My 5 tips to overcome food guilt this holiday season
Without fail every December the holidays roll around and without fail along with it comes the food, the chocolate, the decadent drinks and if you’re anything like myself, the guilt.
Guilt over the excess calories, the sugar overloads, the missed workouts, the tightening of pants, the gained pounds and the lack of routine that usually keeps us on track.
Let me give you some background on myself and my issues with food growing up.
From the time I can comprehend having any sort of awareness of my body, this awareness came with a destructively negative undertone of hatred and a feeling that can only be described as never good enough.
Hatred towards the way my body looked, how it felt and extreme envy towards other woman who appeared so beautifully eloquent in their skin. These women with not only rockin’ bodies, but who also seemingly didn’t have the internal World War taking place within their own minds that I struggled with minute to minute. A war based on what to eat, what not to eat and the consequences and sacrifices that ensued with each decision.
It started as young as grade five, where I would try to meticulously monitor every morsel that passed my lips, packing only a limited amount of food to school for lunch so I couldn’t cave in and binge on anything more than what I had packed. There was a period that this was as limited as one or two pieces of fruit combined with a handful of nuts.
When arriving home from school, I would get off the school bus and burst through the front door, rushing to the scale to weigh myself, holding my breath as the numbers appeared, praying they would be lower than the day before.
Salivating, I’d tiptoe into the kitchen, and at the sight of a box of cookies, lose every bit of control I’d executed for the hours leading up. Drooling over the box, I’d check the nutritional information for one, just one, cookie. Okay, 150 calories… it’s not that bad. Not bad enough that I couldn’t run it off on the treadmill in the living room.
I’d ravenously dig into the box, pulling one out, eyes widening. Barely tasting the sugary sweetness, I scarfed the entire thing down and immediately jumped on the treadmill to burn off the unnecessary treat.
The guilt would ensue regardless, despite the fact that I’d just burned off the exact amount of calories the cookie contained. I knew I still had to face dinner and eat something there, mostly so my family wouldn’t get suspicious and start questioning me or what I was doing.
For obvious reasons, this system didn’t serve me for very long before I would “cave” and demolish every morsel of food in sight, leaving me feeling worse about my body and myself than I did before the whole cycle started.
While over the years I’ve grown immensely, taking extreme measures in self-care, and learned to monitor and adjust my internal chatter, these old habits and guilty feelings around food still sneak up and start running the show. This becomes especially challenging for me during the holidays and times of travel, when my exercise routines are totally off kilter and food seems to be everywhere, luring me in, my mind going to war with itself again.
So here I would like to offer you the tools I’ve used and continue to use to deal with these challenging times and to help you overcome any case of holiday “guilties”.
1) Drop the ALL-OR-NOTHING mentality
This way of thinking will drag you down. Every. Time. It doesn’t need to be a case of not eating a single piece of chocolate for every day leading up to Christmas only to have the 25th roll around and the entire box disappears before lunchtime.
ALLOW YOURSELF THE TREATS. I can’t stress this enough. When food is put on the “forbidden list”, it becomes the taboo little pleasure you want nothing more than to divulge in. But, when you allow yourself to eat whatever you choose, your choices will come from a more conscious place rather than from a place of desperately grasping for something you’re “not allowed” to have. Which leads me to my next point…
2) Eat with AWARENESS
We live in a culture of fast paced everything. Fast work, fast workouts, fast food, fast sex, fast living, and fast eating.
To avoid overeating or overloading on chocolate and cookies where we are left feeling nauseous, full, and bloated it’s essential that we slow down and pay attention. To do this effectively, I recommend removing all distractions especially technology!!
• Turn off the television, put your phone on a counter away from where you’re eating or better yet, in another room.
• No multi-tasking while eating. Sit down and make eating your only task for the moment (yes, everything else will get done and probably more effectively because it will have your full attention while doing it!)
• Before each meal or snack, close your eyes and take five deep belly breathes, inhaling and exhaling through your nose – this draws your attention to your body, which is often forgotten or overlooked in the hustle of everything else that’s going on around you
3) Tune in to what you’re FEELING
Often emotional eating patterns and self-destructive eating behaviors stem from an avoidance of feeling our feelings. This can especially be magnified when we’re around our families with all the various dynamics, resentments and past emotions that come rushing to the forefront.
Sadly, our culture, often times along with our families, discourages us from expressing emotions because let’s be honest, going to that place isn’t always pretty and it doesn’t always present itself in a neatly wrapped package.
Emotions can be one of the scariest layers of ourselves to experience because in the midst of them, it feels as if they are us, taking over every cell of our bodies.
To avoid intense emotions bubbling over and inflicting hurt on your family members and to avoid stuffing them down with that extra piece of pie or half box of chocolates, it’s important to find healthy outlets for them to be expressed.
Some examples would be journaling, allowing yourself to cry, challenging forms of exercise like running or martial arts, meditating or getting still enough to tune in to what you’re actually feeling, punch a soft pillow, etc. Get creative!
4) Let it GO!
Be kind and gentle with yourself. Holding yourself to a standard of perfection can pick away at your self-esteem and inhibit your progress in all areas of life.
If there is a day or even multiple days where you feel like you failed and the food won, the chocolate won, the booze won, let it go. Forgive yourself for the choices you made and go to bed with the clear intention that you will wake up tomorrow with all of the days decisions behind you. A clean slate. A fresh start. A new day.
Guilt serves no one and while we all inevitably feel it at times, it needs not trudge along at our feet for any longer than necessary.
5) Take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for your food choices
It’s all too easy to resign your healthy eating efforts in justification of “Well, it’s the holidays!”
While this time of year inevitably comes with an excess of unhealthy dishes out on the table, you have a choice in every moment. Enjoying a few chocolates here and there doesn’t have to lead to a full out binge on every sugary treat around you.
When you feel yourself going into that place of “blacking out” where the box of chocolates wrestles you to the ground, pries open your jaw, and jumps down your throat, try coming back to your awareness and tuning into your own breath, reminding yourself of how you want to feel in your body at this moment.
The holidays don’t have to inevitable equal a constant battle and struggle against food and self. These practices and exercises are great little tools I’ve found extremely beneficial when implemented into my own life not only around the holiday season but all the time to help me develop a healthier relationship with food and my own body.
We get one flesh vehicle in this lifetime and while properly fueling, nourishing and exercising it are important, as equally important is our own internal relationship with it.
Happy holidays to you all!