Historically, when it comes to food on holidays, I completely lose my shit. Go off the rails. Eat my weight in potato chips. And gain quite a bit of weight that I end up attempting to work off all winter, sometimes longer. Even if I do well leading up to it, exercising and eating well, the day of the actual holiday comes and it starts at least a 5 day eating frenzy! Thanksgiving is no exception – my husband, brother and law and I spend the whole 4 days together reading, playing games, binge-watching The Walking Dead, enjoying cocktails and eating up all the leftovers.
Considering I make a lot of vegetables, this doesn’t have to be a big deal, but since there is also lots of pie, cheesecake and leftover appetizers and dips and things, it’s been ugly many times in the past. I can think of multiple occasions when I found myself sitting on the couch with a bowl of chips and dip after guests left, not even hungry, but desperately wanting that rich creamy deliciousness that I hadn’t had since the previous Thanksgiving. Sure, I ate some in front of guests, but I wanted to consume a large quantity of it, when I could enjoy it without the distraction of others.
I’d go to bed with a full and distended belly and wake up the next morning feeling physically terrible and emotionally fragile. I’d feel so defeated (by dip, it’s just dip!!!) that I’d eat breakfast and yet be counting down the hours until I could snack on whatever tasty item my mind was obsessed with in the fridge. And then I’d snack on that, and then something else, and something else, until by the end of the 4 day weekend I was sick, irritable and a good 8 lbs heavier. Getting myself back to normal eating after several days of this was always hard, especially with Christmas season following close behind.
The last couple of years I’ve been able to stop the ridiculousness before it began. What’s awesome about that is not only do I not physically feel sick for days at a time but I also get to enjoy the rest of the holiday season without feeling shitty about myself, which means I don’t do things (like binge eat) that will make me feel even shittier. It’s a wonderful feeling to not feel so compelled to bury myself in food . . .but my solution to this annual problem was surprisingly simple.
I came to the realization that I can eat these foods any time I want. I’m not just saying that. It’s the truth. If I want them, I can eat them. I have free will. I have the $$ to buy them. I have the time and energy to make them. We make food choices every day and a choice I could choose is to eat dip and chips and cake more often, if i want!
I don’t just have to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy Ina’s pan-fried onion dip or Karina’s flourless chocolate cake and the reason I found myself going nuts on them is because I completely bought into the belief that I shouldn’t have them, I thought they were too fattening or that they were “bad” for me. I believed they were so bad for me that they took on an emotional charge – and that charge pulled me to them like a magnet and steel.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a good idea to eat cake and creamy dairy dips daily – but once a month, twice a month? That’s really not a big deal. Keeping these foods so off limits that they could only be enjoyed once or twice a year gave them a power over me that made eating them a charged experience.
Recognizing that I’m the only one putting a limit on these foods and that if I actually want to eat them I can, took the emotional charge away from them – which means I feel less out of control around them and frankly want them way less! I may eat them more frequently but I eat far less of them when I do.
When I do eat them now, they taste good and I enjoy them, but that compulsion to find a way to eat as much of it as I can is just a memory. Because, if I want to eat it again next week or next month, I very well can!
Let these ideas sink in:
- Rich, decadent foods aren’t “bad” and you are not “bad” for enjoying them occasionally.
- You can eat what you want, when you want to.
- You actually may not even want the things you thought you did when they are always available to you.
Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years are coming. Lots of holiday parties, cookie swaps, cocktails with the girls – think of what foods or drink you romanticize or obsess over and answer these questions (in your head is ok but on paper is more effective).
- What thoughts do you have around them?
- Describe what you hope to get when you eat these foods. What feelings will they bring you (good or bad)?
- How does eating them make you feel about yourself?
- Do you have any restrictions around these foods (when, how, why you should enjoy them)?
- What do you think would happen if you could let yourself eat these foods whenever you wanted?
- If you did eat these foods whenever you wanted, how much do you think you would eat? How long before you get sick of these foods?
- Are you willing to let go of some of the charge these foods hold for you?
I know this sounds overly simple, and it is. It’s just one of many steps you can take to have a more relaxed life with food. We think getting better requires some major complicated epiphany but really it’s just many different steps and thoughts, practiced over and over and over again, until eating in a more loving and kind way becomes your norm. Every week I come here and write about some aspect of emotional eating, dieting, binge eating or other related subject and sometimes it won’t speak to you, other times it will hit the nail on the head. Maybe, just maybe THIS idea is one that will speak to you.
And if it does, let’s do a call! The intro session is free.