It's that time of the year again…Christmas is arguably the best time of the year…but the presence of food can be stressful for many that are looking to lose weight and stop binge eating ... Christmas is a wonderful time of year for creating memories, expressing gratitude and gathering. It's also a time of goodies galore and high stress. And if you’ve been in my world for any length of time, you’d know that I don't believe in dieting. Spending this joyous season miserably depriving ourselves will just end in binging on plates of Christmas goodies when no one is looking. Does this sound familiar?
So let’s start this season off right by doing things a little differently this year...
Give yourself permission to eat There is no lack of festive food, chocolate and alcohol in December, with so many Christmas parties taking place And so the desire to diet can get so damn strong! But at the same time, holidays are a tricky time for what diet culture calls "healthy eating", and so it’s easy to feel guilty for eating. But there's nothing healthy about guilt! You know you're meant to relax around food but when you do, you feel terrible about your weight and the guilt can ruin a holiday. Guilt won't help you eat less or lose weight--it screws with your happiness and confidence, isolates you from the people you love, and ruins what's meant to be a wonderful time. Guilt doesn't help you eat "healthy". It sets you up for black-and-white thinking, which leads to restricting behavior, followed by out-of-control overeating. I know this because food guilt and self-hatred have ruined way too many happy occasions for me. But this is what I found helpful for myself and many of my clients: Avoid labelling foods as "good" or "bad." When you tell yourself that cake is bad and you shouldn’t eat it (aka you’re bad if do), it sets you up for failure. Eventually you will cave in and you’re waaaay more likely to overeat, which leaves you feeling even more guilt and shame. Instead, incorporate your favorite treats and common cravings as part of your plan. Don’t forget to download the “3 Steps to Introduce Your Binge Food Back Into Your Diet” Guide for more tips on how to do this.
Breakfast and Lunch If you have ever looked online for weight loss advice, you’ll most likely have come across “don’t skip breakfast” or "don't skip meals". This is definitely great advice for Christmas Day. When you start your Christmas dinner feeling starved, you lose your mind and you’re far more likely to stuff yourself beyond full. Try adding more whole foods to your meal plan leading up to your Christmas dinner(s). More nutritionally dense foods like raw fruits and veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, beans etc. can actually help reduce your cravings and make it easier to enjoy those yummy treats in moderation later. Eat a small meal or a snack that is high in protein, fiber and/or good fat that will not spike your blood sugar like nuts and a cheese stick, avocados, nut butter, chia puddings, cottage cheese with veggies. This will keep you satiated and you're less likely to overeat. Keep it simple. (P.S. taste testing all the foods while cooking does not count). Don't try to go all day without eating until Christmas dinner!
Slow down Eat your food slowly and really savor it. Sometimes we are too focused on other things or chatting with a family member to really enjoy our food. I promise if you savor each bite, you won’t feel like you need to eat a lot of it. It’s becomes a satisfying experience instead of feeling bloated and guilty. You’ll also feel more satiated. Move your body The more consistently you can move your body leading up to the holidays, the better. Getting in a little extra exercise will do more than just keep your metabolism up...it can help improve your mood and reduce your stress level. And we all know that the holidays can be pretty stressful, so it's essential that you add movement to your self care list this season. It’s easy to fall off the exercise wagon over Christmas, so look at adapting your routine to fit in with your plans. If you head to the gym after work, switch things up and go first thing. Not only will it get you feeling great for the rest of the day, but it gets it out of the way. If you’re away from your usual gym, you could try some fitness apps. There're lots of free ones out there but my favorites include Nike Training Club and Couch to 5K, or simply search for short workout videos on YouTube.
Celebrate small successes and reward yourself The wonder of my 3+2+0 structure is that nothing is off limits! Christmas is traditionally a time of good cheer, and there's no reason not to throw yourself into the celebrations. Make a conscious decision to allow yourself the chance to enjoy your favorite things. A lot of people who struggle with binge eating tend to have black-and-white thinking patterns. When you think you've had too much to eat for one meal, you feel like a failure, give up and binge for the rest of the day. Instead, have a look at what has gone well. For example, the idea of social meals terrified me so much that I would go off track all day from the moment I woke up, because I knew my day wouldn't be "perfect". However, I soon realized a better way to cope with the situation would be to have my breakfast and lunch as usual without binging before going out for dinner with my family. In the past, it would have been a whole day of non-stop eating. Progress is progress no matter how small. Also remember your rewards don't have to be food-related. What about watching your favorite movie? Having a long, relaxing bubble bath? Lighting up a scented candle? Or having your nails done? These are just as enjoyable.
Find comfort in group support Make the most of the Stop Binge Eating Community Facebook Group so that you don't have to feel you're struggling alone--the group is here to link you with people who'll understand how you feel and are going through/have gone through what you're experiencing. Tips, advice, support and encouragement are only a few clicks away!
And breathe! Christmas is a stressful time of year, but keeping that stress bottled up is never a good idea, especially if you’re prone to comfort eating! Instead of digging into a box of chocolate, look at alternative ways to reduce your stress. Practise mindfulness, read a book, or do some gentle exercise instead. Your body will thank you for it! If you feel the pressure piling up, give yourself some time out--even just a few minutes before bedtime-to write down what has happened, how you feel about it and make yourself a fresh action plan. A walk may clear your head and help you feel better about social meals.
If you can have one goal this holiday or for 2020, decide that you won't spend yet another year controlled by food. How many more precious years or holidays will be wasted because you felt guilty for eating? When you look back in life, will you regret how much time you spent hating your body? Now is the time to start thinking differently. Now is the time to live your best life.
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