Thursday, November 27, 2014

How To Survive The Holidays - Part 2

CLICK HERE to listen to the interview.

What's the main cause of anxiety over the holidays?

Family, definitely.  And, food. 

The holidays start with Thanksgiving (at least they do in the United States) and Thanksgiving is often referred to as “National Binge Day” – the whole day is a tribute to excess. 

You’re expected to overeat.  It’s even considered bad manners not to try everything on the table.  If you struggle with food, this can be extremely challenging.

Another problem with the holidays is everyone talks about food.  A lot.

Some relatives get offended if you don’t try everything.  Someone will say, “I know you’re watching your weight but you’re just GOT to try my pecan pie.  One bite won’t hurt you.  Go on, have some.”

And then there are the people who watch every bite they eat – and every bite YOU eat.

They say, “Oh, I shouldn’t have this.”  Or worse, “Do you think you should eat that?  Do you really need that?”

And then there are people who talk about food as if it’s a person.  “Oh, what a beautiful turkey.  What a gorgeous ham.  Everything looks beautiful.  I’m so in love with this meal.”

Personally, I don’t think food is beautiful or gorgeous.  People are beautiful (inside and out).

Love belongs to relationships between humans.  You love your husband, your wife, your girlfriend, boyfriend, your kids, your parents.  Food isn’t worthy of your love.

All this focus on food can lead to a lot of stress – you’re anxious, upset, and sad – and if you don’t have other strategies to deal with those stressful emotion, that makes you more vulnerable to using food to cope. 

So it can be a vicious cycle.  The key is to learn to express feelings in words, instead of behavior.

How do you stop the cycle?

People often think they are triggered by food but they’re not.  They’re usually triggered by situations and experiences that are painful or upsetting, and make them want to turn to food to cope – to numb, or distract from what’s upsetting them.

Start by asking yourself some questions:

*What is the most difficult part of the holidays?  Food?  Family?  Lack of family?

*What do you like about the holiday season?  What do you dislike?

*What helps during this time?

*What doesn’t help?

*What are the emotional triggers?

This helps you understand yourself better and know what your true triggers are – situational and emotional.  When you deal with and process those situations and feelings directly, you won’t use food as a coping strategy.

What is my top survival tip for the holidays?

Be a social anthropologist.    

When you're watching and observing, you're not a participant.  Observing means creating some distance and that distance can be very illuminating.

When you hear your mom or dad or grandparents criticize your sister or brother or cousin, or even themselves, you can see more clearly how you learned to criticize yourself. 

When you realize that your mother apologizes for every bite she eats, you’ll recognize how you learned to feel guilty for every bite you take.

It doesn’t matter whether you celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or Kwanza, or nothing, pay attention to what’s going on around you.

Which category does everyone at the table fit into?  Are they drunk, jealous, show-offs, or relentlessly perfect?

What do you like about them?  What do you appreciate?  What do you dislike?  Give yourself permission to hold the positive and negatives about others – it’ll make it easier to hold both about yourself.

Do you like people better because they’re thin?  Probably not.

When you’re observing others, you don’t feel as much under observation.  That makes you feel less self-conscious, and you feel better.  When you feel better, you’re less likely to use food to cope.

Add some gratitude!

It’s the holidays, and ultimately the holidays are about gratitude, so be grateful.  Think of one thing you appreciate; whether it’s a person or a situation, because hanging onto one good thing can keep you going when things are challenging.   

And with that in mind, be grateful for yourself, and practice self-acceptance and self-care.  You’ll feel better, and when you feel better, you’re less likely to use food to cope.  And as I like to say to my listeners and viewers, that’s how you win the diet war.

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