Holidays and food go hand in hand, and that can be a nightmare for someone suffering from binge eating.
I remember spending year after year wondering if I was going to make it through the holiday season in one piece. I was terrified of how I was going to control my appetite. I feared packing on the pounds and ballooning out.
Food, on one hand, was a great comfort in the face of whacked out emotions around family, yet on the other hand, food was my arch nemesis because I never felt like I had full control over my appetite and cravings.
As much as I tried to regulate my appetite, portion sizes, and calories during the holidays, it never failed, I found myself secretly stuffing my face in the corner of the kitchen, hoping no one would call me out on my emotional binge eating.
This year is different though. I've got some great tools in my tool box to help me make the most of the holidays WITH food.
I want to share this tools with you so that you can make the best of the holiday season too.
Without further ado, I give you my holiday hacks for the binge eater....
Tip #1 is to GET CURIOUS about your eating habits.
1. LOOK at the time of day that you find yourself falling into a binge. The cause of afternoon binges are generally different than night binges: Nutritional vs Emotional
2. REFLECT on your meal timing. Are you skipping breakfast and/or lunch or not eating enough at those meals? Skipping meals creates an imbalance in hunger patterns and cues.
3. OBSERVE what kinds of foods you are gravitating towards. The types of food that you are reaching for may give you clues about what you are lacking nutritionally and even emotionally.
Tip #2 for getting through the holiday season and controlling the binge. PUT ALL FOODS BACK ON THE TABLE.
Yes, you read this correctly. All foods (with the exception of allergy foods) need to be put back into play.
There is an overwhelming psychological desire created when we remove that which we want. The restrictive mindset sets you up to binge.
Think of a baby surrounded with toys and you drop your phone in front of the baby. You pick it up so they can't have it and what does the baby focus on? The phone because they can't have it, even in the face of all the wonderful toys. Their lens of desire becomes acutely focused on getting that phone.
The result of creating the black and white categories of "can and can't have" is that when we are particularly emotional or are nutritionally deprived and hungry, we will reach for the very thing that we have taken off the table or put on our "can't have list." This is not a willpower issue, this is an issue of redesigning your mindset and your approach to food.
So how do you put all foods back on the table without going overboard?
1. Create context for giving yourself permission for having forbidden foods such as pizza night, or the weekly or bi-weekly trip to the bakery for your favorite cup cake. If you like chocolate, give yourself the gift of having a square after dinner. You must give yourself permission and strategically incorporate "off limit" foods into your routine otherwise they will become the focus of your binge.
2. Turn a binge into a ritual. You know it's going to happen anyway, right? History presents you with that data. Go ahead and binge but set a comfy, cozy environment, slow down, get present, and enjoy the food slowly with intention. Apply this technique and observe what happens.
3. Stop the diet mentality. Thinking that you will be good tomorrow inherently creates the mindset of packing in as much of the forbidden food as possible. This is "Last Supper Syndrome." As long as you believe that you will "be good" tomorrow and not eat forbidden foods, you will most always choose to "be bad" in the moment because pleasure trumps future pain.
Tip #3 for navigating binges during the holiday season. MAKE A PLEASURE LIST and use it.
Write a list of everything that gives you pleasure; persons, places, situations, activities, and food.
1. When you feel the binge coming on, pause and breathe.
2. Ask yourself if there is anything on the list that you could do instead of binging.
3. If yes, do one of the things from your list. If no, ritualize your binge.
4. After you’ve done one thing from your list, ask yourself again, “Do I still want to binge?” If yes, ritualize your binge.
Many times what we need or desire isn't the food. It can be emotional or creative expression, grounding, community, or a basket of other needs that we ultimately desire yet food is the substitute. Using a pleasure list, both in place of a binge and in daily life will help you identify the desires that are not being met and being replaced with food.
Tip #4 for surviving the holiday season as a binge eater. EXERCISE COMPASSION AND LOVE.
Binge eating isn’t something that just happens for no reason. Just as you don’t bleed for no reason. When you have a wound and bleed, you exercise compassion, you comfort yourself and take responsibility for finding out why you are bleeding and take the necessary steps to heal yourself.
Binge eating is asking you to be compassionate and loving to yourself and to seek healing; not more control.
Approaching your binge eating from a place of compassion and love rather than fight it will help you heal the wounds which are creating binge eating in the first place.
1. Recognize that you are human and humans naturally use food to mitigate pain. When we are in pain or discomfort we are in desperate need of compassion and love. So this is your time to do so for yourself.
2. When you feel the urge to binge, be compassionate and ask yourself with love, why am I choosing this? Is there another alternative? Is there something from my pleasure list that I could do? If food is the answer in the moment, hug yourself and give yourself permission to binge. Follow my tip to turn a binge into a ritual.
3. If you binge and feel shame and guilt. Forgive yourself and remind yourself lovingly that you chose to binge because you needed relief from discomfort and pain. Just as you would comfort and feed a hungry infant, exercise compassion for your actions to self soothe. You are not your binging behavior, you are not less of a person because of it, you do not have a willpower problem.
Some of these strategies may seem counter productive but if you have been struggling with binge eating for a while, then you know that the same old strategies just don't work and it's time to try something new and possibly radical. This is your chance to try it.
I'd love to hear what you think of these tips and what happens when you apply them. Join us in the Facebook group Creating Youphoria3: Food and Body Freedom to discuss or send me a private note at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are looking for additional support to help you get through the holidays and into the New Year without having to face another bogus diet resolution, schedule your complimentary 30 minute Compass Session HERE. If you don't see a time that works for you, please email me for additional availability.
You are enough exactly as you are.