It’s December. The holidays are not only here, they are everywhere! Christmas music in the store, so many conversations about travel and planning, holiday parties and gifts. And you know what the holidays mean… holiday eating.
This time of year used to be a nightmare for me. I was so afraid of the weight gain, emotional eating rampages, and all of the awkward conversations with family. I used to wonder if it was possible to get through the holiday season without bingeing right and left.
I’ll tell you, it’s not only possible, but if you read to the end of this blog post, you’ll be equipped to eat in a different way, and maybe even enjoy the holidays this year. These are my best Tiny Action tools for holiday eating that will support you to make it through this holiday season without feeling totally out of control.
I’ve broken it down into five of the most common trigger points for the holiday season eating crazies. I share my best teachings and tangible tools that you can put into use immediately to support you in getting through this holiday season with flying colors.
Yikes. You’re seeing people you haven’t seen in a long time. Maybe you are worrying about the story of the Weight = Success measure. You see Aunt Caroline greet your cousin Maggie. “Oh honey! You look incredible! Have you lost weight?” And you feel that shrinking sensation in your stomach. Aunt Caroline proceeds to greet you without mentioning anything about your appearance, the shrinking sensation turns into a big knot in your throat, and you make a beeline for the appetizers.
One of the ways the holiday season is the hardest for grounded eating is the onslaught of body image BS. Everyone is talking about appearance, who looks good, who’s lost weight, commenting on their own diet patterns or if they’ve been “bad” or “good” with food this year.
Unfortunately this is the cultural climate we are working with, but that doesn’t make it okay or acceptable. Feeding the beasts of Body Worth, Comparison, and Judgement only feeds our own insecurities, pain, and vulnerability which far too often lead to out-of-control eating. It’s not your responsibility to educate people on how to be more conscious and loving in their language, but it shouldn’t be something you have to experience either. This exact conversation plays a big role in what make a person binge.
So how can you meet this dragon? Three common responses to triggers are shrinking away, acting out, or becoming passive aggressive. None of these actually make ourselves feel truly better. Nor does resorting to food. How can we instead come back to center in ourselves?
Instead of heading to the appetizers, root your feet on the ground. Don’t move. Pay close attention to the actual sensations you are experiencing right now along the bottom of your feet, as you feel them pressing into the ground.
Choosing to focus your mind on your feet does two awesome things:
1) Gives your mind the job of focusing on the sensation so that you are distracted from the negative comment.
2) Keeps you from heading straight to the food. It offers that momentary pause that you need to make a different choice than to eat away this painful moment.
3) It brings greater awareness to your body and creates more connection. When you are more aware of your body, you are more likely to notice you are full, and to stop eating.
Food Shaming BS
Another fun part of holiday eating is that we get to encounter everyone else’s food BS! ;)
How often do you hear the folks around you saying, “I’m so bad, I just ate a whole piece of cake!” or “No cookies for me this year, I’m watching my figure.”
This is a nightmare for those of us struggling with out-of-control eating. How are we supposed to make balanced choices when everyone around us is clearly hyper aware of what they are putting in their bodies and judging it, mirroring back to us our own patterns around food?
This can create fear of other people’s judgement, self-judgement through self-comparison and feeling bad about your eating or desires.
What do we do when we are comparing ourselves and feeling shame? Shame is a form of emotional self-punishment, that if un-checked can often lead to the physical self-punishment of bingeing.
Often the response to food shame is to restrict. Studies show that when we restrict ourselves, we ultimately binge. (Click here to watch a 2-minute video to learn more about this) If you really want that piece of cake and tell yourself “no," it is much more likely that you will wake up in the middle of the night, sneak into the kitchen and eat the whole thing.
When we restrict ourselves out of shame, it inevitably backfires into eating in a way that feels out of control. How can we stop the restriction-binge cycle in it’s tracks?
Notice when you want something, but you tell yourself you can’t have it. After you notice you have said no, do you find yourself obsessing about the treat, or even find yourself eating that piece of cake super quickly, while no one is watching?
To take it a step further, actively choose to eat whatever you want to eat. Give yourself a cookie and focus on the pleasure of it. Savor it. Eat it slowly. Be present with it.
Being present with our food and actually engaging with our senses takes the power away from the food crazies and gives the power back to us. It changes the cookie from being a story of shame and badness, and changes it to a simple pleasure and a celebratory holiday morsel. That is what the holidays are supposed to be about, right?
Try celebrating your food choices by savoring the pleasure and choosing the story of connection and sensory enjoyment rather than the story of punishment and restriction.
Triggering Moments with Family
Does your family trigger the hell out of you? It is often a classic scene of being bombarded with questions about your career choices, feeling compared to other relatives in your generation, interfacing painful politics and differing values, and all the old patterns.
According to Dan Savage, the only power that you really have over your family is your presence. When you are in it up to your ears in hard family conversations and someone is bringing out the pie any minute, you have the power to remove yourself from the situation. You don’t have to stay! Leave the room, get a moment to collect yourself.
