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Coping with Food & the Holidays

Written by: Heather Thomasson, LPC-MHSP-S, PMHC

‘Tis the season to be Jolly, right? But let’s be honest with ourselves. Many of us have an interesting or dare I say complicated relationship with food. We may have disordered eating behaviors or we may even have an actual eating disorder (no shame either way). When we pair that with the holiday season, it can sometimes add an extra layer of stress that is undesired, to say the least.

We will also not pretend to ignore the fact that most holidays also have an emphasis on food and consumption, which can be even more uncomfortable for those with a strained relationship with food. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to acknowledge these facts and do our best to be prepared on how to navigate the holidays this year.

Whether you simply want to be more mindful in your eating, or if you are in recovery for an eating disorder, below are a few simple tips for navigating the holiday season.

1. Plan Ahead: Try to think ahead about different triggers around food and the holidays. For example, what are some ‘fear foods’ that you will most likely encounter and how will you navigate that situation? For some it may be the dessert table at Thanksgiving and the fear of overeating or bingeing. What are some tips to help you increase mindfulness while eating? It is also crucial to eat your regularly scheduled meals instead of fasting for the holiday meal all day, as this will also help over eating.

2. Use Your Support System: Be sure to have at least one person you can rely on when triggered. It is important for this person to have knowledge about your relationship with food and to know ways to help you cope.

3. Shift Your Focus: There is so much more to the holidays other than food and sometimes we have to be very intentional in shifting our focus away from food and to other aspects. Maybe it would be helpful to engage in other holiday activities that do not have food as the center of attention. How can we be more present in the moment with your friends and family?

4. Healthy Boundaries: Boundaries are our friend here, like always! A part of preparing in advance is to set healthy boundaries with friends and family. For example, setting the expectation to eliminate talks around diet or weight at a gathering could be a game changer. Finding ways to engage in conversations around hobbies or other topics that do not focus on weight or physical looks is also helpful.

5. Show some Compassion: Let’s be honest that all of this can seem overwhelming to think about during an already stressful time for most. It is so vital to monitor your negative self-talk and instead to show yourself some gentle compassion. Let’s avoid perfectionism and instead set realistic goals and expectations of yourself. And most importantly, let’s forgive yourself if you mess it up somehow.

6. Enjoy your Food: If you take nothing else away from this post, please take this! Eat the cookie. Enjoy the meal. Slow down to actually taste and enjoy the yummy food that has been prepared. You are allowed to take in the moment and not restrict yourself this holiday season.

Many people have a very complicated relationship with food for so many reasons. Although holidays can be full of fun and joy, they can also complicate your journey on having a healthy relationship with food. We hope these simple tips help you better cope with your relationship with food this holiday season.

If this blog resonated with you, please know that we have therapists that are here to help you explore your own relationship with food in a safe and supportive manner. Contact the office today to set up an appointment by completing an online contact inquiry on our website.

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