out mechanisms like exercise, drugs/alcohol, spending etc. Do the best you can in that moment.
Those are some starting points and certainly not the entirety of the story. I think it’s also really important to recognize that often we need support to work through these thing and that is okay. If you’re feeling frustrated and stuck and lonely, I’d encourage you to reach out to a knowledgable RD and/or therapist to help you. We aren’t suppose to be able to figure out this stuff on our own.
Lastly, one more resource for your survival kit is our virtual Intuitive Eating support groups. The next one begins January 15th – right in time for you to have a supportive community of women during the vulnerable diet-driven New Year! We are offering the group at our lowest price – read more here!
Have a happy Thanksgiving!! I am certainly thankful for YOU.