You’re making great progress with your new healthy lifestyle changes, when all of a sudden the holiday season hits. Larger family meals, celebration parties with friends and colleagues, they can bring lots of joy, but also a lot of stress -- especially if you have made some major changes to your diet.
Here are my top tips for managing the holidays and keeping your new habits on the right track.
Prioritize self-care and managing your stress
The American Psychological Association found that 38% of people say their stress increases during the holidays.
Stress can really wreak havoc on our mental and physical health and can, in many adults, trigger stress (or emotional) eating.
While it’s easy to blame external factors - the food itself, the party who provided it,
the place in which it was consumed, etc., the real underlying issue with stress-eating
lies in lack of awareness of our bodies, emotions, and our ability to deal with them.
The majority of the time, stress-eating is done at times when the body does not need
food, as the messages between mind and body get confused, and ‘hunger’ is not the
main thing waiting to be satisfied.
When we experience periods of extreme hunger and intense stress, this triggers the same flight or fight response from our cortisol levels. Both of these experiences cause the body to respond similarly and as such, it’s easy to see how the boundaries between one and the other get confused.
It’s important to work to manage your stress and make time for self care. (Here are my favorite self care activities, if you’re looking for some ideas).
If you’re struggling with stress eating, as your functional medicine health coach, I’m here to support you. When you understand your body and your triggers, it can be easier to build a success plan for you. Together we can build a plan that is safe and right for you.
Practice mindful eating
‘Mindful eating’ is all about remaining present and aware of the entire duration of a meal. It sounds like a simple task, but consciously taking and savoring bites of food for every meal is a difficult concept.
Mindful eating consists of several easy-to-follow steps before, during, and after each
Before eating, assess your hunger truthfully. Take time to note your level of hunger before ingesting anything, and also note what kinds of foods would most successfully help fuel your body for the current situation/tasks you’re facing.
Chew slowly and take breaks while trying to taste every little flavor. Many professionals recommend taking a break between 5-10 minutes in the middle of your meal.
After, try to view the meal you’ve just ingested as fuel to help you achieve your next tasks, work or activities you’re planning to undertake.
Mindfully assess how you feel physically. Note if the food was too heavy, too light, too much, too little, or just enough. Use this information to move forward - not allowing ‘regret’ to the surface. If the meal wasn’t exactly to your satisfaction, use this to help you in planning subsequent meals.
Have a support team
Support is essential all year long, but even more so this time of year. Trusted friends and family can help hold you accountable for your goals, help reduce temptations and advocate for you when your friends and family are planning meals and celebrations.
If you’re concerned about having food to eat at gatherings, you’ll want to make sure you take efforts to plan ahead. If you’re not hosting, let the host know any of your dietary restrictions and offer to bring some items you are sure you can enjoy.
If you’re concerned about the temptations on the dinner table, you can fill your stomach before you arrive. When you're hungry, it’s easy to overeat. Eating a healthy meal or snack before arriving at a party will help you ensure you’re sticking to healthy choices.
Emphasize togetherness instead of food
Sometimes it seems like holiday festivities are centered around meals and eating. This year, try de-centering food and focus instead on conversation, togetherness and fun. Plan games for your parties, or have activities like puzzles and board games available.