The Christmas season is finally upon us! This is my absolute favorite time of year. I love everything about it: the lights, the movies, the decorations, the music, the meaning, and the joyous time spent with family and friends. Tis the season of holiday parties, Christmas cookies, honey hams, apple pies, sausage balls, homemade fudge and many other tasty treats. Christmas food has always been such a special part of our family holiday traditions.
A few years ago, however, I stayed away from holiday parties as much as possible. I made excuses not to attend, even though I had no other plans. And it wasn’t just at Christmastime. I avoided social gatherings altogether where food was involved. I had lost about 40 pounds and I was terrified of gaining it back. I had developed an unhealthy relationship with food, but it wasn’t that I was over OR under eating. I was simply scared to be put in situations where I did not have control because I was terrified of putting the weight back on. I felt when I could not meal prep or portion out my food, or if I knew that no healthy options would be available, I simply could not attend. It really ended up making me miserable and feeling like a hermit. I felt like a socially outcast, except I had made MYSELF the outcast. I was letting food control my life.
I know that in this time of year, as well as the upcoming New Year, the focus is mostly on those that are trying to lose the holiday weight, but there is a fine line between wanting to become strong and healthy and letting an unhealthy relationship with food and body image take over and consume you.
It is not necessarily easy to overcome the struggle with control, but it can be done!
- Focus on the people – not on the food
It took me a long time to realize that when I missed an event due to my food paranoia, I was also missing the relationships with the people invovled. During the holidays especially, we see several friends and family members that we do not have the privilege of seeing throughout the year. The focus of the event should be loving on the people – not avoiding the food in fear of gaining a pound. Enjoy the time spent together (and enjoy a small slice of pie!) because time is precious and life is short!
2. Learn to eat a balanced diet instead of being a calorie counter
When you learn to eat a balanced diet containing the right number of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, it is relatively easy to allow room for “fun-foods” such as a Christmas cookie or two! This is where the popular method of IIFYM, or If It Fits Your Macros, comes into play. When you track your meals and know the exact number of each macronutrient you are consuming each day, you can tweak your foods on the days you have an event or party to allow for discretionary calories. Of course, it is still important to eat a diet made up of clean, whole foods, but this method allows you to enjoy special occasions without feeling guilty or anxious.
3. Reach out for support and accountability
There is nothing wrong in asking for help, whether it be in the form of a friend to support you along your journey or by working with a nutrition coach. In fact, it wasn’t until I hired a coach before my September wedding that I truly learned the fundamentals in living a lifestyle that did not revolve around food. Now, food is incorporated into my lifestyle, not vice versa. Working with someone that can help you to develop a plan you can actually stick to that doesn’t involve crazy crash diets or ultra-restrictive methods is a key part of the process. In fact, it may be the most important one of all. You are not alone!