“I’m so bad for eating these cookies.”
“The Holidays are coming, so I’d better spend more time at the gym.”
The pervasive messaging around the holidays is one of “sinful indulgences.” Many people struggle with feelings of anxiety or guilt over the abundance of food around the holidays and perhaps eating in a way that is different from their “norm.”
As a therapist who specializes in helping people to make peace with food and their bodies, the following are a few quick reminders if you are struggling with food guilt around the holidays.
1. Remind yourself that food and morality do not go together.
You aren’t “bad” for eating pie (unless you stole it!) or “good” for eating green beans. This idea of “good” and “bad” foods keeps people stuck in an unhealthy relationship to food.
For example, let’s say that I think cookies are “bad” and I should avoid them. What might happen if the cookie looks appealing and I end up having one? Some people will then proceed to binge on or overeat more cookies, with the thought being “Screw it. I’ve already messed up today, so might as well eat more cookies.” Others, may simply sit with feelings of guilt-which could cause them to restrict or “try to compensate” later.
You can overdose on kale (yes, this is actually a thing) in the same way that you can overdose on cake. All foods can fit into a healthy diet, and no foods are “good” or “bad.”
2. Recognize that food guilt takes you away from connecting to people.
Being fixated on your body and food over the holidays, can take you away from the moment and your ability to connect with people.
One big aspect of health and longevity is social connections and relationships. When you stress about what you are eating, this can cause you to isolate yourself from others or to not be fully present with them.
Do you really want to reflect on the holidays as a time that you spent focused on your body or food? Work to shift your focus to the real importance of the holiday, and to being able to enjoy the present moment.
3. Notice the unhelpful food thoughts, and then practice some coping statements.
It’s important to start out by simply noticing any judgmental or unhelpful thoughts that you are having around food. Pretend that you are an anthropologist of your own inner experiences, and start to get curious about the things that you are telling yourself.
We have thousands of thoughts per day, but not everything that we tell ourselves is true. Once you are able to notice your unhelpful thoughts, practice responding to yourself with some coping statements.
· All foods can fit into a healthy diet.
· I deserve to nourish myself with food that I enjoy.
· Food isn’t only good for the body, but also for the soul.
· Mental health is an important part of health and being anxious around food, is not mentally healthy.
· Food isn’t just fuel, it’s also about pleasure, connection, and joy.
· One meal or snack will not have an impact on my health or weight.
· When my body digests food, glucose looks the same-it doesn’t matter if it came from quinoa or cake.
· My weight is the least interesting thing about me.
· I am not more valuable if I take up less space.
Enjoy the Holiday, Guilt-Free
If you are struggling with this, it’s so important to reach out for help. No one should have to go through this alone and you can recover from disordered eating and eating disorders.
Ultimately, you deserve to enjoy the holiday guilt-free, because guilt-free foods=all foods.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Germantown, and Washington D.C. Connect with Jennifer through her website: www.jenniferrollin.com
Purchase Jennifer’s webinar on healing from body hate and practicing self-compassion.