Most emotional eaters dread the holiday season with its treats, food focused social events and hyper buffets. That’s because food is the socially acceptable addiction, compulsion and even obsession. For emotional eaters, this can make the holidays a time of self-loathing, complexity and strain. We hope these few tips can help you more successfully negotiate this seasonal food-fest:
1. Plan, Plan, Plan! And write down your danger zones.
Danger zones are those times, people and places that are most challenging for you; when you find yourself walking away feeling out of control and beating yourself up having eaten too much for your own comfort. So, when you know one of these dangers- places, people or times - is approaching, PLAN how you will get through with minimal harm to yourself. Yes, I mean foodharm. Those might be times when your behavior with food has you riddled with guilt and even wishing to hide from your loved ones. If the buffet or a larger meal event is your danger place, ask yourself, “What can I do to manage at this meal-focused event?” Make a plan ahead of time.
Make a list of items that take from 2-minutes to a full day. These items are things you do for yourself where you are a priority, where you feel loved and cared for by that most important person, you. This will increase your attention to balance at a time of year which is all about giving and taking care of others. Emotional eaters are typically caregivers and their weak spot is self-care. Remember when you are cared for, you have more to bring to your loved ones.
Emotional eating is closely linked to anxiety. So, slow down…..and breathe. Take notice of how you are feeling in your body. Notice that you are okay for that moment when all you need is to breath.
Emotional eaters are so overly focused on others, they often forget to notice and take care of their own boundaries.Ask yourself, “Where is my limit?” Perhaps you can only stay at that family event for 1.5 hours rather than 5. Take care of yourself. Emotional eating is the body’s way of getting your attention and telling you that something is wrong. You have limits, so slow down and listen to them. And make your plans with full consideration of those limits. Assertiveness is simply declaring your boundaries. Following through with these limits is simply asserting your needs with yourself and with others. You have a right to this so take that small risk with those who care for you and be more assertive today, and throughout the holidays.
5. Take a risk.
Take risks with family and friends even when they are not used to you setting limits. Emotional eating is one way for us to hide from the risks of interpersonal intimacy. Take the risk to let them know you’re experimenting with some limits or boundaries and that you appreciate their willingness to support you.
6. Plan, Plan, Plan 2.0.
If you have a danger food that you know weakens your resolve, plan around it. Be honest with yourself about your vulnerability with certain foods. It’s OK. Plan accordingly and don’t have this food in your house over the holidays. Ask your family for support with this. Their understanding will surprise you
7. Don’t restrict!
This may sound crazy but we know emotional eaters chronically restrict in attempt to counter their emotional eating behavior. Restricting radically increases emotional eating behavior. Eat every 2.5-3 hours, even if it’s simply a small handful of nuts.
8. Slow down…..eat mindfully.
Taste, smell, see and notice the texture and sensation of each bite. Enjoy your food while you are in relationship with it. Be present. Rather than food being a substance you use to distract and harm yourself, let it be an experience you appreciate. Your task is to find a more peaceful and harmonious relationship with food and yourself. This is possible!
Taking care of yourself makes you a better partner, mother, father, friend, daughter, son, brother, sister, cousin….
Even though the holidays is hyper focus on food, this season is really about connecting with our loved ones and making time to celebrate our relationships by sharing quality time together.
Enjoy this holiday season celebrating moments with Peace and Love.
By Heather Bach MA, CCC
Bach Counselling Group