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How to Enjoy the Holiday Season When Food is Complicated



The holiday season can be a source of anxiety for many reasons this year, and having a rocky relationship with food can add to the stress. Worrying that Thanksgiving will disrupt your routine or lead to overeating can be overwhelming. You may be nervous that people may judge you for what you’re eating or say something that will upset you if you pass on eating certain traditional foods. Remember that you are in charge of your relationship with food and your body, and listening to what you need is going to be key to making sure the holiday season is enjoyable. Whether you are having Thanksgiving alone or with family, here are some simple tips to keep in mind:


1. Use your support system: Is there a supportive family member or friend in your life who will be celebrating Thanksgiving with you? If so, don’t hesitate to ask for their help whether they will be with you in person or a text message away. If not, reach out to Well Powered members or start a discussion thread through the online forum. Well Powered members may be experiencing the very same challenges as you. This will also enable you to hold yourself and others accountable.


2. Make a plan: Speak to your dietitian or Well Powered members and make a plan A and a plan B (in case plan A falls through). Your plans should include things like what to eat and what to do if you are in an awkward situation during the meal. This might mean asking what will be served, bringing a few of your favorite snacks or your favorite side dish, and, as best you can, visualizing the gathering ahead of time.


3. Nothing is totally off limits!: Establishing very restrictive rules around eating can lead to increased stress, especially during holidays. As surprising as this may sound, if you relax strict boundaries and give yourself permission to eat all types of foods, the science says you are actually less likely to gain weight. Restricting calories or eliminating entire food groups is difficult to maintain and can even cause you to crave these foods more than you would have before.


4. Practice Mindful Eating: Did you know that people who intentionally pay attention to their food are less likely to exhibit unhealthy and extreme weight control behaviors, such as binging, skipping meals, and emotional eating? Focusing on sensory awareness and the depth of your experience with food will take your focus off calorie counting and dieting and has enormous potential to help you manage and maintain healthy eating. While the focus of mindful eating isn’t always to lose weight, it is likely that if you adopt mindful eating practices, you may lose weight. Mindful eating has also been associated with relieving anxiety, depression, food cravings, and it can also help with glycemic control for those who have type 2 diabetes. Try your best to remain present during your entire eating experience and put your fork down when you are no longer hungry.


5. Enjoy a full holiday experience: Remember there are a lot of ways to make the most of this year’s most unusual Thanksgiving. Speak and listen to everyone joining you and make sure to take lots of photos. Most importantly, take time to express gratitude for all the “do have” things in your life.




References:


1. Hazzard, V. M., Telke, S. E., Simone, M., Anderson, L. M., Larson, N. I., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2020). Intuitive eating longitudinally predicts better psychological health and lower use of disordered eating behaviors: findings from EAT 2010-2018. Eating and Weight Disorders: EWD. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-020-00852-4


2. Lowe, M. R., Doshi, S. D., Katterman, S. N., & Feig, E. H. (2013). Dieting and restrained eating as prospective predictors of weight gain. Frontiers in Psychology, 4. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00577


3. Nelson, J. B. (2017). Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes Spectrum: A Publication of the American Diabetes Association, 30(3), 171.


4. Soares, F. L. P., Ramos, M. H., Gramelisch, M., de Paula Pego Silva, R., da Silva Batista, J., Cattafesta, M., & Salaroli, L. B. (2020). Intuitive eating is associated with glycemic control in type 2 diabetes. Eating and Weight Disorders: EWD. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-020-00894-8


5. Sojcher, R., S, G. F., & Perlman, A. (2012). Evidence and potential mechanisms for mindfulness practices and energy psychology for obesity and binge-eating disorder. Explore , 8(5). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2012.06.003

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