*When you are in recovery or trying to eat for wellness

It’s Holiday Party Time. Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

This time of year, advertisements of snowy streets and families coming together laughing eating, and making merry abound. Presents being handed back and forth, faces of pure delight, and picture-perfect families and friends greeting each other with joy and true happiness. There are also just as many campaigns with thin, fit, people dashing around in search of perfect last-minute gifts with cups of ABC brand coffee, a piece of XYZ candy, or catered treats or fast meals from THIS or THAT restaurant–ads that imply by eating this or buying these everything will be okay and they can just sit back and enjoy the season.

While this may be true for some of us or parts of it may true for most of us and none of it may be true for a few of us, the holidays can bring a variety of stressors that can really knock a recovering disordered eater for a loop.

As a food relationship coach and recovered binge eater, I know both from experience and from clients, how difficult it is to navigate the holiday season with your wellness goals and dignity intact. Food and emotional triggers are at all time high and then it is followed up by the onslaught of “healthy and fit” imagery that undermines any determination to break free from diet culture and eviscerates the last shreds of self-esteem.

Top Five Survival Strategies

Here are a few proven strategies that can help you keep your wellness goals at the center of your decisions, decrease stress, and maintain your sanity!

  1. HAVE A PLAN. I cannot stress this enough. If you have goals–regardless of what they are–you must have a plan to stay on track. You have to know where you are going to be for social or special engagements, who will be there, and anticipate the environment (treats, attitudes, etc.) and most importantly your reaction to all it. I coach my clients to have a dress rehearsal in their heads and a backup plan too!
  2. MAKE SELF-CARE AND SELF-COMPASSION A HABIT. For me, this goes hand-in-hand with having a plan. Taking the needed and deserved time to look after yourself will get you calm, balanced, and in touch with your needs so that you are in a mindset to make the decisions that will support your goals. Treating yourself to edible goodies may well be (and should be!) one of your goals this holiday season so prioritize them or enjoy them all but let it be a conscious decision and not a binge session by circumstance or pressure.
  3. DON’T BANK CALORIES. This was really hard for me and continues to be one for my clients, largely in part to the influence that the concept of “cheat” or “treat” meals has had on dieters. Celebrities like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson post pics of their huge meals that they use as a reward for restricting certain foods or for “earning” them with workouts. The concept of earning or refraining from eating in order to earn treats can actually trigger the binge response so instead of saving a few hundred calories to enjoy an extra or special treat, you end up eating a lot more because you have set yourself firmly in a scarcity mindset. Any you go a bit crazy with the food. For me, it was years before I realized that I ate less when I know I could enjoy foods any time I wanted them. They were abundant and I did not need to eat 8 croissants at a time just because I was going to restrict them later. Instead, when I wanted one, I enjoyed it. I love them. I consume less than 8 a year now though. Mindset is everything.
  4. KEEP TO YOUR REGULAR SCHEDULE. Hold to your regular routines and schedules as much as possible. The three key ones are your eating schedule or pattern, your movement routine, and your sleep schedule! Keeping these (and any that contribute to your self-care) are key to keeping your energy and mood elevated and balanced and go a long way in the mindset necessary to continue working your goals and the ability to enjoy the holiday season with as little stress (or guilt later on)!
  5. ENLIST A HOLIDAY HELPER. This can be a therapist or coach, a friend (who knows your journey and will not be a saboteur) or a support group. sharing your worries as well as your goals can be a helpful tool when it comes to accountability or a supportive voice when you need it!

Remember it is a Holiday

Be mindful of the fact that this is Holiday Season. That means the hectic social schedules and abundance of fun foods will pass and you get just get back to your normal. There is no need to internalize guilt or shame as your path to wellness is unique and most are not linear. There is no “wagon to fall off or get back on” so if you indulge more than you had wanted to, tell yourself it is ok. Because it is. Focusing on enjoyment should be a part of life to which we look forward.

Consider the next round of your holidays and starting a new tradition or making over a favorite dish with wellness in mind! You can survive the season without chucking your wellness progress or goals away! I believe in you!

If you or someone you know could use the guidance and expertise of a holistic food relationship coach, contact me here.

Here’s to the Season’s Best to you!

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