I know there are millions of blogs, videos, and social media posts around the holidays about “surviving the holidays” or “how to not gain too much weight around the holidays.” However, as someone who used to really struggle with food, as most people do at some point in their life, I thought I would share some of my tried and true methods to maintaining my sanity and health during the holiday season. Recovering from an eating disorder or just working on your relationship with food during the holidays is extremely difficult; probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Read below to see how I was able to change my holiday food anxiety forever!
- Know when to say no! You do not have to attend every small event that you’re invited to. In fact, my husband and I have 6 get-togethers in the next 7 days – we are overwhelmed! We have already decided on not going to one and another one we will attend for just a short period of time. A friend a mine shared her motto with me – if it’s not a yes, it’s a hell no!
- Keep moving! Getting a good sweat session in daily literally saves me! Exercise decreases stress, increases happy chemicals, and clears your head. It doesn’t have to be a 2 hour workout; just get your heart rate up and sweat a little bit!
- Never go to parties overly hungry! When you attend a party famished, especially when you know there is going to be an over-abundance of delicious food, you trigger a stress response and cravings for highly palatable foods (high sugar, high fat). You’re also more likely to go overboard if you feel starved; which can be made worse if you’re drinking alcohol!
- Practice mindfulness around food! I will admit, this takes years to master; however, it can be done! Be cognizant of your hunger and fullness cues and be very self-aware of what you’re actually putting into your mouth. Are you sitting by the bowl of chips, munching away just because they’re there? Be aware of this! Pro-tip – read Intuitive Eating during the holidays!
- Choose foods that you actually love! My rule of thumb is to scan the food tables before choosing, especially the sweets, and pick out which foods you actually enjoy eating. Decide right away that you are going to eat Aunt Bettie’s pecan pie because it’s something that you only get once per year; and skip the Oreo’s, which is something you can eat all year round!
- Take a quick and easy, nutrient-rich dish to pass! Okay, I frequently get made fun of because I bring the salad or the veggies with Greek yogurt ranch dip; but they ALWAYS get eaten! Most people end up craving something nutrient-rich to balance all the sweet and savory foods. Make your dish to pass a no-cook, nutrient-rich options like a spinach & quinoa salad or mixed fruit.
- Drink plenty of water! Water is literally used in every bodily process and helps to keep our hunger levels in check! If you’re drinking alcohol, have one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage – it really does help!
- Avoid drinking alcohol at every party! We know that alcohol and the holidays go hand-in-hand… at least they do in my family! However, with 6 parties in 7 days; I cannot drink at every party! If you drink several days in a row, eat lots of food you don’t normally eat, and get less than stellar sleep, you are not going to feel great going into the new year!
- Get plenty of sleep! Research suggests that 7-9 hours is best for most people. However, at the holidays, if you’re overly stressed and feeling exhausted from added responsibilities, you should bump your sleep up an hour. Also, try going to bed an hour earlier and waking up earlier – this follows our natural circadian rhythms in the winter.
- Enjoy the company! For many people, the holidays end up being all about the food and it becomes hard to peel yourself away from the food table. Trust me; this used to be me! How I broke this habit: I would find someone I haven’t talked to in a while and get into a deep, meaningful conversation with them. Or, play with the kids for a while – this makes you realize that we should all eat like kids – eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and move on with life!
- Take a breather when needed! When the party gets too hectic (in my family there are 20 kids under the age of 15), take a breather! Either get out and go for a walk or just find a quiet room where you can close your eyes and do some deep breathing for 5 minutes. We all need alone time to reset and recharge!
I hope that you will find these tips helpful as you head into this holiday weekend and Christmas. This is a really difficult time for anyone struggling with food, so I challenge you to use some of my tips or find new ways to maintain your sanity and your health. You’ve got this!