How I Don't Let My Food Issues Ruin Thanksgiving (Or any other holiday feast...)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

10+ years ago, Thanksgiving would send me into the fetal position.  Too much food, too many people and eyes, too much temptation, and, most of all, way too much fear.

There were a few years that I'd have to lock myself into the bathroom mid-feast just to hyperventilate, it was that overwhelming for me.

But now?  Now, Thanksgiving (and Christmas, and New Year's, and any other feasty celebration for that matter), is just like any other Sunday dinner.  I don't worry about it ahead of time, I don't stew much the day of, and if any issues come up for me I'm able to work through them.  In short, I actually LOOK FORWARD to our holiday feasts.

If you haven't had food issues (i.e., stress eating, emotional eating, fear of food, bonafide eating disorders, etc.), than you can't understand how miraculous this transformation has been for me.

Photographer: Baley Marie Photo
Aside from years of building up my Intuitive Eating skills and thought-patterns, here are eight ways I approach the holiday meals so I'm empowered to make good choices and made free to be present--both with the food and the ones I love.  Each tip starts with a phrase I tell myself, and I explain each one:

1) "It's just food."  If my heart is racing, I "mess up," or I can tell my thinking it getting out of my control, I just remind myself that it's all just food.  It's not there to hurt me.  

2) "Savor it."  Grandma's fudge might only come once a year, so instead of avoiding it like the plaque or completely bingeing on it, I grab a piece, sit down, and savor each sensation.

3) "You can always have it later."  Related to the above, if my instinct is to want more, more, more--either out of guilt or deprivation--I remind myself that I can in fact always have more later.  Either when my tummy is a little less full, or even months down the road.  Grandma might make the fudge only once a year, but that doesn't mean I can't get her recipe and make it myself whenever the heck I want to.  There is no "last supper" mentality needed here!

4) "Who is this about?"  I remind myself that the holidays are meant to enjoy my loved ones.  So instead of getting trapped by my thoughts and habits with food, I try to recenter back to what matters more than that and get busy talking.

5) "It's just a normal day." I don't go crazy with hours of working out, eihter/both before the feast or after.  I do exercise--I do set myself up for success in eating a reasonable meal in the morning and trying to hold out until then big feast.  I think ahead of time of what foods/desserts I actually love and want to ensure I have room for, and which ones I'd rather not take part in. But I don't carry such high stakes on the actual meal that I'm trying to do penance for it either beforehand or the rest of the day.

6) "What do you want out of today?"  Do I want to eat my heart out?  Do I want to talk the day away?  Do I want to completely savor that apple pie when I'm all alone after all the family has left and the kids are in bed (my personal favorite way to eat dessert)?  Having that in mind helps me recenter when I need to.

7) "Breathe."  It's easy to do.  You can in fact leave and do it in private in the bathroom if your anxiousness is reigning.  Or you can do it between bites.  Just take those deep breaths and remind yourself of your other phrases..

8) "It will get easier." Perhaps this is your first year into a new relationship with food.  Then it will be more heightened--don't chastise yourself if you don't navigate it all successfully.  Give yourself patience and remind yourself that these new thought patterns and habits WILL get easier; they'll become like second-nature.

Here are two podcast episodes I did on Intuitive Eating, for more help: Here and Here.

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