Reader: “Can you write a blog post on how not to stress eat during the holidays?!”
Me: “Oooo that’s a good one!”
Reader: “Yeah #myfamilyiscrazyandiwantallthebadfoods” <—– #truth
Take a moment to envision this classic holiday scene full of warm fuzzy socks and real life:
You’re in the kitchen with some sort of a family member, MAYBE it’s your mother, brother, sister, in law or by blood, it’s the dog, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you’re so thrilled to see them, or maybe you’re not. It doesn’t matter because up until this point you’ve been busting your butt working on fitness and health, you’ve stayed away from all the “bad stuff” for so long. You’ve developed a new lifestyle and you’re so proud of your progress. You are also kind of tired from traveling so far (or maybe getting the house ready for everyone) and feeling a little off out of your normal routine, so you’re not feeling totally relaxed (although every one else seems to be).
From the moment you woke up there are temptations everywhere: let’s be honest, visions of sweet breakfast breads played in your head before you went to sleep. Maybe everyone already ran to Starbucks for the holiday drinks, you normally get a black coffee but someone brought you a caramel whatever because they know caramel is your FAVORITE ….. As you’re standing around drinking your coffee your very thin sister/sister in law/brother’s girlfriend, whoever, makes bread and homemade jam for breakfast, you think “BUT I THOUGHT I HAD TO EAT PROTEIN FOR BREAKFAST TO BE THIN WHY DOES SHE GET TO EAT THAT!?!?! UGH I WANT TO EAT THAT!” (mind you it’s literally a store bought piece of bread and some jam, not even the sugary homemade bread calling your name, but you don’t care.)
So and so comes down stairs and makes a comment about your outfit which you perceive as negative because you are already on edge, “that’s the last straw I’m gonna eat whatever I want it’s the holidays and I can’t stand this S*it.”
Great it’s 8:05AM on day 1, “I MEAN I MIGHT AS WELL TAKE THIS PARTY TO NEW YEARS RIGHT? IT’S BEEN A GOOD YEAR I DESERVE IT WOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooo . o. o .o. o .”
Okay maybe it’s not that extreme, maybe when that comment rubs you the wrong way, all of a sudden you’re cutting yourself a piece of sweet bread with one hand and shoving a cookie in your mouth like the cookie monster with another hand. Oh that feels better, oh wait no it doesn’t now I feel bad for eating that, I feel worse… more sugar will make it better… and the cycle repeats….
How do I know? Well this is mostly my story, with a few additions from clients I heard along the way. Luckily that hasn’t been me for a few years now, but it took a long time to work my way up to leave Holiday binge eating/stress eating behind.
Let’s go over all the things you/me were up against in a 5 minute time span:
- New environment or loss of control over your environment, if your typical tactic is out of sight out of mind this one is gonna be hard!
- Maybe there is some nervous tension with family members.
- Desire to be accepted and share moments and food with the family.
- Restriction battling, you’ve been so restrictive for so long it’s like a party night on Vegas strip, given an inch you are prone to take a mile.
- Your tired, making you more likely to crave sugar.
- All or nothing type attitude has you constantly fighting with yourself.
… so what do you do? We all eat emotionally and while food is fuel, it’s also a time of gathering, sharing, and creating memories ESPECIALLY during the holidays. Intuitive eating focuses on being mindful to the reasons you’re eating (whether hunger or pleasure). Intuitive eating is a strategy I focus on with many of my clients, but it isn’t a quick fix, it takes time, practice, and dedication. That being said there are some strategies you can apply to not only get through the holidays but actually enjoy them, leaving you happy and healthy!
Tips For Battling Holiday Stress Eating
For the love all things, get a workout in. You’ll feel a hundred trillion times better if you get up before everyone else and get a workout in. Remember you can’t outrun the calories unless you run for the entire 24 hours, but getting a workout in will feel good, here’s why:
- Keeps up a sense of normalcy or routine.
- Stress reduction/ increased endorphins
- If going for a run/walk/bike you can explore a new area and get some fresh air.
- If you’re traveling, talk to your hosts to find out the daily game plan and figure out what you can do when.
