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Intuitive Eating & Eating Disorder Recovery During the Holidays



By: Rachel Dodson RD, LDN


Fighting diet culture and all of the noise surrounding food can be tough all throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season. Now, I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS. The movies, the activities, giving (and getting lol) gifts, seeing people who you don’t get to see regularly and all the flavors of the seasons. This time of year is magical but can be a stressful time filled with tension and anxiety surrounding your relationship with food during recovery. I have been there - restricting, assigning moral value to food, and believing lies of “you can’t or shouldn't have this,” then missing out on all of the deliciousness of the holiday season. Or swinging to the other side, giving myself physical permission to eat the holiday foods, but with mental barriers still up, continually struggling and feeling uncomfortably full, thinking the only solution is “starting over '' come January 1st. It. Doesn't. Work. And there is no freedom to be found in any part of the binge/restrict cycle. You don’t have to start over in the new year AND you can enjoy the holiday food. The lies you believe about food and your body do not get to steal your joy this year!


Today I am sharing my top 5 tips for finding peace and joy around food during this upcoming holiday season:

  1. Decide and cast vision for what you want your experience around food to be this holiday season

  2. Set goals for HOW you want your holiday season to go! Think, journal, or discuss with your registered dietitian or eating disorder therapist your intentions for food/mental health - how do you want to feel this time of year and what do you hope to do? How do you want to enjoy and taste food? How do you want to feel after eating? What does taking care of yourself look like FOR YOU in this season? How do you want to spend your time? You are allowed to sleep in and enjoy breakfast with your cousins on Thanksgiving instead of waking up early and going for a run (and YES you still need breakfast on thanksgiving day!!!) And think about ways you can take care of yourself outside of food/movement - showering, napping, grounding yourself by sitting in silence.

  3. Have boundaries surrounding diet talk

  4. You do not have to spend time and energy worrying about diet culture and I will say it again - you do not have to go on a diet or start restricting come January 1st. Talk with your therapist about how to handle family comments about body/weight/dieting. Kindly ask to change the topic, remove yourself from a conversation when needed, and as one of our incredible therapists Abby always says, “keep your eyes on your own plate.” Just because someone else is giving time and energy to diet culture, DOES NOT mean you have to. Step into this season prepared with a few body positive mantras that you can use to remind yourself of truth - “My body is already enough” “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” “I am more than my body” “I am allowed to feed and nourish my body” “Good for them, not for me”

  5. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat ALL THE THINGS

  6. Choosing food freedom over food rules can be a daily surrender but there is no sweeter time than to start putting ALL foods on your plate than the holiday season. Any form of restriction - even mental restriction - can leave you feeling out of control around food. Our bodies are smart and will do everything they can to protect themselves. When they sense a threat, like starvation, our humanity kicks in and we experience a primal drive to eat. The best thing you can do for your body is to honor your hunger. Eating consistently throughout the day, at least every 3-4 hours, is a good rhythm to follow when you’re still re-learning what your hunger cues feel like! All foods can truly help you reach the level of nutrients your body requires on any given day

  7. It’s okay to eat past fullness

  8. Eating intuitively is more than simply, “eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.” We eat for taste and pleasure and that is part of having a healthy relationship with food. If you eat past a fullness level that is comfortable for you, remember you can learn from every experience - nothing is a failure. If fullness can be triggering for you, remember you can trust that your body knows what to do and this feeling will pass. Feeling full is a temporary feeling that our body knows how to navigate with the digestive system. Your body is smart, just like you :)

  9. Savor the goodness of the holidays and give yourself grace upon grace

  10. Remember this time of year is about more than the food. Yes, food is fuel. We need food to keep our hearts beating, for our brains to think, and for breath in our lungs. But food is so much more than just fuel and there is no better time of year to experience this than during the holidays. Food is comfort and joy and family and tradition. It’s your grandma's apple pie, and dad’s mashed potatoes, and going out for drinks with your best friends who are in town and decorating cookies and getting all the holiday drinks at Starbucks. Food is a big part of celebrating the holidays - ENJOY it. AND enjoy every other aspect of the holidays, don’t let food rules and the lies you’re still learning to unlearn about yourself steal the joy of the holidays from you. Focus on resting, taking care of yourself, and sharing memories with people you love. No one’s recovery is linear - there are ups and downs. It’s okay if you have the thoughts, but what will you do with them?


https://haescommunity.com/

https://www.intuitiveeating.org/10-principles-of-intuitive-eating/

https://www.outsideonline.com/culture/active-families/kids-diet-culture-advice/?fbclid=IwAR1gRBmNyzhWxDj2nFkbFgpfqrtB8q6F0vRHfXMnMcDFXLTmf_8veSPHm1Q

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/24-you-know-your-body-best-navigating-the-holiday/id1544021404?i=1000540150122

https://christyharrison.com/foodpsych/6/how-to-avoid-falling-for-the-wellness-diet-this-new-year-with-colleen-reichmann