The holidays impart all sorts of additional challenges for people with eating disorders. The seasons change, it gets dark earlier a night, our schedules are thrown off by , and all sorts of expectations are placed on us (by others and ourselves).
What if you were to step back and ask yourself, What do I really want the holidays to look like this year? What would feel good to me?
Chances are, when you think about enjoying the holidays you aren’t imagining yourself feeling stuffed and uncomfortable or hungry and irritable. (At least I hope not.)
So let’s think about how to handle eating challenges this time of year.
Society tells you to overeat - that it’s normal, even funny, to do so. We make jokes about being in a “food coma” after Thanksgiving dinner, or wearing stretchy pants to account for a bulging belly from overeating. Not to be a party pooper, but I just don’t think this is very funny.
The eating disorder would love it if you restricted during the holidays. As if this would somehow make you superior to all those weak people who indulge guiltlessly in the holiday meals and treats around them. And what a relief to then have a jump start on weight loss resolutions in the new year. All of this sounds like a big huge bummer to me. Not the way I want to spend my holidays.
So if both overeating and undereating feel crummy in their own regard, what’s a person to do?
Finding the middle ground:
- Take lots of deep breaths. Stress interferes with appetite signaling, and it makes you vulnerable to both over and undereating. Deep breathing calms your body down at the physiological level and will allow you to tune in to what your hunger cues are telling you. It will also allow you to think more clearly and make eating decisions based on your inner wisdom, rather than decisions based on stress and other emotions.
- Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation makes us more vulnerable to our unhelpful thoughts/behaviors. It also increases appetite and food cravings and lowers metabolism. Make sleep a priority as a form of self-respect and self-care throughout the holidays.
- Stick to an eating schedule. Staying on a consistent eating schedule will help prevent you from getting ravenously hungry (which is a set up for overeating), and it will also help prevent you from eating at times you’re not hungry in the first place. Your appetite cues will be more predictable when you’re relatively consistent from day to day...
- ...But also be flexible. All of that said, it’s also essential to be flexible and open to eating differently than you usually do. The holidays can be a time of celebration and connection with others, and reality is that this often involves food. Part of participating in the holidays includes participating in the eating. (Insider tip: Keep snacks with you wherever you go so that you’re always prepared with some fuel if you need it.)
Happy Holidays. xoxo