The holiday’s can be the best time of year, but I also know firsthand how they can be tough to navigate when you struggle with your relationship with food. For years, I dreaded them, never able to be present or enjoy my time with family and friends. It took a lot of self-work to get to a place where I now can’t wait for the holiday’s. This is never perfect or seamless for me, I still have my thoughts, but i’m able to overcome them and focus on what’s truly important. Which is why I wanted to share this with anyone who may be struggling in hopes to shed some positivity and light to anyone who may need it!
I really hated the holidays when I was struggling with my eating disorder. Tiptoeing around family and friends, hoping nobody noticed I was just a full on stress-ball. I would be so anxious, even days leading up to any get-together, letting my thoughts fully take over. It was to the point that I couldn’t enjoy time with my loved ones, would avoid all photos, and honestly can’t remember much from those years. I would fast all day and workout for hours, just to “make up” for the dinner I was going to have, only to binge later on in the day. It was a vicious cycle, every time. I was convinced everyone was worried about what was on my plate, I was worried about being judged for my body, so on and so on.
And the hardest part for me was even after putting in years of work, healing from my ED, and working on my relationship with myself, I STILL struggled mentally, which I think is important to note, is totally normal – the ebs and flows. Patience and kindness towards ourselves is the most important thing and truly goes so far! So here’s some tips that have genuinely helped me during tough times.
My tips for navigating the holidays
- Have a self care morning: When I would be running around all day with a chaotic mind, it would only make the rest of the day even harder. I wouldn’t eat and would workout for hours, before heading to our gatherings. Now, I get up and spend some time doing something I love that relaxes me. I like to take my dogs on a slow walk outside for fresh air, then come home and do something that makes me happy and takes my mind off things – whatever that is for you. Whether it’s lighting a candle and taking a bath, reading a book, play a game, do something artsy, maybe a yoga flow, playing with your pets, calling or meeting up with a friend for coffee, etc. Make yourself a cute little cozy beverage and fully allow yourself to relax.
- Eat a solid breakfast with 30g protein: This one was the hardest for me. Why would I eat a good breakfast before having a massive dinner? This is where that disordered mindset tries to overpower you. But let me tell you one thing (and I know it’s hard to convince yourself of this) the more you restrict, the more you’ll binge. You won’t be able to fight that feeling. If you eat a solid breakfast, you’re less likely to feel the need to indulge later. And I don’t mean a tiny smoothie for breakfast.. eat a solid breakfast with at least 30g of protein! It works! Also this mindset of “having to eat a massive dinner”.. it’s just not the case. You don’t HAVE to. You can eat a normal amount, a little of everything – be intuitive with your body. Trust yourself.
- Plan for post-meal feelings: Post meal is when most of the negative thoughts get to you. Plan accordingly! If you can, have a support buddy – someone in your family that knows whats going on and that you can go to post-meal. Maybe you need to take a walk around the block to get some fresh air. Keep busy. Maybe play a game or leave the room to do something else.
- Allow yourself to enjoy the meal and feel grateful: Mindset is EVERYTHING. Studies have even proven that negative mindsets around a meal can impair digestion – it’s wild. Before you eat, take a few deep breaths. Remind yourself that this one meal CANNOT change your body. FULLY, and i mean fully, enjoy each and every bite. Remind yourself that you deserve to eat, nothing negative will happen from one meal, etc. Savor it! It comes once a year. This will make the biggest difference. Which brings me into my next point..
- Eat slow and savor it: Eating slowly is a huge factor when it comes to intuitive eating (being in-tune with your body). If you’re shoveling food into your face without even enjoying it, you’ve kind of just wasted that meal, you know? Eat SLOW. Put your fork down between bites. Engage in conversation. Check in with yourself every now and then – am I satisfied? Do I feel full? This ALSO helps with bloating and combatting uncomfy fullness.
- Limit your time at the dining table: After your meal, feel free to get up and excuse yourself. You’re not required to keep sitting there, especially if being in front of all the food makes you uncomfortable. I’ll simply say “Omg, this was so good”, remove myself and my plate and go to a different room until everyone disperses from the table.
- Give yourself permission to take breaks during the day to stay centered: Maybe you need to go sit in the backyard, take a quick walk, sit somewhere quietly, get a few seconds of alone time. Close your eyes, take a few SOLID deep belly breaths, breathing out the negative thoughts. Breathwork is so helpful for me. If you feel awkward, simply be like “Ah, it’s hot in here, i’m going to step outside real fast” or pretend you’re taking a phone call.
- Remember the meaning of the holidays: The whole point is to gather with your loved ones, enjoy each others company, and make memories. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when we lost quite a few loved ones, that this was really drilled into me. A sad reality, but it was a wake-up call that I needed. Not to sound dramatic, but our time isn’t infinite. Take full advantage of the time you have with loved ones – not spending it stressing over the food. If you can’t keep your mind off it, maybe make a little notes section in your phone of some topics of conversation to keep things flowing, away from food-centric or body/diet conversation.
Know you’re not alone
There can be so much self-shame this time of the year and that is a lot for a person to hold onto. Know you are not alone and there is nothing “wrong” with you for struggling. So many of us do to some degree. Give yourself extra love and grace during this time of the year. After a holiday meal, remember tomorrow is a fresh, new day! WE GOT THIS x