The winter holidays can be hard for anyone. Some people don't have positive relationships with their families or have negative memories associated with this time of year. An added layer of difficulties is the season's preoccupation with food. Visit any mall and glance at the kiosks or try to find a turkey Christmas Eve and it's easy to notice that there is a strong association with the holidays and what some may deem "overindulgence." However, for some the prospect of eating anything at all during the holidays can cause immense anxiety. I don't think it's coincidental that the feasts are followed up by New Years' resolutions of weight loss and dieting. As a culture we have accepted this idea that we can eat all the "bad" foods now because restriction is right around the corner to balance it out. I think this is an exaggerated example of what dieting often looks like. How many of you recognize the mentality of "I can eat this now because the diet starts on Monday?" The restriction of dieting is harmful to our physical health and mental well being and there's no other time quite like the holidays where diet culture rears its ugly head. For those of you worried about heading to the table this weekend, I have compiled a list of tips to help you make it through.
1. Food is not bad or good. There is a tendency for us to assign value to the food we eat. Whether it is a numerical value such as calories or grams of fat or an emotional valuation, thinking of foods as bad or good contributes to our anxiety about eating. Try instead listening to your body and trusting that your body will tell you if the food you're eating is nourishing to you.
2. Remember that your family and friends are exposed to the same messages that you are. You may hear restrictive, justifying or judgmental comments about the food that you or others are eating. Take some time to think about where they may have learned to speak that way about food. As well, some people may feel they are being helpful by making comments and may not understand the harm they are doing by policing the food of themselves or others. If you feel comfortable, try asserting your needs and saying something like, "I trust that my body will tell me when it's full/satisfied" or "it's not helpful for me when you make comments like that, I would appreciate it if we did not discuss the topic of food any longer."
3. Seize the opportunity to socialize. The holidays are in large part about spending time with family and friends and when we are stuck in our heads thinking about food, we may miss out on the experience of just being with the people we care about. If you notice your thoughts are drifting towards food, other than to think "yum!," try and bring your awareness back to the present moment.
4. Food can be just fantastic. There is an element of self-care in enjoying the items that we truly love to eat. It's okay to look forward to the items that come around once a year (or those available year 'round either!). There is no one right way to eat or savour food. To quote Ellyn Satter, "normal eating ... is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful when they are fresh."
5. Be kind to yourself. The journey to self-love and a positive relationship with food is just that, a journey.
I hope you have a delicious and wonderful holiday!