With the holidays in full swing, we often find ourselves having anxious thoughts around food and family. “What will they say?” “Can I eat this cookie without drawing attention to myself?” “I am going to have to run miles to work this food off tomorrow.” Sound familiar? We have all told ourselves those things at one point in time.
If you’re looking to feel more prepared for going into social eating situations, let’s discuss some tools that may make you feel more comfortable navigating those tricky food anxieties during the holiday season. We don’t want to focus on diet or nutrition tips, but rather making choices that are best for your mental health.
When you think about social situations surrounding food, what comes to mind? What fears are conjured during those moments? Do we select food based on the idea of good and bad? Are there foods that we avoid? Or do we have a list of foods that are the sole foods we allow ourselves to enjoy?
When we think about these questions, it is helpful to journal or write down some of the thoughts that they conjure. Through journaling and talking with your therapist, you may be able to look for patterns and bring awareness to your food choices during these social situations. Together, you can come up with your own plan that fits YOUR needs on how to work through these tough moments.
One of the most helpful ways to change your mindset about holiday eating is to remind yourself that food is fuel. We are allowed to label foods by their names, not by “good” or “bad.” Food is just food, and it nourishes our wonderful bodies. Labeling a cookie as a cookie rather than something “bad or unhealthy” can help improve our mindset. It can help us see that it is just simply a cookie and it is okay for us to have in moderation.
Some mindful eating tips:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Staying hydrated has so many health benefits, and overall can make you feel way better about your holiday meal.
- Do NOT starve yourself all day leading up to the meal, allow yourself to eat as you normally would! That way, you don’t enter the holiday meal ravenous.
- Fill your plate with lean protein, veggies, and whatever else your heart desires. These foods not only taste good but can give you some more energy and keep you from feeling sluggish or down after the meal.
Balance is key here friends! Remember – your worth is not defined by a meal or two. You are worthy of nutrition and hydration. You are worthy of feeling comfortable at your holiday meal. We want you to be able to change your mindset about food so that the holidays are a bit easier on your mental health. Taking care of yourself in this way is a form of self-care. Just some “food” for thought.
One stressor at family gatherings can be conversations about food. To help prepare for that, we can remember that we are allowed to set healthy and appropriate boundaries. Sometimes, our family and friends do not recognize that what they are saying has such an impact on us. It is on us then to set an appropriate boundary with them so that way this can stop, and they can gain more awareness about what they are saying. This will also provide us with a healthier environment and will make us feel safer and at ease.
Some examples of this may sound something like, “This is not something that I would like to discuss right now” or “Those comments are making me quite uncomfortable and I would appreciate if you would refrain from making them”. Please also remember that it is important to practice! The more we practice these ahead of time the more comfortable we will become using them in real-time as situations are happening. Enlist the help of your therapist or a close friend and practice the ways that you want to articulate your boundaries. Practicing can ease some discomfort you feel in anticipation of these conversations, and make boundary setting less intimidating.
We can also prepare for if we find ourselves in an uncomfortable situation. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed in a conversation, please by all means excuse yourself and walk away. Use the restroom if needed, slip outside for some fresh air, or use grounding techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or the 54321 method (pictures below). Please feel free to do these exercises for as long as you may need. Sometimes we need to do these 2-3 times and try multiple exercises before we feel more regulated and are ready to go back to the event.
I hope this brought some light and clarity to you and that some of you will take pieces of this and incorporate it into your own lives this holiday season. Remember to be kind to yourself and that you are only human. Your worth is not defined by what you did or did not eat. You are worthy of beautiful and wonderful things, including nutrition and dietary self-care. Please enjoy the holidays with your loved ones in a safe way.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
****Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, certified trainer or anything along those lines****