Stress + Holiday Eating!
The holidays are upon us, friend!
Halloween has come and gone (although there’s still plenty of candy), and it’s just the beginning of the season that, for so many of us, is filled with sugar, gluten, and all the good stuff.
My relationship with the holidays has shifted a lot as my relationship with food has evolved over the years.
I used to dread the holidays because of the food. But I also used to use the season as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted.
Last year was the first time I didn’t feel totally controlled by the holidays—either through the resistance of trying to maintain control over food and my body, or by completely submitting to the “I’ve blown it” mentality and giving up completely on health until January 1st.
So, what changed?
Of course, more than I can express in an email.
But I thought I’d use today’s email to share some of the perspectives, concepts, and tools that I turn to in order to stay grounded and relaxed with food these days—and that I intend on turning toward this holiday season, too.
One day at a time
Getting connected with the present helps me ground here and now, so I can decide what I want today—one day at a time, and one meal at a time. Sometimes, if I’m really present, even one bite at a time.
Just as one day of eating healthy won’t help us “lose weight,” I recognize that one bite, one meal, or day of bad eating won’t make me fat, lose muscle tone, or get heart disease—it’s about the overall picture.
If I can tune in more often here and now, I can make choices that serve me better.
The truth is, I used to go through the holidays being far from present. I was tuning out, not in—and eating to fill an emotional hunger, rather than a physiological one.
When I tune in to here and now, I eat what I actually need now—and more importantly, I enjoy it because I’m paying attention.
I practice being present by asking “what’s happening now?” I also meditate, and try to bring mindfulness to my daily life as much as possible.
A turning point in healing my relationship with food came when I decided to stop resisting—instead of telling myself I couldn’t have this or that, or by abiding by arbitrary food rules (how much I can eat, what kinds of foods I can eat or not eat, what times I can eat, etc.
I decided to give myself permission to engage with foods that I had previously deemed “unhealthy” or “unallowed.”
I started to pay attention to my F.E.A.R.’s—Foods with Emotional Attachment or Rules.
This helped me disidentify from food—it helped me take the “morality” out of it if you will. I am not “good” or “bad” because of the food I eat.
I was able to step back and just watch, more objectively. Most of us who have ever been on a diet know about food rules, and probably have a few now that we may not even be aware of.
This season, see if you can notice an impulse to set these rules or abide by them—they can be sneaky!
They may be something like “don’t eat lunch today, so I can eat more at the holiday party tonight,” or even subtler such as “if I work out today, I can eat an extra cookie,” or “I can eat two cookies if they’re gluten-free.”
I’m not asking that you take any different action regarding these rules—but simply encouraging you to notice if they come up.
I’ll leave with self-compassion—which is essentially the antidote to something all too common year-round, and especially during the holidays: judgment.
Self-compassion is really nothing more than talking to yourself like you would a friend.
We hardly do this… probably, you’d never say “stop eating so many cookies and work out, you fat slob!” to me, or a friend—but many of us speak to ourselves in this way.
Notice the tone you take with yourself this holiday season.
See if you can shift it slightly to be more understanding and kind.
I think people often get confused, thinking self-compassion is “weak,” but it’s actually very neutral—it’s seeing clearly as things are, instead of telling yourself a story that you’re “bad,” or “deserve” judgment.
The holidays are stressful as they are—finances, family, and all of it on top of a tough COVID-filled 2020.
Food and health can really compound the anxiety, and this stress is not going to help our health.
Based on some of the science I’ve been reading lately, I’m tempted to argue that we’d be better off eating pie daily without stress, rather than eating no pie and being perpetually stressed.
This season, I encourage you to get curious—can you step back and watch your experience unfold?
Are there food or exercise rules? Attachments? Judgments? The tone you take with yourself?
I’m not asking you to do anything differently, but rather, to just watch and become aware of the way things are right now.
After all, if we want things to ever be different, the first step is awareness and seeing clearly.
I’m sending light and love your way,