On top of thoughts about family (some we may love dearly and some we’d like to never have to see again), friends, travel plans, money and gift stress, and increased time pressures we certainly don’t need anything else to fret about at what is supposed to be a most fun and peaceful time of year.
But if we are stressed about our relationship with food and uncomfortable with our weight, we naturally have another layer of stress, a chronic 24/7 chatter in our brain, that cranks up a few more notches at this time of year.
- What can I eat and what can’t I go near?
- What will others think if I have that and what will they think if I don’t?
- Will there be anything there that is on the diet or that doesn’t trigger a binge?
- What if I overeat!!??
- What are so-and-so going to think about what I look like? Will they notice I’ve gained weight?
- How much weight am I going to gain this Christmas?
- When am I going to fit in my workouts? And what’s going to happen to me if I can’t??
- What diet am I starting in the New Year?
Well, how on earth can you possibly relax and enjoy yourself when you’re saddled with a brain that is incessantly stressing you out with thoughts of food and body image? Aren’t the holiday’s challenging enough?
I think so!
And so, that’s why I thought I’d take this opportunity, in my last newsletter of 2012, to offer you a few simple tips for feeling more comfortable around food this holiday season.
These tips are among the tools that I teach the men and women who come to our Master Series workshops. And they help to create clarity and peace around food very quickly. So, as my gift to you, here are a few suggestions.
- First off, before you eat anything, simply stop and ask yourself the question: “Am I hungry?” If you’re not sure, you’re not hungry. If your answer is “I don’t care! I just want the food!” you’re not hungry. You can still eat. You can always still eat. Just be honest with yourself that you’re not hungry. You’re using food to cope with the situation and/or you’re enjoying the rush of sugar molecules into your blood stream and the natural and quite immediate raising of your dopamine levels. Damn, that chocolate feels good!!!
- If you’re not hungry and you’re open to exploring why you’re reaching for your 5th or perhaps 15th Turtle, simply ask yourself: “What just happened or what was I just thinking that might have made me a little anxious or uncomfortable?” That will at least help you to understand that there is something else going on besides you lacking willpower and being unable to trust yourself around food. You’re eating to distract and soothe yourself. So, either grant yourself permission to do that for now and let it go and truly enjoy it. Or stop. Anything else is self-abuse and quite unkind, definitely unhelpful and will likely make you moody and insecure, thus adding to your need for more food to cope and so on and so on…
- Now, if you’re actually hungry when you check in, here’s what to do:
a. Ask yourself, “On a scale of 1-10, 1 being not at all hungry and 10 being so ravenous I could eat a horse, where would I place my hunger right now?”
b. Then ask yourself: “What am I planning to do between this meal and the next time I have a meal? How active am I going to be? How much energy do I need?”
c. Then, based on your answers to a & b, ask yourself: “What kind of food could I have now that would give me the greatest support in having the energy I need to do what I need to do and, based on my hunger?, how much of it do I need?” Please note, regardless of how many years you’ve spent ignoring your body or using food to cope, you’ll be surprised how quickly you’re able to figure this piece out. So bear with me and give this a try.
- Now eat what you’ve just decided would be the best fit and the amount that you imagined you would need.
- When you’re done eating simply scan your body for fullness cues (How does your tummy feel? How is your energy level?) If you like how you feel and your energy is good, then you now know that when you are about that # of hunger (as in ‘a’), you need about that much food (as in ‘b’) in order to feel comfortably full. This gives you a good visual and physical anchor and makes it easier to figure out what and how much to eat next time.
If you aren’t feeling comfortable in your tummy and you’re feeling tired or like you need to rest for a bit, you know that you overshot your mark and had a bit much and that that much food for that level of hunger is a bit more than you need. At the next meal check in again in the same way and adjust your numbering to reflect this new information. You’ll be surprised how quickly you are able to dial right in to how much food you need at any meal.
Alternatively, if you’re still feeling a little hungry, you know you undershot the mark and that next time you can take a little more in order to respect the needs of your body and what it is telling you. Remember, leaving your body feeling hungry naturally triggers feelings of anxiety and creates a greater likelihood of binging when you next get around food. That’s just human physiology and not a reflection on your willpower or ability to stick to a goal. If your goal is to underfeed yourself your body will find ways to ensure that you are not successful in its attainment.
There’s so much more I could share with you about food and eating naturally and not gaining weight while having what you really want to have. But you have shopping to do and either some packing or some cleaning to tackle and this is a great start that will help you to feel more confident in the choices you make this holiday season.
Any and all of these will teach you the tools you need to resolve the things in your life that keep you feeling unsettled and trigger you to use food to cope while also helping you to learn to feel truly peaceful and trusting of yourself around any food anytime anywhere.
That’s my Christmas wish for you: True confidence and peace in yourself, anytime, anywhere.
Until the New Year!