Eating and the Holidays

by Sandra Silbermann, LCSW-C                                                                                       

Holidays and food. They come together, like it or not. There are several family and friend get-togethers, work parties, neighborhood celebrations, tempting goodies in the stores and depending on your living situation, goodies at home. Good tasting food seems to be everywhere you turn. Some people are alone for the holidays and that can be very hard. If this is you, you may feel hurt, sad and/or angry, maybe even unbearably so. And there is the temptation to use the abundant holiday food to help you get through.

All of this makes staying on a healthy food plan really hard. This is especially true if you are an emotional eater. So, how are you going to cope with all of this food temptation? Are you going to stick to your food plan, or are you going to eat whatever you want?

I am a big believer in planning. Planning helps you look forward to good times and to anticipate possible problems and solutions. Remember, it is important to think about the whole you, not just about you and food. Your emotions are a big part of you. Sit down, think and feel. Are there situations coming up that might make you feel down, angry or are problematic in some way? If there are, how can you handle these in a way that is healthy and best for you?

Possibilities include saying no to an invitation, bringing a support person to a challenging gathering, refusing to engage with a difficult person, leaving an event to take a walk for a bit and just plain leaving a get-together when you feel uncomfortable.

If you are alone, consider finding one or more people to join you. Others are alone too and many would welcome an invitation. Don’t forget to think about couples or small family groups as possible guests. If you will be alone, plan your day(s). Make the best plan you can to take care of yourself. You might want to choose a movie, a good book, music you love or a peaceful walk. There are dozens of other possibilities. Different things appeal to different people. Brainstorming is a good tool to uncover some of options that will feel good to you.

I am also a big believer in choices. Food choices at the holidays are practically a constant. You will face many temptations. Start with making an overall decision. Are you going to stick to your food plan through the holidays? Are you going to indulge? Or is there a particular food or party that you want to partake in some “forbidden fruits” but wish to stay on plan the rest of the time? Think about this:

    • Consider your feelings
    • Take into account what food will be most likely be available
    • What parties you will go to
    • Who you will spend the holidays with

Evaluate your options and choose an overall strategy.

Of course, you also have a choice each time you are faced with temptation. Make your choice consciously. If you are tempted and previously decided to stick to your food plan, walk away from the food for a moment. Then, consider your conflicting desires; on one hand you want the food and on the other you want to lose weight or maintain your weight-loss. Which is more important? You can decide to indulge or not. The choice is entirely up to you. Take your time and make a decision. Then, follow through with it. If you do decide to stick to your food plan and become tempted again, walk away again and go through the steps to make a decision over again.

There are also general strategies to combat food temptation. Here are a few:

    • You can eat before you attend any get-together so you are not hungry
    • Bring a dish that is good for you
    • If the event is a buffet use small plates because a large plate can look too empty
    • Also, keep a plate of healthy food and a drink in your hand
    • Do not stand near the food table

Focus on the people and the conversation. Enjoy that. Pay attention to that in ways you can’t when you are overly focused on food.

If there is a time that you do give in to temptation and eat something that you didn’t want or plan to eat, do not, I repeat do not beat yourself up. Forgive yourself. Figure out what happened and then move forward. Let it go.

Lastly, remember to get support for yourself from friends, family, pets, groups or internet groups. Psychotherapy is an excellent way to get support as well as to deal with any problems.

Wishing you the best this holiday season!

About the Author:
Sandra Silbermann, LCSW-C, is an expert in the psychology of bariatric surgery. In her private practice, she has done hundreds of pre surgery evaluations and works with clients both before and after surgery. Ms. Silbermann is currently writing a workbook for bariatric patients. She has been in private practice for 30 years and is frank, honest and uses a sense of humor when appropriate.



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