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Rules for “Normal” Holiday Eating

Here are my rules for “normal” holiday eating. Study them now and review every day through the holidays. Say them aloud. Carry them with you. Make them your bible.

  • Think of food as delicious and nutritious, nothing more. It has no value beyond these
    two attributes. It will neither solve your problems nor lift your mood.
  • Don’t restrict what you eat over the holidays. “Putting foods on a do-not-eat list only
    makes you crave them more, according to a Canadian study, and Israeli scientists found that having a little bit of sweets every day helped dieters shed 15 pounds more on average than those who didn’t indulge in desserts.” (TIME, 12/9/13, p. 18)
  • Eat slowly and mindfully and savor every bite. Make sure you’re enjoying what you’re eating. Unless you’re starving, if it’s not fabulous, stop eating it.
  • Visualize yourself feeling and acting relaxed around all foods no matter what your dining situation. As you consider various eating settings, notice where anxiety pops up and, in your visualization, relax yourself.
  • Make a list of 6-10 rational beliefs about food and weight that will make for saner holiday eating and read them over daily. Bring them to holiday events where there’s food and read them over frequently.
  • Keep up structured self-care activities. Don’t forgo daily walks or trips to the gym. Adhering to a structure is more important than ever during the holidays to make you feel in charge, provide self-time, and reduce stress.
  • Identify potentially stressful situations ahead of time and brainstorm ways to avoid or manage them. Develop strategies for every situation that might trigger unwanted eating.
  • Don’t simply say “yes” to invitations or demands. Always respond with, “Let me think about that.” Look for a balance of alone and social time, food and non-food activities.
  • Focus on the social aspect of situations, not the food. It’s okay to eat or not eat, whatever you feel like. Think for yourself and forget about what others are doing.
  • Keep your eyes on your own plate. Feel proud to refuse food and stand up to people who push you to eat in spite of your protests.
  • If you become upset, stop and take a minute to identify and reflect on your feelings or talk them over with someone you trust. Scan your emotions every so often to see how you’re feeling. You may be surprised to find you’re distressed and didn’t know it.
  • Learn from previous holiday experiences. What did you do in other years that you don’t want to repeat? How will you do things differently this year? What works for you?
  • If you’ve done well on an eating occasion, don’t come home and reward yourself with food. Pride is the best reward. You may be tense from trying to set boundaries and pay attention to eating and return home wanting to let loose. Do it, but not with food.
  • Your job over the holidays is to please yourself without food, so find ways to do it.
  • If you make poor food choices, instantly forgive yourself and forget about it.
  • Refuse to judge yourself for poor eating choices. Reflect on them, definitely, but never make yourself good or bad because of what you’ve done or not done.
  • Refrain from discussing eating or weight. These are boring and unnecessary subjects at best. Leave the room or remain silent when during these conversations.
  • Keep expectations low. This need not be a special time of the year, only another time of the year.
  • Stay off the scale and don’t answer questions or respond to comments about your weight. Deflect comments and ignore questions. It’s your body!!!
  • Put the part of yourself that loves and values you in charge of all decision making.
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