Holidays: Like ’em or Lump ’em?

Hello out there in the CEDRIC community. Okay! Is anyone other than me excited with the change in the season!? I love the fall! It’s fresh and crisp and often sunny-ish where I live. Its coming signals the start of the holiday run, with Thanksgiving and Halloween and Christmas and of course New Year’s Eve all on their way. If you don’t use food to cope these are fabulous times where you’re totally present and enjoying the company of the people around you, or even enjoying your own company immensely and in a life-enhancing way (ie. not with food, drugs, alcohol, isolation, procrastination, over-exercise, anger, self-harm, shopping….etc.). However, if you do use food to cope, this time of year can be extremely stressful.

Holidays, The Abundant Food and Your Weight

I want to invite you to consider something for a moment: How you feel about the holidays tells you a lot about where you’re at in your recovery and in your personal growth on the whole. Just as summer can be stressful for those of us who struggle with food and body image focus, because we’re forced to wear less or stand out like a sore thumb, not to mention sweat to death; the holiday stretch (as I call it) can be equally or more stressful. This is because it forces us into conscious awareness of each of the 3 key issues that we deal with in recovery: Our relationship with food; Our relationship with others; and Our relationship with Ourselves (a.k.a. our self-perception or level of self-esteem). Ugh! One is bad enough – but the 3 all together – and not just once but a few times in 2 months – that’s just unfair!!! If we overeat, restrict or purge as part of our day to day lives, we are going to feel a lot of stress just thinking about the food and family combo – let alone the issue of what the hell to wear!! Did I say Ugh already!? This used to be a very stressful time for me – darn it all – any time used to be stressful for me. I overate like the dickens, hated myself, thought I was worthless, felt less-than anyone else and like they were only talking to me or being my “friend” because they felt sorry for me. I felt like no one really knew me and so any family or party gatherings were so forced and phony to me and I felt so gross and fat and ugly…..I’d just go home, binge, beat myself up verbally, restrict, force myself to go to the gym, go home and overeat again! Need I say more? Not my favorite time of year at that time in my life! I used to believe, with all my heart, that the reason I felt so gross and so unacceptable was because of what I weighed, which, of course, was a direct result of what I ate. Thus, the culprit, the architect of all my woes, was food. If I could only get a handle on what I ate (for more than 5 minutes!) I would finally be happy, peaceful, free and acceptable. Life would be grand. The only problemo with this perfect plan was that because I needed food to cope and I was totally stressed just stepping out my front door, I couldn’t do anything to change my overeating/purging/restriction cycle (also known as the: Diet – Binge – Guilt Cycle). I was stuck. I felt like a total failure. I knew what I had to do, why the heck couldn’t I just do it? Was I too lazy? Didn’t I have enough willpower? Didn’t I care enough about myself? Was I always going to be overweight and hate myself? Should I just give up and get it over with and stay home and eat and gain 800 pounds!? What’s the use, I would wonder, daily, countless times. You can imagine how energized, enthused and optimistic I felt with these thoughts on constant repeat in my head! Well, the truth is, as long as I, or anyone else for that matter, was focused on food as the problem to be remedied I was going to be stuck. It’s like putting all of your efforts into bailing a leaky row boat without ever taking the time to see if you can find the source of the leak, or, to be more precise; without ever realizing that the water in the boat is coming from somewhere! Now that’s living with some serious blinders on! Think about it. Don’t we do that with food? Don’t we just focus on what we’re eating and how fat we are and how unacceptable our bodies are? Isn’t that like bailing the row boat without even considering that there is a source to the leak? Um….Yeah! Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that our food choices have no impact on our weight. What I am saying though is that if you have put effort into changing or controlling your food choices and you’re still struggling with food and body image issues, there’s a hole in the boat somewhere – guaranteed! Your efforts are far better spent looking for the hole for a little bit so that the next time you start bailing the water will not come back – ever. Oh, but the diet industry has taught us not to look for the leak, or certainly not to look too deeply. It’s about our poor moral fibre you see. We lack commitment, we lack strength, we lack willpower, we lack vision. Uh, huh, right. Think about it. How much commitment does it take to try the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over again for years even though it doesn’t provide the results it says it will? Isn’t that about the greatest sign of faith and commitment any human being can provide? Yes. And haven’t you done that with all the various diet plans and attempts at weight loss that you’ve made? Yes. And what have they all had in common? They all focus on food first. They all focus on the water in the boat without ever exploring fully the source of the leak. That approach will never be successful. It’s that simple. Find the leak, patch the leak, then bail the water. Soon you have a dry and fully functioning boat. Or for our purposes, a healthy, vibrant body that is a natural weight for you. Our holiday stress, to the degree that we experience it, tells us how much we are still focused on the bailing vs. patching the leak. If I’m stressed about seeing certain people, wearing certain things, or being around certain types or quantities of food, I’m still focused on the symptom of the problem and not the solution. My stress about seeing certain people tells me I have unfinished business with them and that I don’t feel confident and secure enough in myself to take care of myself verbally and emotionally, maybe even physically, in their presence. This is an indicator of a need to do some healing around your self-perception and your right and ability to set clear boundaries and to uphold them if they are pressed. It also indicates a need for some skills on respectful, direct, clear communication. My stress about wearing certain things or having to buy new clothes etc. tells me that I still think that what wear or what I look like in it, is a prime determinant of my worth and my acceptability and that people are going to be more focused on how I look than on who I am. This is a solid indicator of a strong external locus of control, where I am more concerned with others perspectives of me than I am with my own loving and valuing of myself as a deserving and worthwhile person. It also indicates that I believe that I will only be safe in social situations when I look a certain way and gain the approval of others. Here we have a strong need for tools to build a solid sense of our own values and principles and to know that as long as we are abiding fully by our own values and principles we truly don’t care what others think – we are doing our very best and we know it. But without this solid core we feel rudderless and constantly second guess how we’re doing and look to others to provide us with their interpretation of our “okay-ness.” Very dangerous stuff: turning our self-esteem over to someone else. And lastly, my stress about food: what’s going to be served; how much of it I’m “allowed” to have; how do I say no without standing out or offending; or conversely, how do I eat all the Nanaimo bars without anyone noticing??? If this is my focus I am in desperate need of the tools of natural eating where I have learned to eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, everything in moderation, no guilt, no negative self-talk all leading to a peaceful and easy connection with food and a natural weight loss that is easily sustainable. So, the things you wonder or worry or outright panic about over the holidays will tell you a lot about where you’re at in your healing and what pieces of the process you need to focus on to cement your recovery. Take advantage of your awareness of the stories in your head these days about the upcoming festivities to ask yourself if perhaps some of the tools I’ve mentioned above might be helpful. And if so, get started on the healing process so that next season, if not this one, can be truly peaceful and fun and so relaxing you’ll wish it was time for a big gathering and feast every day! If you’d like some support or some new tools in your tool kit contact us and let us show you how to have a peaceful and free time with food and body image over the holidays and beyond.     Love M. Michelle Morand P.S. I’d love to hear from you with your thoughts on holidays, food, and the whole enchilada, or pumpkin pie as it were! e-mail me @ and please know that unless you request otherwise your thoughts will be shared anonymously as a follow up to this article. Have a great day.

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