If we attempt to eat ‘perfectly’ during the holidays we’re more likely to fall into that all-or-nothing trap, and overindulge without restraints after the first “mistake”.  By preplanning treats, you are less likely to feel a loss of control.

Plan in advance how you will conduct yourself and what you will eat (not what you will NOT eat, since you must plan positively).  This will generate a feeling of self-control and self- confidence that will do wonders for self-esteem. 

This is the best advice to counteract the feelings of helplessness and guilt that accompany impulse eating.  Your pre-planning should include some self-indulgence.  The important thing is to outline a definite strategy, in writing, prior to the holidays. Your pre-planning should include the following behavioural techniques:

  • Cue Elimination: Be aware of what or who fills you with anxiety.   You may feel nervous or uncomfortable interacting with some people, even if it’s virtually; these people can drive you to eat.  Connect, however you can (phone, e-mail, video) with friends and family who mean the most to you. Chat with people or go for a walk with someone who builds you up, boosts your energy and is a positive support system.
  • Tuned-in Eating: Do nothing else when eating; focus in on taste and chewing.
  • Alternative Activity Strategies: Do something that makes it harder to eat such as talking, walking, playing music, crafting, building, meditating, a workout, cleaning, games, or reading.  Although we are limited in where we can go right now, try to create some activities at home or outdoors that keep you in the present moment.
  • Contingency Contracts: “If-then” agreements to help you stick to your plan, for example: “If I stick with my plan on Christmas Eve, then I will treat myself to a new audiobook.”
  • Mental Programming: Think about how you might overcome problems and obstacles in a situation and mentally rehearse.
  • Exercise: Schedule time for exercise just as you would any other appointment and make it a priority.  Even 15 minutes scheduled into your day will help energize the body and release stress.
  • Stay Hydrated. Drink water, herbal tea, broth, sparkling water or other no-sugar beverages through the day.
  • Share your feelings: this time of year brings up many emotions, for many people these can be negative or stressful.  I encourage you to share how you’re feeling with others, and delegate responsibilities if you are feeling overwhelmed.  

Planning ahead allows us to approach the holidays with less stress and more joy.  It also allows you to have realistic expectations for yourself and others.  Savour the little moments that make the holidays special, even though this holiday season might feel strange, uncertain and unlike any we’ve experienced.  Be aware of feelings of grief and try to share with someone who will listen from a caring place.  Cultivate fun however you can, and fuel yourself with healthy foods that will support your mood and energy.  Plan ahead for special foods, moments and activities, and you will feel empowered and in control.

You can do it.  Never give up!

Dr. B