1. Eat the foods you love!
Instead of filling up on low-calorie, cardboard-like food to help you “avoid temptation,” make your favorite foods a priority. Eat them first – even if they are cake and cookies! When you give yourself permission to eat any foods that you enjoy, it’s much easier (and natural) to stop when you’ve had enough. If you avoid these foods, eventually deprivation will drive you to eat them – usually in an overeating or binge episode – so you don’t even allow yourself to enjoy them. Feelings of shame follow and you beat yourself up for “blowing it” once again. But this isn’t about blowing it or being weak, if you eat what you really want, you can enjoy it and move on, feeling satisfied. Go for your favorites first, and…
2. Truly SAVOR those favorite foods you’re eating.
When you first allow yourself to eat your favorite foods, you may feel an urge to eat them quickly, to shove them in before anyone sees you or before you actually notice! This isn’t unusual, especially if you’ve been avoiding these foods like the plague. However, similar to avoiding your favorite foods, eating them quickly will also backfire. You can’t enjoy food you eat quickly and feel guilty about eating. If you truly love a food, eat it with love – be mindful and notice the taste, texture, subtle flavors and all the wonderful attributes you can’t discover when eating mindlessly.
3. If it isn’t delicious, don’t eat it.
You may begin to eat a favorite food and find that it doesn’t taste as good as you imagined, or remember. This can happen on occasion when you allow yourself to eat a food that you usually restrict when on a diet. This could also occur when you try a different brand than you’re used to, or even a different recipe. No matter the reason, if it isn’t as good as you imagined, throw it out. Starving children on the other side of the world will still be starving, whether you throw it out or eat the entire thing. But YOU will feel the difference, and you’ll likely feel deprived if you eat it, leaving less room for something else that might taste really good. Just get rid of it, let go of any guilt, and try another food that looks really yummy!
4. Say “NO” and stay firm.
You probably know who the food pushers are among your family and friends. I used to give in and eat more, to avoid hurt feelings. But I didn’t feel good overeating, and I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of the gathering. It finally occurred to me that food pushers don’t care about MY feelings! If I said, “no, thank you” or “I’m full,” the pushing didn’t stop. I now set an intention to honor my body and my boundaries. If you’re full, or you just don’t want more, say ‘no’, with the expectation of having your boundaries respected. Say it politely, but confidently. If all else fails, ask if you can take some home for later or ask for the recipe. It’s your body and you decide what and how much you put in it.
5. Don’t allow others to comment on or question your body or what you eat.
I don’t understand why some people think it’s appropriate to say anything about someone’s body. This includes comments about how “thin” someone is or how much weight they’ve lost – this can be triggering for many people. Think about it – someone says, “You look great, you’ve lost weight!” How did he/she think you looked before you lost the weight? And why is it anyone’s business? There’s truly no good reason for any comments – even if it’s done out of a concern for “your health.” You cannot determine how healthy someone is by the size of her body – period. If you receive comments, feel free to speak up and say it’s not ok, or walk away if necessary. Our culture is so weight-focused, many people don’t know comments can be damaging – if it were pointed out, I’m sure many would stop.
6. Don’t engage in or put up with diet and/or body talk.
Along the same lines as comments about your body and/or eating, you don’t have to put up with diet and body talk. This time of year many people plan their diet and exercise resolutions, while eating all they can before January 2nd. As you stop dieting and make peace with food, all this discussion will likely annoy you! Don’t we have anything better to discuss? The best solution is to attempt to change the topic, or simply find a more interesting discussion with other people. If it’s really prevalent in your family or circle of friends, you can suggest ahead of time that you have a day free of diet and body talk. You may be surprised how many will actually love this idea!
7. Engage in extra self-care.
Self-care is important anytime of the year. But this is the time we push even more, stress over time and money, and expect way too much from ourselves. It’s easy to put self-care on the back burner to make that one last shopping trip or attend one more holiday event. Instead of cutting it out completely, try shorter bouts of self-care, but keep up the frequency. Focus on self-care you want to do, let go of the “shoulds.” If you’re an introvert, make sure you have extra decompression time for yourself. If you need help with all the things you have to do, ASK! Get your needs met – it’s the only way to meet the needs of everyone else and keep up with the demands of this time of year.
8. Focus on happiness!
Research shows that humans are happiest when they stay in the present (instead of the past or the future), when they have experiences (instead of collecting material “stuff”) and when they actually demonstrate compassion towards others and engage in helping others, (instead of dwelling on self too much). The holiday season certainly offers many opportunities for reaching out and helping other people. Whether it’s volunteering at a food bank, or visiting a lonely neighbor, you don’t always have to invest hours and hours of your time to help others and benefit yourself as well.
9. Connect on a spiritual level.
Regardless of your personal beliefs, religion, or faith, connecting to something bigger than yourself provides a sense of peace and a feeling that there’s a bigger purpose to our lives. Simply taking a few minutes to meditate or just be present can be enough for some. For others, it means attending services or special events. Whatever spirituality means to you, having this deeper connection with something bigger than yourself can keep you grounded and provide that sense of inner peace so many of us are seeking all year long, and especially during the holidays. This is extremely important for anyone working on overcoming the use of unwanted coping mechanisms, like emotional overeating.
10. Have FUN!
If you don’t have fun in your life, make some! Over the years of working with so many women who want to stop overeating and/or binging, I’ve discovered that a crucial missing ingredient in their lives is FUN! The only “fun” they have, according to them, is eating. Ironically, it really isn’t fun, because it’s causing a lot of emotional pain. So even the fun isn’t fun. If you can’t think of anything fun, think back to your childhood – what did you enjoy doing as a kid? Is there something you’d like to learn, take a class perhaps? (Please do not consider any kind of weight loss or nutrition classes!) During the holidays is a great time to revisit some of your favorite places or holiday traditions you had as a child.