The holiday season is meant to be a joyous one, filled with family time, gifts, and, of course, all the food your heart can desire. For those that struggle with their body image and their relationship with food, however, feelings of joy, excitement and happiness are often replaced with feelings of dread, fear and guilt.
It can be overwhelming trying to navigate large family meals when all you want to do is run away and hide if your relationship with your body and food isn’t where you’d like it to be. Well, after nearly two years of limited family time due to ~that which shall not be named~, we shouldn’t let food guilt stop us from enjoying our time together. So how can we combat this?
How To Ditch Food Guilt?
Everyone’s relationship with food is unique and individual to them, so the things that may work for someone may not work for others. Regaining the trust of your body and your mind is a journey and is unlikely to happen overnight. Thankfully, even taking a few steps in the right direction can be massively helpful and healing.
Tips to help ditch the food guilt this holiday season:
1. If you’re in a family setting and the food starts to overwhelm you, remove yourself for a quick breather.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking some time to yourself, especially if the thought of big family events with lots of food stresses you out. Go to the toilet or a room, or step outside for a few minutes and try some deep breathing. This can help reset our parasympathetic nervous system which controls our stress response. Getting back in touch with our body can help us eat mindfully and reduce the feelings of worry.
2. Accept that you’re likely to eat more over the holidays, which is completely fine and does not make you ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’.
Eating more than usual is okay. Eating more sweet food than usual is okay. Eating less nutritious food than usual is okay. None of these things affect who you are as a person and do not take away your worth. Ensuring the only contingency plan you have when eating more is to accept this and move on with your life is vital to reduce the likelihood of the guilt occurring again. This means not planning to overexercise to ‘make up’ for the extra food and not restricting to limit your intake at a later date. These behaviours contribute to the cycle of guilt and are more likely to make you binge or feel worse later on.
3. You do not need to pick more nutritious foods over less nutritious foods if you’re craving something that has lower nutritional value.
Fancy a plate of veg over stuffing and pigs in blankets? Go for it! Fancy stuffing and pigs in blankets but going for veg because the other food is too ‘naughty’? Not necessary. Listening to our bodies can feel wrong, especially if we’ve spent years questioning and defying our true hunger signals and cravings. Allowing ourselves to eat the food we crave can help us get back in touch with what our bodies want, even if this initially feels wrong to us. Over time, this will become a lot more natural and feel less intense.
4. Ask your family/friends to reduce diet or calorie talk.
Or, if you’re a family member/friend looking to support someone with their relationship with food, limit the diet and calorie talk as much as possible. When we solely focus on the calorie content of food and talk about diets as the response to eating, we reduce food to nothing more than a basic human need, which it isn’t. Food can have cultural meaning and be used when we’re happy or we’re sad and is not simply a basic human need. Not making a big deal of what we’ve eaten is a really easy and simple way to make room for acceptance of all foods.
There is always room for improvement when it comes to our relationship with food, and the above suggestions are definitely not an exhaustive list of how to help ourselves, though they are a great place to start. Even taking the first step is a huge accomplishment. It can be scary trying to change our ways in a diet-centric culture, and you should be proud of yourself for going against the grain and taking control back over your body and food.
If you’re interested in learning more on how this can be supported and nurtured, or if you’re in need of some extra support yourself, please get in touch with me and I’d be happy to have chat or call with you to discuss your needs. You do not need to embark on this alone and I offer varying levels of support. Just press the button below and send me an email, or DM me on instagram and I’d be happy to have a chat!