Celebrations, regardless of type; holiday, birthday, summer pool party, retirement, etc., usually involve some sort of special food. But during the holidays, these special foods can seem to last far longer than just one meal.
A week of feasting can push mindless eating and holiday food stress to acute levels.
Special foods are plentiful.
From the seasonal changes in what’s available in the supermarket to the traditional foods made just for a special holiday it may seem that there is always a reason to eat something special and that’s where mindless eating melds into emotional eating and results holiday food stress.
It’s almost like the focus is more about the food than the holiday, which adds up to holiday food stress and emotional eating!
What if you could get out of this situation? The situation where holiday food stress puts you into a funk of feeling out of control, bloated and sad that the food has a hold over you. It’s the worst kind of emotional eating, driven by guilt and shame.
Holiday food stress shines a bright light on your mindset about food.
What you think is good or bad food or what’s the right stuff to eat or not. The point is that whatever your relationship with food is, the holidays bring the deep-down thoughts to the surface.
Holiday food stress is an opportunity to increase your awareness of your mindset about your daily food struggles throughout the year and make a shift to a more nurturing relationship with food.
You probably have more frequent opportunities to experience holiday food stress given the number of work or school holiday parties, family gatherings, friends and neighbors sharing their once a year cookies, etc.
Frequently, I hear the battle with food often goes something like this, “I want this, no I shouldn’t eat it because of _______, but I really want to eat it!” Or I also hear this one a lot, “I can’t eat like that it goes right to my _________,” and on and on…
Conscious Eating is a great way to relieve yourself from holiday food stress for good. No matter what the time of year, you feel like you’re in control and be in control of what you eat and the stress is gone too!
People usually fall into one of three camps when stressed out about food.
1. Carefree & Careless.
You’re enjoying all the foods that aren’t typically available throughout the year.
Maybe you’re eating more of the foods you usually eat too.
You might also give yourself permission to eat things that are around most of the year, but you typically restrict yourself from eating them.
This is usually the reason for holiday weight gain. Mindlessly eating whatever. You may not even like the food, but it’s the holidays and the time for resolutions is around the corner, so….
You might not even remember what you ate and ask yourself later, now what did I eat again?
Or maybe, the treat that you intended to enjoy wasn’t that good, but better get it all in now, because the time to cut out good food and replace it with diet food is around the corner.
Even though sometimes you know it’s happening, you’re not making decisions based on what you want, what your body needs, or if you even want to eat right now.
True mindless eating!
Maybe it’s the situation like the work holiday lunch that you don’t want to attend, but it’s a work event, so you must be there. If you’re required to be there you should eat as much of the free food as you can! It’s like throwing flames on the fire of discomfort.
Solution 1: The main issue is using food to distract you from feeling uncomfortable.
Discomfort comes in many different forms. Here’s how to get through without feeling bad about your relationship with food.
Remind yourself that nothing lasts forever. Then use the limited time you’re uncomfortable to dig a little deeper.
Remind yourself that the opportunity to shift your mindset comes when you’re able to identify your unmet needs or feelings and create the opportunity to meet that need.
Mindset shifts are gifts you give to yourself that keep on giving you the opportunity to grow.
2. The Resistance.
Resisting the urge to eat the foods you enjoy. This is the, “I’ll be good until I break down and then I’m bad,” sort of thing.
You’re working hard to hold back from eating what you want. This only lasts for so long because you fear that if you don’t you’ll eat everything in sight and feel bad – emotionally and physically.
“I’m going to hold out as long as I can, because when I let the door open it’s going to be a flood of food that I’ll surely drown it.”
This is also known as the diet and rebound effect.
Many, many diets are based on this thinking.
There is a fundamental belief that you can’t eat some foods based on any number of reasons and basically you’re just different and some foods are off limits. But that’s not how our brains work.
We must recall the thing, let’s say fudge, before you say no you have to identify the thing you’re recalling first.
All sorts of brain processes are at work just by merely recalling your past pleasurable experiences of fudge.
And then, after you enjoy it again, you re-confirm the pleasant memories and reinforce your feelings about fudge even more. You want the fudge! Now!
What would it be like to enjoy the fudge and stop eating it when you’ve satisfied the desire for a pleasurable experience?
Conscious Eating can help you get there! If it isn’t forbidden, it may not be as enticing.
Solution 2: This solution has to do with getting rid of food rules and reshaping your options about good vs. bad foods.
Food itself isn’t good or bad. Food doesn’t have morality, just different nutritional components.
You’re not bad if you have physical desires for pleasurable experiences, in fact, we’re supposed to have them!
If you allow yourself to enjoy some food solely based on the fact that you’re eating them for pleasure, it can naturally provide limits.
When you stop enjoying the food is when you’re able to say, “that’s good, I’ve had enough.”
As you practice Conscious Eating and become more skilled at knowing what you need, you’ll get to the, “I’ve had enough” much sooner and with more satisfaction.
3. Complete Denial of Pleasure.
I just won’t do it, if I don’t eat anything that tastes good I won’t overeat!
This is when you absolutely forbid yourself to allow anything to pass your lips that may be the slightest bit tasty.
You try to convince yourself that food really is just for energy and any enjoyment of food is for the weak willed. You’re definitely not one of those people! So, the special holiday foods have no value to you.
You scoff at those who can’t control themselves because control is the name of your game.
This is like sealing away a big part of your life in the vault! You aren’t going to let anything get past your lips.
It’s like the taste of enjoyable food is so powerful it’s like Superman’s kryptonite. You are completely weakened and powerless to do anything about it, so you must avoid it at all costs.
This might make a tiny bit of logical sense, but is it really what you want? There are people who eat this way, but if you’re reading this article, you’re probably not one of them 🙂
If you want to enjoy food without the holiday food stress, you can. It takes practice but that’s OK, anything worth doing can’t be boiled down to a quick tip. If it was that easy, you would be doing it by now.
Solution 3: Acceptance that food is meant to be pleasurable.
Life is meant to be enjoyed and good food is part of it.
Accept that you’re a human being with the need to experience pleasure in life. You also have the need for as little stress as possible.
Eating in accordance with the rhythms of the seasons, your week, your day is part of the process. Sometimes you just need fuel, like when you wake up and need breakfast to fuel your morning.
Accept that desire is part of life too. It’s OK to allow yourself to experience intense feelings.
If you allow the fudge to be part of your holiday where you have the ability to make a conscious choice about what you need for satisfaction your desires will be met with a sense of calm and peace.
Holiday food stress doesn’t have to plague your holiday fun or your year.
You can become a Conscious Eater one step at a time.
Making lifelong realistic goals you can live with is worth the time and effort spent. Just think of how free you will be to enjoy life, lived in the fullest sense while at the same time loving your mind, body, and heart.
The best gift you can give yourself is love, respect, and acceptance.