Eating your feelings this holiday season?

For many of us, the hol­i­day sea­son can be a stress­ful one. Many demands, many respons­ib­il­it­ies, many parties. There is so much good cheer going around, and so much food. This can be a tough sea­son to nav­ig­ate when we are try­ing to hon­our our bod­ies, and ourselves.

The tough­er part is that most of us haven’t been taught how to adequately rest, stop, and decom­press. We’re often taught to go out­side ourselves for sooth­ing our com­plic­ated feel­ings, and some of these extern­al beha­viours can be pos­it­ive. Exercise, yoga, deep breath­ing, call­ing a friend, walk­ing the dog, journ­al­ing… these are all good cop­ing mech­an­isms.

But in real­ity, at work or in the middle of a shop­ping mall, when you are feel­ing tired and over­whelmed from hol­i­day demands, under pres­sure to get everything fin­ished before the hol­i­days begin… per­haps that box of chocol­ates is call­ing. You know in the short-term that sug­ar rush will make you feel awe­some, but in the long-term eat­ing half a box will make you feel sick, and doesn’t always deal with how you are feel­ing any­way. So, what do you do?

Step 1: Acknowledge

Be aware that you might be eat­ing because you are feel­ing unsettled. That could be a small unsettled as in “I’m tired” or a lar­ger unsettled “This is a hard time of year because I’m miss­ing loved ones who are far away, or no longer with me”. Whatever the reas­on, start­ing the aware­ness is import­ant.

Step 2: Have a prepared strategy

After you know what you are doing, you need to act. Walk out of the room, get a cup of water or tea, turn on some music that makes you feel good, escape to a quiet stair­well or even a bath­room stall to take a deep breath or two. Whatever you can feas­ibly do to sep­ar­ate your­self. Sometimes those strategies will fail, but start­ing them is import­ant.

Step 3: Be physical

Get mov­ing! The hol­i­days shift us out of our exer­cise routine into sit­ting or just sleep­ing to recov­er, when it really would be just as nice to go for a walk with a friend or head to your kick­box­ing class on Wednesdays that makes you feel like a war­ri­or. Try to hon­our your phys­ic­al routines that make you feel empowered. The endorphins you’ll get from exer­cise do calm a busy mind, even if ini­tially it seems like it’s doing noth­ing.

Step 4: Be compassionate

It’s ser­i­ously dif­fi­cult to res­ist peer pres­sure and say no to a bunch of treats that you really want. It’s a great time, but it’s also com­plic­ated. Give your­self a vir­tu­al hug for try­ing to hon­our your­self.

Step 5: Be realistic

If you eat double your typ­ic­al cal­or­ies, includ­ing foods you know are really only good in small doses, and you don’t exer­cise, you’re going to gain weight. It’s a simple equa­tion really, energy in must be less than the energy out. Translation — it’s going to hap­pen. Rather than beat your­self up or feel really restric­ted, accept that those beha­viours will lead to unwanted out­comes, and get back on track when you’re back to your reg­u­lar routine.

Step 6: Combat those negative thoughts

So if you do feel sad, and have a few more cook­ies than you should, try to coun­ter­act a neg­at­ive thought with a pos­it­ive one. For example,

Negative thought:

I can’t believe I ate those cook­ies when I know I shouldn’t

Positive thought

I drank some water/​took some deep breaths/​took the stairs today. I’m mak­ing pro­gress.

So let’s work with our bod­ies this hol­i­day sea­son, and work on stay­ing healthy and pos­it­ive.

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