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Holiday Check List

Just as Santa checks his list once and then again, you‘ll need to go over some things to make sure you’re ready for Christmas day eating (whether you celebrate the holiday or simply enjoy an occasion getting together with friends and family) because preparation for challenges is one-third of a successful process. Another third is follow through and the final third is a post-eating assessment which we’ll get to next week. For now, your job is to focus on how you want to think and act around food on Christmas.

First, take 10 minutes or so to make sure your belief system is rational and in line with your goals. List your holiday eating beliefs, comb through them for irrational cognitions, then transform them into rational ones (use my RULES OF “NORMAL” EATING chapter on beliefs to guide you). Consider not only food but your mindset about spending the day with friends or family. Anticipate what triggers unwanted eating and what and how you need to think to keep your behavior sane, satisfying, and sensible. Read the list over a few times today and tomorrow. If need be, carry it with you so you can reread it wherever you are. Reframing beliefs is essential, so don’t skip this step.

Second, make a list of behaviors you want to engage in such as eating slowly, choosing only foods you enjoy, chewing thoroughly and letting food sit on your tongue. Remind yourself that you can eat “normally” and don’t have to feel compelled to finish everything you try or taste. During the meal, take small portions (think of them as “tastes”) and stay connected to appetite. If you get upset during the meal, excuse yourself and calm down before you return. When you talk, don’t eat and when you eat, don’t talk. Continuously ask yourself if you’re full or satisfied and, when you are, push away your plate or remove it from the table. Stay focused on enjoying people (if possible) rather than food.

Third, when the meal is over, don’t say yes to taking home leftovers unless you’re dying for them. When you get them home, put them in small containers and remind yourself that YOU DO NOT NEED TO EAT THEM ALL AT ONCE but will enjoy them more if you have some each day. If you find yourself noshing mindlessly, take 3 deep breaths, put away the food, then take 3 more deep breaths. The food won’t run away, and you’ll enjoy it more when you can eat it calmly when you’re really hungry. Unwind from the holiday meal by talking about the day with folks who will listen. Share or vent whatever feelings come up. Take a walk or do gentle exercise or stretching. Remind yourself of what you did well around food and what you didn’t and then let the subject go without giving it further thought so you can end the day on a positive note.