It’s such a magical time of year - the spirit, the excitement, the joy. However along with this magic comes the seemingly magical appearance of food - pretty much everywhere - which causes many of us to feel stressed about the possibility of holiday weight gain.
Food makes an appearance at every gathering, every party, and even turns up in the form of gifts, wrapped in pretty cellophane and a satin bow. Aside from the occasional fruit or veggie tray, the great majority of holiday food is not the most nutritious.
Then there are the holiday cocktail parties - does anything fit from last year? How is it going to look? Do I need to buy a new dress? Do I need a new pair of Spanx? Ugg… the stress!
At one point in my life I had 5 holiday work parties to go to! Don’t get me wrong - I love a good party but my fear of food and weight gain really ruined them for me. I’d work out harder and choose to head to the gym to avoid some of these parties. I really wanted to go and socialize but at the same time I was terrified of the food and weight gain, and never happy with how I looked. It was an internal tug of war that caused an incredible amount of pressure and stress. So... the most wonderful time of year wasn’t so wonderful for me.
Now that I have made peace with food and my body, I’d like to share some tips around food, fear of weight gain, and body image so that you too can begin to enjoy this magical season without fear, stress, and torment.
1. Reality Check – Holiday weight gain may actually be a myth. A recent study found that the typical American only gains 1-2 lbs during the season - not the 7-9 lbs cited in a previous study. And furthermore, this “gain” is often just extra water weight, or “bloat”, from eating holiday foods which are typically high in carbohydrates and sodium. It is important to realize that this is not true weight gain, and your body will release this extra fluid once you return to your usual routine.
2. Empower Yourself Around Food – Food is neutral - it’s not inherently good or bad and there’s no need to fear it. You can choose to eat it or not, but it has no control over you. You are the one in control here and making that choice to eat something or not is actually very empowering. When I hear my clients say, “I was fully aware that I wasn’t physically hungry and I chose to eat it anyway.” I love it. It’s great because you’re making a conscious choice, so you don’t feel as if you’re powerless to those chocolate peanut butter balls.
3. Eat Slowly and Mindfully – Slow down and use all your senses to see, smell, taste, chew, and savor your food. Give the food and eating your full attention without judgement. Some of these foods you only have once a year so you might as well enjoy them! This is how we are meant to eat despite our current fast-paced culture. Humans are meant to eat slowly and to pay attention to the eating experience. There are a number of benefits to eating slowly and mindfully, including more pleasure with food and the ability to tune into our natural hunger and fullness signals. A little practice in this area can transform your relationship with food.
4. Have Compassion for Yourself – If you do eat too many Christmas cookies or don’t fit into that cocktail dress you bought last year, practice self-compassion. Instead of beating yourself up about what you ate or how your body looks, treat yourself as you would a friend. You would never say to your friend, “You pig, why did you have to eat so much?” You would probably say, “It’s okay, it happens to all of us and the food was pretty tasty.” It takes some practice, but you can learn to treat yourself with the same kindness as you give a friend or a child. Changing that voice in your head to be more kind, encouraging, and accepting can be life changing.
5. Get Present – Enjoy and savor the experience and beauty of the holiday season – the people, gift giving, decorations, party atmosphere, and the fun that comes with the season. If you can get out of your head and get present to the positive experience of the holidays, you will enjoy this time of year so much more.
6. Find the Good – Instead of stressing about how unhappy you are with the state of your body or fear of weight gain, take inventory of the good that comes with this season. It could be your health, having a functioning body, loved ones you get to see, watching someone open that gift you know they’ll love, the beauty of the holiday season, having holiday parties to go to, and so on. What we focus on grows and the more good you see, the more good you will attract and experience into your life.
Try these tips out and start enjoying this season!
Need some help with your relationship with food and body?