One simple and effective way to create boundary is to step back. Physically removing ourselves from situations where the stories are too intense is an accessible and powerful way to create a boundary. Going for a walk or going to the bathroom are some of the most accepted ways to pull yourself out of an overwhelming or stressful situation.
Have you ever been at a lake feeding the ducks, and you see two ducks have a skirmish? They are obviously fighting each other, biting each other and flapping their wings. Then, what happens? They swim away from each other, ruffle their feathers back into place, and go on with their day. The ducks are not holding on to what just happened. In fact, we can watch as they take some space, shake it out, and let it go.
One of my greatest teachers, Eckhart Tolle, tells the story of the ducks and shares that we can see the flapping of their wings as letting go of the skirmish, and physically shaking off the negative experience.
Remove yourself from the situation, go to the bathroom, turn away from the mirror, and set a two minute timer on your phone.
Start by vigorously shaking your hands. Let that shaking move through your arms into your shoulders, then start bouncing at the knees so your whole body is shaking.
As you shake and fling your fingers, really imagine releasing the negative comments and judgements that sent you into trigger.
Once you are done shaking, take a breath and notice how your body feels right then. Notice the buzzing sensation in your hands. Do you feel lighter?
That shit ain’t yours. Shake it off.
Out of Routine Equals Out of Control.
Often in the holidays we travel, host people from out of town, and/or have time off of work. This means we are out of our usual routines. Without the practices and environments we are used to, it can often be disorienting, somewhat destabilizing, and make it so we are more likely to revert to food to soothe us.
Having practices that keep us rooted in routine is a critical piece of making empowered choices when it comes to food during the holiday season. As we all know, the holiday season is already a time of heightened exposure to emotional triggers, we are far more likely to binge.
Since experiencing the stress of visitors or travel already makes us more likely to fall into out-of-control food patterns, how can we create routine and self-care for ourselves when we are out of our usual environments or schedules?
If you can commit to a small task of self-care (like drinking a glass of water) every morning, accomplishing this small task that inherently sets you up to feel more balanced throughout the day and empowers you to keep making supportive choices.
Create a system of small and achievable tasks that will keep you proactive, and empowered in your body and choices.
Here are some examples:
Take three deep breathes before you get out of bed when you wake up. * Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. * Do three stretches before getting dressed. * Walk around the block once a day. * Take a bath each night before bed. * Read a few pages in an inspiring and helpful book. * Write down a few things that you are grateful for.
These are small practices that can create a sense of momentum and pro-activity in your empowered choices for your health and body. This will give you a stronger foundation when you get super triggered. When your foundation is stronger, you are more likely to be able to not binge. Click here if you want your Holiday Eating Survival Cheat Sheet to help you put these tools into action!
Food is EVERYWHERE!
Not only are we often in an avalanche of trigger, but there is food everywhere you look! Cookies! Pie! Pumpkin bread! Leftovers! There is often constant emotional stress and constant access to food, without even a moment to pause and think about eating or not.
Binge mentality is this: I am stressed out and overwhelmed, I’ll just go ahead and eat it all know and get it over with— AKA become a food bull-dozer. No pie pan left un-turned! It’s a mindless sort of auto-pilot response to discomfort.
With food everywhere, we are faced with so many decisions or non-decisions as the case may be, and so many opportunities to numb out with food. That in itself is overwhelming, stressful, and triggering. How can we not just eat everything in sight?
When you are already full and you know you don’t need to eat any more, but you are anyway because you know it’s there, actually choosing to distract yourself can be a powerful tool.
Distraction is a common tool used in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy created by Marsha Linehan, one of the only clinically proven therapies for over-coming binge eating.
If you re-train your mind to pause just long enough, you have much more ability to re-direct your action away from bingeing. Distracting yourself in the following ways can be just what you need to take your focus away from the buffet table and onto the aspects of the holiday that you actually really value: connection, fun, and love.
Use the DBT acronym of BOSS to remember powerful distraction tools.
Busy Yourself: Do the dishes. Walk the dog. Take a shower or bath.
Others (Focus on them): Ask your cousin about their love life. Play tag with the little ones. Make a phone call to a friend.
Strong Sensations: Hold an ice cube in your hand. Smell an essential oil— or the Christmas candle. Count how many colors you can see.
Statements of Self Support: Repeat to yourself: “ I can tolerate this even though I don’t like it” or “This too shall pass.”
You made it through all of that! Seriously, if you are reading this I know you are ready to make this your most peaceful Holiday eating season yet. You have everything you need to make it through the holidays with less shame and bingeing and more ease and connection. Whenever you feel yourself moving towards those patterns, just remember these tools and choose to take one Tiny Action.
Get my free Holiday Eating Survival Cheat Sheet to take all that I have talked about here to the next level. Print it out, and keep it in your wallet so you can always access it to remember the tools and teachings any time.
You’ve got this. Wishing you holidays full of joy and ease.
Lots of love,