Everyone knows that the holiday season is full of emotional eating and overeating temptations. It can be fun and hectic and also stressful. Relationships aren’t always merry and emotional eating triggers abound, but it is possible to be the one in control of your relationship with food this season. The key is being pro-active, and the time to take charge is now.
Here are some tips, adapted from The Emotional Eating Rescue Plan for Smart, Busy Women, to help you create a plan for not just surviving, but thriving.
Create some routines to help you stay connected with yourself. The holidays can be so busy and either unstructured or different from our regular routine that we can get disconnected from our healthy habits and even the cues that help us pay attention to our needs. Make a plan now to check in with yourself, even for just a few minutes every day. Journal, walk on the treadmill, or take ten deep breaths. The key is to give yourself a chance to notice what you need and how you are feeling. In my book, I talk about the importance of non-negotiables, the things that are essential to our well-being. Non-negotiables are key to staying in control of holiday eating and stress. Take time now to make a list of yours. Mine include drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and getting outside for some activity most days. I also need a little bit of time alone to sort through my thoughts.
Once you’ve identified your non-negotiables, think about how you’ll get your needs fed, at least most days, especially during the most hectic times. Schedule, commit, and line up accountability partners or plans now. Think reasonable and doable. You may not have an hour to yourself, but you can probably carve out five minutes to jot down your thoughts in the morning. Be creative, but don’t skip this step. When we’re not feeding our spirit, we’re particularly susceptible to using food to fill in the gaps – and food is likely to be everywhere.
Identify potential emotional eating and overeating triggers and challenges now. Take a look at your calendar and make a list of the events, social situations, and days that may be tough in one way or another. Now – when your brain is calm – is the time to do some brainstorming about how you’d like to handle them. Don’t simply assume you’ll “make it work” or that you “won’t get upset this year.” Instead, approach these tricky spots with the respect they deserve. Assume they may be difficult and consider how you’d like to take care of YOU and approach food when you are in the midst of them.
Make a plan for the treats you love. No one wants to be told no all the time. Decide early on which holiday treats you definitely want to plan to relish and savor – and then give yourself permission to do so without guilt. You can also make a list of the “junk” you’ll probably see this season that you don’t really like (dried-out buffet food, stale crackers, potato chips you can have any time, and maybe the fruitcake you always try and never like). Make a policy not to waste angst and energy (and calories) on food you simply don’t love. Hold yourself to it.
Make a plan to eat the way that serves you. There will be many hours during the next several weeks that are not holiday celebrations. Create some easy, no-brainer, low-stress ways to approach them – now. I always try to keep lots of fruit around this time of year and breakfast and lunch tend to be simple, healthy meals that don’t require a lot of thought and that leave me feeling nourished and happy with how I’ve eaten. Consider making a pot of soup with lots of vegetables in it on the weekend that you can heat up for lunches. Give yourself easy, preplanned eating routines that will help you feel good about the way you are feeding yourself.
Most importantly, don’t expect perfection. If you’ve read my book, you know I’m big on the term “tweak and adjust.” Instead of getting rigid and stressed about food, allow yourself to be curious. Notice where your plans go well and where they don’t. Notice the strategies that work and when something doesn’t, give yourself permission to make adjustments instead of being mad at yourself for not getting it perfect. Take the attitude that you’ll do your best instead of falling into the trap of all or nothing thinking.