Oh, the holidays – a time that means so much to so many. Twinkling lights, bustling bodies, gift-wrapping galore, and food. Lots and lots of food.
Needless to say, the holidays are loaded with potential for a slew of different feelings. And for those struggling with their relationship with food it can be a particularly challenging time. Compound the feelings with all the messages about diets and body-related resolutions for the New Year, and we have ourselves a perfect storm of unhelpful messages.
The good news is that despite these obstacles, sound nutrition and self-care strategies work across the board, even in, and especially during, the holiday season.
Nourish Your Body
When the world is out there telling you to eat a certain way, or not a certain way, you can come back to the basics. Your body has no idea it’s a certain time of year, it just knows it needs nutrition to function. In other words, it’s another day of the year, your nutritional needs don’t change just because the calendar reads a certain date. Here are some questions that may be helpful to explore:
- Has it been more than 3 or 4 hours since I’ve last eaten? Time to eat!
- Am I including a variety of foods in my intake? Holiday favorites span a variety of nutrients, so take this opportunity to be creative with meeting your needs.
- What kind of support do I need? It’s often helpful to cope ahead for a meal that will be challenging. Can a loved one help with plating foods if seeing a buffet is sometimes stressful? Or be there for support if food judgements invade your headspace?
Remember Your Values
Diet culture likes to put food and bodies at the front, center, and top of every priority list. Coming back to your values, what truly matters to you in your life, can help reprioritize and place food in its rightful place as one of many important aspects of our lives. Whether it be connection, service, learning, integrity, community, or other values, find what resonates for you and use it. Some more questions that may be helpful to explore:
- Is my choosing to eat this food bringing me towards or taking me away from my value(s)?
- How is that thought about food and/or my body affecting my ability to be present?
- What are food choices that I can make that better help me connect with what I find important?
This time can be challenging, and along with those challenges, that inner food critic (often referred to as the food police) can rear its ugly head. Bringing in some self-compassion with your inner nurturer can make the eating experience more bearable and sometimes, dare I say it, enjoyable! It will not look perfect because there is not such thing as perfect eating. When that critic starts turning up the volume, you can refer to those questions above: Am I feeding myself? Am I taking actions that align with my values? What do I need right now?
Sending you lots of compassion and light this holiday season. You’ve got this!
Adee Levinstein, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, CEDS-S is a Nutrition Manager at Eating Recovery Center of Maryland. As a Certified Eating Disorders Specialist-Supervisor and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Adee’s work and passion center in helping others pursue peace and healing in their relationship with food, exercise, and body.