I have worked with numerous patients who have a particularly difficult time during this part of the year because of the two Fs of the holiday season: food and family. Here are two of their stories and some of the strategies they use to hang onto their self-esteem. These strategies can help you, too, as you prepare to face the Fs head-on.FOOD
Lily dreads the holiday season. She can’t stop worrying about how she’ll control her eating with overflowing platters of delicious food and tempting desserts constantly within reach. She knows that she will eat more than she usually does, and more than she intends. And she knows that she will then spend the rest of the holiday full of regret and feeling bad about herself.
It is important to recognize that sometimes food is more than just food. Sometimes it’s culture, tradition and celebration. For example, focusing on the food and eating with abandon on Christmas reflects a social norm. The feast is part of the conventional social observance of the holiday. This doesn’t mean that you need to participate in the mass bingeing. But it does mean that, if this type of indulgence is part of your celebration, you should let yourself enjoy it. Overall healthy eating requires a balanced approach, including both physically and emotionally healthy food habits.Here are a few tips to help you keep your balance with food during the holidays:
- Make a plan. If you anticipate that particular events will be full of temptation and want to try to moderate your eating, make a plan ahead of time. It probably will not work to put everything on the “avoid” list, since you will be setting unrealistic standards for yourself and may end up feeling frustrated and deprived. Think about the upcoming situation and decide which treats you will avoid and which ones you will let yourself enjoy without guilt.
- Forgive yourself if you stray from your plan. Once you make a plan, do your best to stick with it, but also recognize that it’s not a tragedy if you overeat on a holiday. One meal is not going to cause any long-lasting changes in your weight or size, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Just make sure you don’t use one holiday binge as an excuse to permanently stray from healthy eating, and you’ll be back on track the next day.
- Move. You may be away from the gym and out of your normal fitness routine, but you can still find a way to move around, and you will feel better if you do. So go for a walk, do jumping jacks, dance, run around with the kids—you will feel more comfortable, and emotionally and physically balanced.
Renee is going to her parents’ home for Christmas. She expects that it will be the same as it was last year, and every year before that: Her mother will interrogate her about when she will produce a grandchild, her father will suggest she take an alternate career path, her husband will get annoyed and ask when they can leave, and her sister will show up in an expensive car, fabulously dressed with her perfect children by her side. Renee expects that she will feel inadequate and upset by the time the pie is served, as she does every year.
Though holidays are supposed to be about quality family time, often they are fraught with relationship and emotional challenges. You may have to make difficult choices about where to go or whom to invite, or whether to do anything at all. There may be old family dynamics that resurface and cause drama and tensions. You may feel pressure to meet other people’s demands, or your own (perhaps unrealistic) expectations. It may also be that the loss of your usual routine causes professional or logistical problems. In any event, this is a good time to acknowledge that holidays can be difficult in some ways, and to remember to take care of yourself so you are not totally drained by the time the celebration is over.If you go into the holiday with plans to wear a perfect outfit, prepare a perfect meal, decorate your house like it’s in a magazine, and experience nothing but blissful family time suitable for holiday card pictures, you are likely to be disappointed.If you set optimistic, yet realistic, goals for your holiday celebration and for yourself, you are more likely to end up with a good experience. Focus on the good parts of the day, and hold onto your self-esteem through the difficult parts. Remember that you are the same fabulous person today that you were yesterday and will be tomorrow.Related Articles: 12 Sneaky Ways to Burn Calories Over the Holidays4 Ways to Stay Balanced This Holiday SeasonHow to Navigate Being Single Over the Holidays