Here we are just a few short days away from Christmas. A joyous time of year, coupled with a handful of stress and chaos! Regardless if you’re celebrating or not, you can’t help but be affected by the hustle & bustle the season brings.
For some, the holidays can even bring up feelings of anxiety and worry around diet and food, and fear about gaining unwanted pounds. Holiday parties, communal dinners, and visits with family and friends certainly provide no shortage of opportunity to indulge – that’s for sure! And since this is a highly sensitized time for many people, oftentimes emotional eating can rear its ugly head. If any of this strikes a chord with you, I’d like you to consider the below.
What if you made a concerted effort to ensure that this year had a different outcome? What if you looked at the holidays as a way to challenge old programming and thought-patterns? What if this year you decided to stay true to yourself and your highest values? Could you visualize what kind of future that might look like?
Below I’ve listed a few tips that will help to keep you in your power throughout the holidays so that you can truly enjoy your time, and the company of those you love.
1) Mentally prepare like a ninja. If you suspect you’ll be entering into a challenging situation where you may fall prey to stressful triggers that can lead you to eat unfavourably, acknowledge those feelings by doing some mental preparation beforehand. Perhaps this means going out of your way to take a long hot soak in the tub, partake in a yoga class, do a short meditation, or go for a walk outside in the crisp fresh air – bundled up of course! If you enter situations that you perceive to be challenging from a state of centeredness and calm, you are less likely to fall prey to stressful triggers (i.e. family drama) that can lead you to emotionally overeat. Kowabunga to that!
2) Stay true to yourself. It can be all too easy to get caught up in the familiarity of old-patterns especially around the holiday. Perhaps there are certain things that you indulge in out of habit, rather than really truly enjoying or even wanting them. Maybe you feel pressure from family members to eat certain things that you know you would never consume otherwise. Never let yourself be bullied into eating things you don’t want to eat just because you’re worried about offending somebody else. It’s much better to indulge in something (even if it’s not healthy) because you truly enjoy it, not because you felt like you didn’t have a choice. Remember, you always have a choice!
3) Contribute. If the thought of going to someone else’s place for dinner fills you with anxiety and dread because you know there will be nothing there for you to eat and you don’t want to compromise on your values (which you shouldn’t!)then offer to contribute to the meal. Make a huge hearty salad that will impress the pants of everyone, and perhaps another veggie dish that you can be sure to have a large helping of as well. This way you can fill your plate with the stuff you brought while peppering it with the other viable options.
4) Keep it clean most of the day. A lot of holiday gatherings tend to happen later in the day around the dinner hour. If you can keep the rest of the day relatively clean and in order, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a few indulgences later.This means getting as much of the fresh stuff into your belly earlier in the day. Green juices & smoothies, fresh fruit and veggies, and big raw salads topped with avocado are some great examples. And don’t forget to hydrate with plenty of water too.
5) Choose your indulgences. The holidays come once a year and there are likely some holiday treats that you look forward to indulging in. When you’re presented with a full smorgasbord of options, decide what it is that you truly want. Using myself as an example, one holiday treat I really look forward to is homemade bread pudding – a recipe that was passed down from my grandma and was always a part of our Christmas dinner. I consider this a once a year indulgence and something I truly enjoy. So why shouldn’t I eat it?! See, I can feel great about my choice to indulge without feeling like I’ve “blown it” because I know I’m going to keep things in check for most of the day, i.e. having my big raw salad at lunch and filling my dinner plate with lots of veggies. If you can look at it from this perspective then you can feel perfectly fine about moderately indulging without any negative food-guilt. It’s all about context!
6) Change your story. We all have ideas about the way things are and ought to be. Most of the time they are just stories that we repeatedly tell ourselves. Sometimes all it takes is a little mental switch to completely change our outlook on things. Here’s an example. You’re dreading going to your cousin Mary’s Christmas party because she’s always nagging and questioning you about your choices to be vegetarian. Before the party you’re thinking to yourself, “Ugh, Mary needs to mind her own business. She is only concerned about my diet because she secretly wishes she could be vegetarian too but knows she would never be able to give up her beloved steak”. Rather, try saying “Mary is interested in my diet because she is genuinely curious about my life and secretly intrigued by my food choices”.
See how easily you can change the story?! Regardless of it being true or not it will still allow you to enter the situation with a different mindset, and any remarks from cousin Mary will likely roll right off your shoulder. You’ll be less reactive to her comments because now you can see where her “true” intentions are coming from. Also, without your preoccupied negative feelings toward her, you might actually enjoy your time spent together and allow for a deeper connection to be developed. When all is said and done though, what matters most is that cousin Mary no longer leaves you feeling disempowered. Change the story you are telling yourself to bring about the outcome you desire!
Always remember that every challenging situation we are faced with is an opportunity for self-growth – the best gift of all!