Holiday Eating Anxiety - The fear of gaining weight

Family eating holiday dinner

The holidays are fast approaching or already here. Around the holidays and on special occasions, people become more afraid of food, appetite, pleasure and desire than usual. Either they become more controlling around food and appetite, relying on willpower, or they become the rebel and let loose.

Fear and anxiety around holiday eating stems from the fear of food, fear of the fat in food, fear of calories, fear of weight gain, fear of appetite, fear of pleasure and/or fear of desires. We don’t know how to be in right relationship with food, appetite, pleasure and desire. We give power to whatever we fear and it dictates our beliefs and actions. Whatever we resist - persists.

We need to learn to relax and be in relationship with food, appetite, pleasure and desire in a healthy way, where we move through it without it causing us harm. Food, appetite, pleasure and desire are not bad, but what we do with them requires wisdom and making good choices.

It’s helpful to pause in the moment and consider what is the emotion behind the compulsion? For example, binge eating and over eating are not the problem. They are symptoms that point to the problem. My job as a Certified Eating Psychology Coach is to make connections and help my clients see the unseen causes behind their behaviors, habits and symptoms.

Don't you just want to “relax, eat, drink and be happy" this holiday season? Don't you want to learn how to trust your body again? If you say, “I can’t do that,” then you will stay diminished. You may be controlling and set strict boundaries for yourself, and then wonder why life is so stressful, difficult and pleasureless. Or, you may eventually fall off the wagon and indulge, bingeing on the “forbidden” foods. When you make it all or nothing, that strategy sets you up for failure and self abuse.

If you let go of all boundaries and celebrate without limitations, then consciously choose that. Embrace the after-math of letting go of boundaries, which may include headache, bloating and weight gain. So then you’ve learned something.

Whichever path you choose, it’s okay. Just take ownership of it. Stop being a victim and stop beating yourself up over it. It’s a choice. Let it go and decide that you can learn a better way. It’s not about taking more of a middle path, but about returning to how the body was designed to work. All you need is someone to guide you.

We stay in the spin cycle of habit or behavior until we realize there is a pattern, and that life is asking us to learn something, grow and transform. After all, if you keep doing what you've always done, you will keep getting the same results. You may need to restrict yourself and do battle internally with self, or avert temptation by avoiding social situations, to realize this is not how life was meant to be lived. You may need to overeat for one more holiday season to realize that celebration doesn’t mean going unconscious with food and feeling guilty later. When we see how our issues with food, body and weight are an open door, inviting us into deeper self awareness and that we are doing food the way we do life, we can make positive changes and step into our personal and metabolic power.

Celebration means stepping into consciousness, truly experiencing the pleasure of eating and celebrating to the fullest. It is time to reclaim celebration with food and celebrate life through the pleasures of eating. You don't want to be afraid of your own body and the healthy impulses that God designed to nourish you and help you enjoy life.

Before you go to a holiday party, wedding or other special event where food is being served, make a plan. Don't skip a meal the day of - thinking, "I will save my calories for the party and feel better about eating what I want there, because I paid my dues earlier in the day." That sounds good in theory, but it backfires every time. You go there hungry and then binge. Not only that, you are consuming the majority of your calories, and they are from high calorie foods and drinks, especially alcoholic beverages, in the last quarter of the day, when metabolism and calorie burning capacity is very low. Instead, eat your usual meals during the hours before the event, so you don't arrive there famished. All the will-power and self control in the world will not stop the devouring overeating monster that attends the event with you under these circumstances.

1) Think about what will be served at the party. Consider what delicacies you want to enjoy that you don't normally get and decide to eat them while being present in the moment, enjoying the taste, texture and pleasure of the experience. Be satisfied, but stay aware and present with the experience of eating so you know when you are full and decide to stop before you are over full. Eating without being present will cause the brain to feel cheated, because you checked out while eating and the brain missed the experience and satiation, so it will insist that you eat more. You check out and repeat it, which results in overeating and bingeing. I always tell myself in those moments, "If you are not happy with what you have, how will you be happier with more?"

2) Don't choose foods you can get anywhere or anytime, like pretzels, chips, vegetables and dip, etc. At a pot-luck or family gathering, I'd rather have something homemade from scratch than something someone purchased already made from the store, which contains preservatives and other nasty chemicals. Go after quality over quantity every time!

3) When you have a high calorie beverage, like egg nog, make sure it's after you have eaten.

4) Focus on social interaction with the people at the party or event and consider that as nourishment more than food. Be present in the moment with them and enjoy good conversation, hug, hand shake, being seen and heard and truly seeing and listening to others. When we don't get nourishment from social interaction, we will automatically reach for food as a symbolic substitute to fill the void, called loneliness. You can be in a room, banquet hall, arena or stadium full of people and be completely alone.

5) Above all, maintain an attitude of self respect and value for your body and health. Put that first when choosing what you will eat and drink. If it doesn't respect, celebrate, elevate, nourish and empower you in every way; physical and emotional health, as well as spiritually/soul, it's not good enough for you and definitely not worth it.

If you need someone to guide you into more celebration with food, please contact me to make an appointment for your free introductory consultation.