Are you stressed out about food during the holidays? If so, then please read my tips for getting through the holidays without fear and anxiety!
The holidays can be a stressful time for many.
And I’m not just talking about being busy, I’m also talking about food.
This time of year is full of parties, office treats, potlucks, baking, etc. We are surrounded by food.
For me, the holidays have been about anxiety, fear, and guilt. It went something like this…
- “This tastes so good, but I really know I shouldn’t be eating it.”
- “I better workout extra hard tomorrow to burn off all the extra calories I’ve eaten today.”
- “I only enjoy this food once a year, so I may as well enjoy it now and I’ll start eating better in the New Year.”
Do any of those sound familiar?
For the past 10 years, I’ve been restricting food so much. You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule, right? Eat healthy 80% of the time, indulge 20% of the time. Well for me, it was more like eat healthy 100% of the time and NEVER indulge.
I’ve been so fearful of food for the past 10 years.
Afraid that I would let myself get out of control again and gain back all the weight I had lost.
Afraid that I wouldn’t be able to stop myself once I had one little indulgence.
Afraid that I would let those people down who look up to me for inspiration and support.
Along with this fear of food came stress around exercise.
For a few years, I was exercising 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day! I didn’t take ANY rest days. I thought that if I stopped for a few days, I wouldn’t go back. I would fall back into my old, lazy habits. I thought I would start gaining weight because I wasn’t burning enough calories.
Thank God, that finally this year, I am working through these issues. I am starting to experience freedom and calm around food and exercise. I am enjoying the holiday season. Losing that control has freed me up to be present, to enjoy being with my family and friends, and to take some time to relax and embrace the season.
I have little concern for whether or not I will gain weight and I carry on with my normal exercise routine because I enjoy it, not because I’m trying to burn calories.
I realize that some of you may not be at this point yet, and believe me, I’m still a work in progress. But wherever you are in your relationship with food, I hope that my own experiences can help you find the peace and freedom I have found.
Embrace the Season
We all go through seasons in our life. Seasons of rest, seasons of work, seasons of travel, seasons of feasting, seasons of fasting. When I started to embrace the holiday season as a season of feasting, that’s when I let down my guard and gave up my control over food.
Yes, I may put on some weight, but I’m okay with that. I know that after the holidays are over, I’ll go back to my usual routine of eating and exercise, and that little bit of weight will probably come right off.
I’ve embraced the fact that the holidays are a time where I may eat more. But please don’t think I’m suggesting we eat everything and anything in sight. I still believe in nourishing our bodies and feeding it healthy food. What I am suggesting is that we realize that this is a season of feasting and we should embrace that without fear or guilt attached to it.
What has been helpful for me this year is envisioning how I want to feel and act around food and my family and friends during the holidays.
I really think about how I’ll feel and what thoughts will go through my mind. I might even visualize a conversation I might have. I visualize how I will taste and experience food. I envision myself feeling calm as I eat a piece of homemade pie, putting down my fork in between bites because I’m in a meaningful conversation with my husband and food is less important.
I envision how I’ll feel after eating, how I’ll feel satisfied and maybe a little full, but happy and not sick to my stomach. I envision waking up in the morning, calm and rested and not thinking about when I’ll go workout to burn off those “extra calories I ate the day before,” but instead what my family and I will spend the day doing or what movement I want to enjoy doing that day.
Go through this exercise with that much detail. Mental practice can be almost as effective, if not just as effective as real life experiences.
Focus on the People
When food controls your every thought, you lose focus on the people around you.
I remember attending Christmas parties and worrying so much about the food that was going to be served, that I forgot to have a good time and just relax and enjoy the company. The more I focused on not gaining weight the more disengaged I became with the people around me.
Now that my focus is off of food, I can engage and fully enjoy the company of my friends and family. If your focus is on the your surrounded by, food, body image and weight gain/loss will lose their importance and ultimately their power. Make engaging with others the goal of your holiday gatherings.
Make Some Positive Mantras
Diet talk is unavoidable during the holidays. Trust me, I’m a Beachbody Coach so I know that Beachbody is gearing up for the New Year with workout programs to “tighten and tone your abs!” UGH. I’m so over it!
This is why I like to come up with some positive mantras I can repeat to myself when I’m feeling triggered by the “diet” talk. A simple saying that resonates with me is, “I trust ME.” So if someone talks about food being unhealthy or about how they exercised to burn off calories or how they aren’t eating certain foods this holiday season…I can say to myself, “I trust me” to redirect my mind to thoughts and things that help me live a better life.
Another mantra I’ve found helpful is, “food is just food” because it helps me disconnect from the morality that so often gets tied to food. Whatever resonates with you, choose some mantras and write them down. Repeat them to yourself daily. Put up boundaries around what you choose to engage with. (HINT: unfollow people on social media that trigger you to feel a certain way.)
I can’t tell you how many times I went to a holiday party and told myself what I was allowed to eat and what I wasn’t allowed to eat. I was allowed to eat veggies, lean protein…and that’s about it. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything with sugar in it, any type of carb, any alcohol.
This year when I attended a Christmas party, there were no foods off limits! I enjoyed some alcohol, potatoes with gravy, cheesecake. And guess what? I felt fine! I ate until I was satisfied. I enjoyed every bite.
I want to be intuitive in the way I eat. I want to be in tune with my body and it’s signals. Sometimes that means saying “yes” to the gingerbread cheesecake and sometimes that means saying “no” to the appetizers because I won’t be able to enjoy my dinner.
Instead of telling myself what I can’t eat, I allow myself to eat what I want in moderation.
I’m the first to admit I am not perfect. I still have moments where I find myself obsessing over what I just ate, what I should eat, what workout I should do…
But I now realize that when I get to this place, I need to step away. I’m thankful that I’m at the point now where I recognize this negative behaviour and I’m better equipped to deal with it in a healthy way. If I’m at home, I distract myself by doing something else and then coming back to the decision later with a better mindset. For example, last night, I was really debating in my head whether or not to enjoy a homemade piece of pumpkin pie with some real whipped cream. My body was telling me no because I was so full from dinner, but my head was telling me yes because it looked so darn good. I decided to go to the kitchen and help my hubby finish the dishes. We had a great conversation, and by the time we were done, I had forgotten about the pie and was at peace with my decision not to have any.
It’s okay to step away for a few moments, collect your thoughts, distract yourself, and then come back later and make a more informed decision.
I spent many years struggling alone. Partly out of embarrassment and partly because I really didn’t want to relinquish control and resented anyone who tried to talk me into enjoy the holidays.
Asking for help, especially if you struggle with a disordered outlook on food, is essential. The journey to freedom is not one that you can walk alone. But if you find that the holidays are a difficult time for you and your self-talk becomes incredibly discouraging and negative, bring a friend or family member into that. Clue them into your struggle, bringing light to it will ultimately help you.
And if you are just starting this journey, please reach out to me! I run monthly groups where I help women heal their relationship with food, restore their hormones back to balance, and live a life of abundance and fulfillment.
It has been a long journey, to go from fearing food to embracing it, but not an impossible one. If the Holidays or any other time of year are a struggle for you, they don’t have to be. It starts with changing the way you think, little by little, step by step.