Sunday, December 7, 2014

If you're struggling with your eating you're not alone! Strategies for the holidays and beyond.

These past weeks more people appear to be struggling with their eating. I don't know if statistics support it, and I haven't done a study. It's simply what I'm noticing. So I thought it might be valuable to share what I'm hearing. Because if they're feeling and thinking these thoughts, you just might be, too. 

And I'm hoping that regardless of your type of eating struggle that you'll feel a bit more supported after reading this post. These are not simply holiday eating concerns. Rather, it appears that preexisting concerns get heightened during this time of year.

Setting the record straight

The holiday season may not be the happiest time of the year as the Christmas songs may suggest. There are the common stresses--there's much to get done in limited time, like shopping, meal planning and cooking, perhaps accompanied by a bit of financial concern. Most often these fall on the woman of the house, adding to her usual responsibilities, it seems. You might even have to get dressed up for holiday parties, presenting it's own issues.  And the added stress doesn't make the abundant food challenges any easier. No, you're not alone if you're struggling to eat well this time of year. Here are a few common themes I've been hearing and some guidance to help you through.
  • Dealing with unstructured time like days off and weekends can be a challenge. Your schedule and your eating can get thrown off leaving you not so confident about what is and when it's okay to eat. But you can always add your own structure. If you wake up late, still make a point of eating within an hour of waking regardless of the time. Be cautious to avoid long intervals without eating, and do include at least 3 meals. Keep snacks handy when you're out and about, to have whenever you might need them--regardless of the hour. Be vocal too-- just because the person you're with doesn't need to eat, doesn't mean you don't need to!
  • It's a struggle giving yourself permission to enjoy great tasting foods. And as a result, you lay on the guilt. And feeling bad about your eating truly does nothing positive. You're more likely to eat those desireable foods quickly, when no one is in sight, and with less enjoyment, than if you truly gave yourself permission to taste them and fully take them in with pleasure. Normal, healthy people eat holiday foods including cakes and sweets--and it's ok. Really. And you are no different. In fact, one of the best things you can do is not expect that you will only eat that special food just this once. Because that now or never feeling will only backfire, leading you to want to overeat those foods--whether or not you're hungry.
  • It takes 3,500 calories to gain a single pound. That's 3,500 surplus calories, over and above your needs for maintaining your weight. So the impact of some pie or Buche de Noel? Not even a dent. Now's the time to start legalizing the foods you enjoy, but start with just one item at a time. See the blog posts on this subject for more guidance. 
  • You feel like you're eating all the time.  Frankly you just might be eating all the time, by which I mean 5 or 6 times per day. Yup, that is absolutely normal. Why pathologize frequent eating, as if it's some problem?  We do need to eat regularly-- for energy, for fuel, to prevent rebound overeating, and to prevent the decreased interest in eating that can snowball into full fledged restricting for those so inclined. Just be sure that when you eat you allow yourself to truly get enough. And ask yourself if you're reaching for food to manage stress, or boredom, or because you've already given up and plan to take control on January 1st.
  •  Everyone seems to be focused on weight and dieting and food guilt. You know, the "I really shouldn't be eating this but..." It's really too bad. But you can break from the pack and cut off the triggering chat by redirecting the conversation. Use a simple statement like, "subject change" then ask a question on a different subject. You also might need to turn off the TV for some months til the diet talk subsides. And consider blocking posts from friends with triggering diet and body image talk!
  •  You feel ashamed to be seeking help for your eating because you simply don't think you're thin enough to really have a problem, never mind an eating disorder. And that makes it all the more challenging asking for help. Seek guidance from those who specialize in eating disorders; we are well aware that food struggles exist in those of so called normal weight, and that anorexia and bulimia know no weight limits. People of all sizes may struggle with anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. And it is no less serious in those in the "normal" BMI range.

Please know you're not alone. But please reach out for help to those that get it. If you're a parent, check out FEAST. If you're an adult with an eating disorder, regardless of your gender, check out aspire. Look at pro recovery websites linking from this blog, and check out their links too. National and local organizations like the Butterfly Foundation, MEDA, NEDA and others can help direct you for support and care. Virtual supports as well as live supports abound and it's not too late to change your relationship with food--and to recover from an eating disorder.

Wishing you all a peaceful holiday season!


  1. This is helpful. I often forget how "normal" people eat. I've had a few triggering moments already and plan on consulting your archives for some much needed reality checks this holiday season. Thanks!