Navigating food throughout the holiday season can be very difficult. There are more sweet and treat foods than any other part of the year. Days are packed with endless gatherings and obligations with work, family, and loved ones. You might be seeing people that you haven’t seen in ages, and even worse, they might comment on your body and how it’s changed since pre-COVID, or whenever. Here are our tips for managing the stress and decisions around food throughout these coming months.
Stay Well Nourished
One of the top unhealthy behaviors that crops up during the holidays is skipping meals, or under-eating in anticipation of an event or meal full of “unhealthy” or “bad” foods. Instead, we recommend doing the opposite. Eat small, frequent meals (4-6 times per day) with a balance of carbohydrates, fat, protein, and fiber; as discussed in more detail in our PCOS Diet Article. Eating frequently and in a balanced way allows you to keep cravings and the chance of overeating or binging, when you do eat, much lower.
Adapt Some Recipes
If you can add fiber (whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, veggies, whole fruits, etc.), reduce the salt, or reduce added sugars or saturated fats in some of your holiday recipes, without significantly altering the flavor, then give it a shot! However, you do not have to do this if it means enjoying the meal less. You can use the holidays to test out delicious new recipes, too. Use your creative cooking skills to spice it up either way (or keep it traditional) this season!
Allow Yourself to Enjoy Special Foods
Holiday times are notoriously accompanied by an influx of decadent treats and rich preparations of a variety of foods. These are items that are really only available or eaten during a small window of the year. Enjoy them! Eat the foods you are looking forward to. You may want to consider maintaining a generally balanced plate at celebratory meals, and an easy strategy could be filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. However, don’t stress it if you can’t manage this at a few more meals than usual. It’s the holidays after all, and the focus should be on enjoying the festivities with your nearest and dearest.
Consider Retiring the Scale
To be 100% honest, it is natural for your weight to go up slightly during the holiday season, and it is also natural for it to go down, without intentional interventions, after the season is over. Our bodies are shown to be great at naturally regulating our weight when we engage in a healthy, maintainable set of behaviors. You might want to put away the scale for a while if seeing these numbers change would be triggering or upsetting to you. Weight is just a number, and it is normal for it to bounce around at different parts of your life.
Wear Clothes You’re Confident (or Comfortable) In
Nothing is worse than enjoying a hearty, filling meal, and feeling constricted or uncomfortable in your clothes. If you can wear that figure-hugging dress and rock your food-baby with confidence, go for it – we’re sure you look amazing and well-nourished! However, if the waist of your pants is going to be digging in, or you’re going to feel self-conscious about the way you look once you’ve eaten, do yourself a favor and wear something more comfortable! Here is a golden rule of dressing: clothes are meant to fit YOUR body, not the other way around.
Unfollow Triggering Accounts
Social media, magazines, and influencers can all be sources of unfriendly diet or restrictive advice, disguised as how to stay/get slim/fit/healthy through the holidays. Unfollow accounts that feed into uncomfortable, obsessive, distressing, or anxiety-inducing behaviors. If you have to go hungry or banish favorite foods to “stay on track,” that is not a “lifestyle,” that is a diet. All foods can be enjoyed in moderation. The holidays are meant to enjoy and celebrate the things that are important in life, with the most important people in your life – let it be about that.
Utilize Joyful Movement
Staying active, or getting in small bouts of movement here or there can do wonders for offering a sense of taking care of one’s body at a time where our diets may not be the text-book picture of health. Even a short walk after dinner can improve digestion and make you feel physically better after eating foods that you might not have as often in ratios that might contribute to indigestion or GI upset. Gentle moving or stretching exercises can also feel great for your body and offer an accessible form of movement or exercise during the busy holiday season.
Practice Talking Back to the “Food Police”
Whether it comes from within your head, or from Aunt/Uncle/Grandma/Cousin Karen, practice responses to common damaging statements that might come up when relatives or indulgent food is in town. Here are some options:
- Are you sure you want to eat that? It has so much [fat, sugar, etc.]… → “Yes.”
- Wow, you’ve really [lost weight/put on some pounds during COVID] → “[Please don’t/It’s not okay to] comment on my body.”
Some general techniques can include:
- Responding with a simple yes or no, said with firmness
- Answer with a question
- “Why do you think that’s [appropriate/your business]?”
- “Why do you think it’s okay to comment on [someone’s plate/someone’s body]?”
- Offer a pointed response
- “I find that [offensive/rude/inappropriate].”
- “I have no interest in discussing [my food/body/plate] with you.”
- “I am not accepting opinions/comments about [my food/body/plate].”
It might be helpful to navigate these instances, along with your own moments of self-doubt or depreciation by preparing a few mantras for compassion during these moments. They might include:
- My body is smart – I trust my body’s signals.
- I trust my body when I want to eat [insert food here].
- I trust my body to properly use the food I put in it.
- I am always allowed to have food, simply because I want it.
- My body deserves delicious food.
- My body deserves energy.
- Food gives me energy, so that I can live a full and happy life.
Seek Support from Others
If you experience significant stress or anxiety, or are in recovery for disordered eating, you may want to seek out support groups to help you through the holiday season. Look for options that tout body positivity or acceptance and intuitive or mindful eating. The national eating disorders association makes this easier through the hashtag #NEDAholiday. You can also join our PCOS-focused community at allarahealth.com – we would be happy to support you!
Allara Health provides personalized treatment for hormonal, metabolic & gynecological conditions that utilizes a holistic plan that merges nutrition, lifestyle, medication and supplementation, and ongoing, expert support to heal your body.