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As the holidays quickly approach, many of us may be struggling to experience joy through the thickness of other, perhaps heavier emotions. I hear sorrow, fear, anxiety, and stress expressed and echoed this time of year. Loss, family conflict, and pressure to achieve perfection all contribute to making this celebration a challenging one. In response to these stressors and others, we may find ourselves—especially those of us with a history of disordered eating—challenged by the food that surrounds the holiday.
Our culture sends mixed messages of both excessive consumption as well as restriction during this time. We are encouraged to indulge without sacrificing our appearance. There is little guidance or encouragement offered with regard to balance, and—in the chaos—there is little joy or giving of thanks. In the face of ambiguity and lack of control, it can be tempting to fall into restricting/compensatory and/or binge-eating behavior and this season seems to highlight that struggle. In this article, I aim to offer hope and a return to the gratitude that this season and holiday intends. To that end, I reached out to local Registered Dietician Nutritionist and Intuitive Nutrition Health Coach, Katie Abbott, MS, RDN, INHC (katieabbottrd.com), to share her insight. Below are her tips on Intuitive Eating for the Holidays.
Make Peace with Food
There seems to be so many “forbidden foods” around the holidays. However, it is important to give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular holiday food, it can lead to overwhelming feelings of deprivation that could potentially build into intense cravings or even bingeing. When you finally give-in to your forbidden food, eating can be experienced with such intensity, that it usually results in overeating and guilt. When you give yourself permission to enjoy that favorite holiday treat, perhaps pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, then you may be more likely to say "no thank you" to the store bought sugar cookies or dried out fudge in the office or at school parties.
Hara Hachi Bu
Hara hachi bu means to eat until you are 80% satisfied. During the busy holiday season, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence – the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you truly desire, in an environment that is welcoming and supportive, the pleasure that grows will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. Not only are we nourished by food, but we can feel nourished by this pleasure and satisfaction as well. By allowing yourself to experience this, you will find that it takes much less food to decide if you’ve had “enough”. We all have a basic inner wisdom when it comes to eating, and if you can cultivate that wisdom, you will be able to listen to when your body is 80% satisfied. Maximizing pleasure around food is a wonderful motivator to choose foods that taste good and feel good to your body.
Honor Your Feelings without Using Food
Depression, anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger, and stress are all emotions that everyone experiences throughout their lifetime and maybe even around the holidays. It is important to remember that food will never fix any of these feelings. When a feeling does not originate from food, food will never satisfy it. Food may comfort in the short term or maybe even numb the feeling temporarily, but food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You will ultimately have to deal with two things: the source of the emotion, as well as the results of overeating. Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food such as:
-Maureen Kelleher, ATR, LPC
-Guest writer: Katie Abbott, MS, RDN, INHC