- Invite someone to go with you, you never know they might really appreciate it! (Walk, Run, or Bike)
- Need a few at home workout ideas? Try one of these: 10 Minute Plank & Abs, 7 Minute Plank Workout, At Home Crossfit Workout, 10×10 workout
2. Hold out for the good stuff and then go for it!
If it’s something you can truly have once a year, EAT IT WITH ZERO GUILT OR REMORSE! I’m going to go Personal Trainer Boot Camp status on you for a second “If it’s a reese’s in the shape of a Christmas tree, you’d better LEAVE THAT CRAP ALONE. No whining, just don’t touch it, and that way you don’t feel bad about the good once-a-year stuff.” Got it? Okay great, glad to get that out of my system. Same thing goes for restaurants as well, if you’re going to a restaurant that you always go to and you usually get the fajitas, but this time you are thinking you’re gonna get the chimichanga because everyone else is. Talk yourself off the ledge by reminding yourself there are plenty of opportunities for treats ahead and you could have that anytime. If it’s a new restaurant and they are famous for their chimmi’s then see the next point….
3. Share it!
You still get to have it AND you get to share the food and the experience with someone you love. PERFECT!
4. Have a cup of joe or tea or water
I’ve always got something to drink, I prefer hot like coffee or tea in the winter but water will help too. Although I feel like I’ve got it under control I know I have the tendency to be a stress eater, but I also know that if I’ve got something in my hand I can take a sip of it instead of reaching for the nearest sugary whatever. Watch the caffeine though, too much = jitters= stress= sugar cravings.
5. Chew gum and brush your teeth after meals.
Simply makes you think twice before you put something in your mouth mindlessly. It’s just a half of a cookie + 20minutes later another half a cookie…..
6. Ask yourself if you’re hungry
Try to monitor your hunger levels prior to eating something. You may not always be hungry when eating freshly baked cookies, but remind yourself you’re not hungry.
7. Rephrase the way you talk to yourself
You can talk yourself in or out of anything, staying positive and non restrictive can do wonders for your willpower! If your allowed to have something whenever you want there is no reason to go on a cookie bender because you can have it whenever you want.
8. Stay out of the kitchen
If you find yourself hovering where the treats are and you know you’ve had your fill, remove yourself. Just like at a buffet, don’t face the buffet when you eat.
9. Focus on the People/ the Experience
Cherish the experience not the food. Whenever something really good comes out that we all make together like gingerbread houses (hello my name is Kelli and I’m an icing addict) I focus on the people and the experience and allow myself a taste at the end. That way I’m not focused on plowing through icing instead of the actual experience.
10. Note on Alcohol
Wine is my kryptonite. I’m not so worried about sharing a glass or two or more with family and friends, that’s something I love to do on a rare occasion. The bigger problem is I turn into hungry hungry hippo after too many drinks, and if there was something I avoided all day (said butterfingers in a red wrapper) you bet I’m gonna have it now. Not surprising because alcohol lowers are inhibitions. Water in between glasses of wine and Mr. Hungry, that’s what helps me.
Mr. Hungry: “ get out of the kitchen you cute little hungry hungry hippo you can have that tomorrow”
Me: “awww okay” because I love it when he calls me cute names 😉 Now I’m distracted anyway.
Find a way to monitor your alcohol consumption whether it be limiting your drinks, starting with water, or enlisting help to keep you in check.
Believe me, I know the struggle is real when it comes to the holidays, especially if you’ve been trying to lose weight or just lost weight. It might be real, but it isn’t impossible! You can have a healthy and happy holiday season if you allow yourself too, don’t beat yourself up if a meal doesn’t go the way you thought it should, just balance it at the next meal (not January 1st) and you will be just fine!
PS I know this was a long post! Thanks for hanging in there with me, if you still haven’t had enough see below!
More Intuitive Eating Posts
- What Living in Moderation Really Means
- The 80/20 Rule- Feeding Your Body and Your Soul
- Dealing With Stress Eating
- Intuitive Eating
- Calorie Counting Journey Part 1: Weight Loss
- Calorie Counting Journey Part 2: Signs It’s Working Against You
- Calorie Counting Journey Part 3: How I Stopped Counting & Started Living
- 5 Easy Weight Loss (or Maintenance) Tips —> life after calorie counting
- Are you a Moderator or Abstainer?
- Willpower: An Unlimited versus Finite Resource?
- Health & Motivation Tips
How do you approach the holiday season to stay healthy and happy?
What to you look forward to most on the holidays?
Susie @ SuzLyfe says
I sip tea. Lots of decaf tea. I get them in flavors that are strong enough to act as a true flavor, or particular enough that I won’t want to mix flavors!
Kelli Shallal MPH RD says
That’s awesome! I’d love some recommendations 🙂