There are many reasons we struggle with our weight and making healthy choices during the holidays and no, it isn’t because the universe is working against you. It is simply a season with some circumstances that need to be thoughtfully approached and handled.
As I record this podcast, Halloween is over and Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I can already feel the rise in emotions, positive and negative, that come with the holidays. It is so funny, the students at school are ready for a break, everyone is battling burn out, and the thought of cutting loose and doing something fun is difficult not to focus on. I can imagine what you are feeling right now, with Holiday shopping, social gatherings, financial discomfort, and possibly some family or friend friction adding to your stress levels. So, first of all, I want to reassure you that you are normal and all those feelings come with someone who cares. As I coach women, there are some common emotions and scenarios that are especially keen at getting us to start emotional eating. We’re going to dig into those in this episode and draw out some ideas that might make us feel more at peace and stronger.
For each of these scenarios I am going to offer you some thoughts and some questions you can use as journaling prompts so that you can feel like you’re the one in charge of your food again.
Fear of Missing Out
So many special things happen during this time of year with special food that can feel especially difficult not to go overboard on. So let me ask you, is there absolutely no way you could eat or drink that food? If you eat it slowly, how much do you really enjoy it? What about this makes it feel special?
There is a good possibility that you could eat this food anytime if it was worth cooking or ordering or buying. Also, when you really stop to think about flavors and textures, on a scale from 1-10, how much do you really enjoy this food? Often we combine memories and expectations of time with friends and family and make food better in our mind than it really is. If this is the case, you can start shifting some of the expectation and enjoyment onto the activities of talking and spending time with loved ones instead of it being about something that you consume.
This is the one that always gets me the hardest. During the holidays I struggle with perfectionism, wanting to do it all, make it amazing, and not allow my friends and family to miss out on anything. Then, you guessed it, I get completely overwhelmed and burned out by December 10th and spend the rest of the holidays fueled by caffeine and sugar. It is important to recognize that not everything needs to be perfectly and that I am able to put things down as needed. Also, there is a journaling practice that really helps me:
#1. I write everything down I think I need to do.
#2. I schedule things out, prioritizing what is the most important.
#3. I give up things that aren’t going to fit.
#4. I write down affirming messages about who I am as a child of God, wife, and mother that have nothing to do with beautifully wrapped presents or homemade potluck dishes.
The Need to Make A Celebration Special
Food is often a central focus in holiday celebrations, both for the ones we host and the ones we attend. Since we focus on it so greatly, we then tend to feel the need to indulge in those food items greatly, too. But, what really makes time with the people you love special? I have noticed that celebrations are the most special when I make memories and connect with those I love. And, I don’t usually make memories via stuffing my mouth. Instead, it is playing games, sharing stories, and feeling seen and heard that really make these moments special. How can you create those moments? I truly challenge you to concentrate on planning things to do and topics of conversation with all the vigor that you're putting into thoughts of food. Try journaling the answers to these questions to get started: What do you love about the friends or family you will be spending time with? What do you miss most about them when you are not around each other? What kinds of activities does everyone enjoy (besides food)? What could you prepare in advance to get started?
Inevitably there will be a less than enjoyable social gathering. Everything from boredom to downright anger can taint the time we spend with others. Whenever we feel discomfort of any kind it is normal for a brain to suggest something it knows brings us pleasure such as food. Then, since there is usually very enjoyable food present, it is super normal to find yourself at the buffet table or appetizer trays. I empathize with you on a deep level. As Micaela’s caregiver I have spent many social gatherings in discomfort, doing my best to keep her safe and interacting with others while not easily enjoying my own experience. I learned of an exercise I could do that would deeply change my experience. First, I had to relive one of those social gatherings on paper, writing down all the things I had experienced. Next, I had to deliberately remember what WAS enjoyable and also what I could have done differently that would have helped. Lastly, the next time we went out with family I utilized a plan and deliberately lived as fully present in the moment. Funnily enough, it didn’t change much of what I actually did, but instead of feeling frustrated and bored, I actually learned to enjoy the experience with Micaela, spending quality time with her whenever I couldn’t spend that time more directly with others. You can go through that process, too.
#1. Relive the unpleasant experience on paper.
#2. Make a plan for what you could do differently next time.
#3. Practice being in the moment and enjoying the little things even when the big things don’t go the way you wished.
Here’s the kicker: You’re going to get tired. It isn’t just the late nights or extra activity. There is the combined experience of all the things we have discussed. Often we forget that extra emotional and mental stress = more physical stress as well. The holidays more than ever might be an important season to prioritize sleep. Maybe you should try to get in a small nap during the late afternoons or early evenings or even turn in early a few nights a week. You might find that physical rest will help you in all the areas we have discussed: staying present and enjoying time with family, handling stress, and coping with discomfort. Without it, you find yourself more deeply tempted to try to care for yourself in a less than healthy way. So, what can you do? Well, first I want you to repeat after me: Sleep is one of the most important ways I can care for myself and others. Seriously. Now, for a week or so, try keeping a sleep log or paying attention to the data on your smart watch. Lastly, look at your calendar and plan those naps or early nights. Schedule them. Set an alarm on your phone and give yourself a gift that will make the rest of the season seem brighter and warmer and more peaceful than ever: Sleep.
Alright, sweet sister. If you want to dig into any of the areas a little deeper and would like the steps or journal prompts, remember to visit the podcast page on my website at www.loraarmendariz.com
All my love to you! Happy holidays! God bless you! Talk to you next week.
by Lora Armendariz
You Can Do It!
Do you want to fall out of love with a destructive habit? The first 42 episodes of this podcast are a resource for anyone who wants encouragement and information as they take a six week break from a habit in order to fall out of love with it.