The Holiday Season is upon us, and with New Year’s around the corner so is all the diet and “New Year- New You” Talk, this can often mean more conversation about dieting, restricting food after indulging in your holiday favorites, pressure to start a new program in January to deal with “holiday weight-gain”, and a general feeling of shame or guilt from others.
As a Certified Holistic Nutrition Practitioner, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Coach Practitioner, & Mindful Eating Coach, I wanted to share with you some tips as to how you can release toxic diet mentality or external food shaming to celebrate the holiday season while honouring your mental, physical & emotional health. I have put together Three simple cognitive tools & tangible mindset tools to take with you into the holidays and into the new year.
“Free yourself from “diet mentality” to create space for a healthy relationship with food & body”Jennifer Bolus
1) Mind Your Own Plate (as well as others’)
Constant external chatter about “diet” and “anti-diet” ideals can cause a heavy cognitive load which has a ripple effect on our mental, emotional, & physical well-being. Being around friends and family during the holiday may mean opening yourself up to food, diet vs. “anti-diet” and weight and/or body conversations. Deciding how to navigate comments whether around what you are or are not eating, having food pushed at you, judging your food choices ( both ways! eating that salad or eating the cookie), and general weight talk can help reduce any anxiety and stress prior to the event. There are no right or wrong ways to handle these conversations when you are working on redefining your own relationship with health and body. Here are simple and kind reminders to help yourself when you find yourself in these types of food chatter conversations:
- Give yourself permission to say nothing
- Give yourself permission to take a break from the table
- Give yourself permission to have boundaries around how much you feel like sharing about your relationship with food & your journey about rewiring your mindset around food.
- Give yourself permission to excuse yourself from conversations about food shaming
- Give yourself permission that you are not always going to have the “perfect” thing to say and that’s ok
- Give yourself & others’ permission to be where they are at on their own journey without judgment to you or them. Kindness and empathy go a long way which is where Mindful Eating vs. Anti-Diet preaching is a safe space to live in.
- Give yourself permission to not be shamed or bullied by toxic diet culture or polarized anti-diet culture (yes.. I said that, careful advocacy is not just shaming others but with a different oppressive stick).
No matter the reason for the food or diet talk (and whether you find it hurtful, toxic, or just plain rude) if you don’t want to engage in it, you shouldn’t have to. Whatever your boundaries are, it’s okay to assert them for your wellness. We are all biochemically unique, we have separate experiences with food and our both, and we all have different preferences and needs, so when we stop comparing and commenting on each other’s plates it gives everyone permission to establish healthy relationships with food and body. Mindful Eating allows for empathy, kindness, and love to be shown to yourself and others vs. the shame & blame game. If you want to learn more about the basics of Mindful Eating check out my Mindful Eating 101 article here:
2) Applying a Self-Care Approach to your Holiday Plate
Most of us are familiar with the term “self-care” which is defined as
“The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health”.Oxford Dictionary
Using a Self-Care Approach to food through the Mindful Eating Lense allows silencing the external food & body chatter while empowering our internal intuition to guide our choices based on our unique needs, wants, & preferences. This means that you simply try and do what feels good to YOU over the holiday season by having an open conversation with yourself. This can look like pausing and being curious about- “why you want what you want?” without judgment. “Do I want this because I am stressed?”, ” What can I do to help address the feeling of stress I am experiencing?”, “Am I wanting to work out because I think I have to because of what I ate (diet mentality) vs because it makes me feel mentally stronger to take on my day ?”(self-care approach), and “What can I do today to honor myself?”
When we ask ourselves questions from a self-care approach it moves the internal narrative from a “diet/anti-diet” state to a higher state of mindfulness and intentional food and lifestyle choices that serve our overall state of well-being. Choosing intentions self-care practices and nourishing behaviors to meet your unique needs can help you move effortlessly through the holiday season in a more enjoyable, sustainable, and less restrictive way.
If you are new to incorporating Self-Care Practices into your daily routine and not sure where to start, please join me for the Annual 25-Day Self-Care Advent Calendar Event, daily self-care practices delivered to your inbox from December 1- December 25th every year to support you on your food and body wellness journey! Plus there are $2000.00 plus of self-care prizes to win. Learn about the Annual Self-Care Advent Calendar Event here
3) Release Restriction this Holiday Season
Ok! I know.. I know. Saying that can feel a little scary, it feels scary because we have learned from our grandmothers, our mothers, our sisters, and from social media that if we don’t restrict food we will have no control and “let ourselves go”. For many of us we have heard this narrative for as long as we can remember from all around us.
Now, let’s talk about what we know in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy & Cognitive Rewiring Thinking Approaches:
- When we restrict ANYTHING as living creatures- we want it 10x more
- When we tell our brain that something is off limits- the brain becomes clinically ridgid and perseverates around that very thing.
- When we are in a restrictive mindset, we can only think about that one thing and therefore the frontal lobe tells us a logical solution is to use it all, eat it all, do it all until its gone just so our mind can have reprieve and rest from constantly thinking about that one thing (this is why you might have held the belief that “I cant have chips or ice cream in the house cause I have to eat it all till its gone).
- Restriction (of anything) gives us a false sense of control and at times when stress is high or we feel we have less control we look to these rigid cognitive thought patterns for stability and safety during these “out of control” times. This is the basic foundational cognitive wiring that classic diets work on, “perfectionism” and “control”. So if we use our number two tip (approach your needs with self-care approach) then we can address our feeling of anxiety or stress during the holiday season without the false sense of control
So, with the above in mind I ask you to let go the white knuckle grip of the holiday season. Let go the need for everything to be perfect. Be present in the moments with yourself and your needs and release restriction and perfectionism and watch! You will be surprised that when you give yourself permission to have the sugar cookies how that plate might just last longer on the counter than it did before because with permission you release the preservative thoughts around the food because YES YOU CAN have it.
Moving Forward in Kindness this Season
“Food is strength, and food is peace, and food is freedom, and food is a helping hand to people around the world whose good will and friendship we want”John F. Kennedy
The holidays are a time to gather with friends and family, to enjoy all the tastes, smells, and feels of the season, and to celebrate in all the goodness this time of year! There’s no need to hold yourself back from enjoying it all, and you don’t have to hold back in order to enjoy yourself and feel well. Simply it takes you showing up just as you are, silencing ALL the external chatter around food & body this season, LOVING yourself enough to apply intentional mindfulness and care to your needs this holiday season.
Wishing you Rejoice in all the happiness, health, and joy this season has to bring.