With visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads, songs about desserts blasting over mall speakers, and excess food and drink at every turn, it's the most tempting time of the year. Add in the extra holiday pressures and demands, and you have a recipe for disaster. For those of us who struggle to eat healthy and avoid food triggers that cause us to binge, the holidays can be far from sweet. Is there any way to avoid eating those delectable sugar cookies? Especially when you know that "just eating one" has never been an option for you?
I spent years struggling with my food triggers, especially my sugar addiction. But I've learned how to live free of your emotional and food triggers, and you can too. If you're recovering from an unhealthy relationship with food, you can survive the holidays by simply planning ahead. Map out your plan now, and you'll be amazed at the success you can enjoy, even during the holidays! Here are three questions to consider this holiday season:
Challenge the Holiday Status Quo
Ask yourself this: Who says I have to "have some" because it's the holidays? Just because everyone else is having something excessive to eat and drink doesn't mean I must too. Just because my favorite aunt made that pie doesn't mean I have to have some to not offend her.
Tell yourself this: This is my body. I will live with the consequences of what I eat, not my aunt!
Remember Your Wants and Wishes
Ask yourself this: What is sweeter: the momentary taste of all that cheesecake, or success in reaching my goals? How has the "I'll begin again after the holidays" idea worked in the past?
Tell yourself this: I am doing this! I'm succeeding each moment, day, and week at a time! It's easier to stay on track than struggle to restart.
Confront What's Naughty and Nice
Indulging in trigger foods at the office holiday party can be as disastrous as an alcoholic having one toast of liquor on New Year's Eve. For so many of us, even one taste of whatever triggers our binge eating, triggers a physiological reaction. Does one sugar cookie lead to an entire platter? What about a bite of that candy cane cheesecake?
Be honest about what triggers your overeating, and try these seven tips to ease the holiday temptations:
1. Find out what's on the menu. Decide what to eat before facing overwhelming options. When you can't know the menu, you can still decide: I need veggies, protein, healthy carbs, and some fat. I do not need sweets or appetizers unless they are healthy and I eat a limited amount. I do not need seconds. You can also offer to bring something healthy so you have what you need.
2. Be clear and intentional. Don't sit near the food table as the sight and scents of trigger foods can cause cravings.
3.Pray your way through! Imagine God is with you. He holds us by the hand. All things are possible with him.
4.Draw upon support. Call someone who understands temptations and triggers. Excuse yourself to check in by text or phone to talk with a friend about what your plan is and how it's going. Asking for accountability is the best gift to give yourself!
5.Take your attention off the food. Find other purposes for your event, like meeting new people or getting to know someone better. Befriend someone who needs a smile or company. Think of ways to be a blessing to host and guests. Enjoy the décor and focus on the beauty.
6. Turn from temptation—period. Take a walk, call someone, turn away, or leave. This means you may be better off going to holiday events on your own so you can leave when things get too difficult.
7. Think of the holidays as just another day. Don't let the holiday hype lure you into slipping into addictive cycles. No one ever died from avoiding pecan pie on Christmas Day!
If you are recovering from an unhealthy relationship with food, there is no party, gathering, or event worth your health! Give yourself the Christmas gift of health, self-love and peace this holiday season. A little planning and a strong support system can help you focus on the beauty of the season rather than the buffet.
Rhona Epstein, Psy.D., C.A.C., is a licensed psychologist, certified addictions counselor, and marriage and family therapist in the Philadelphia area, and the author of the new book Food Triggers: End Your Cravings, Eat Well, and Live Better (Worthy Publishing). She has led seminars, conferences, and therapeutic workshops for more than 25 years to help people overcome food addiction and its underlying issues. Dr. Rhona is passionate, based on her own recovery from food addiction, about addressing the needs of the whole person (mind, body, and spirit). Visit her website at www.rhonaepstein.com.