Whatever kind of Christmas you are planning, be it a quiet family gathering at home or a big bash at a posh hotel, there is no doubt that food, food and more food will feature prominently.
Aside from the ‘big meal’ celebrations there are the parties and nibbles, drinks at the neighbours’, the left-overs, the chocolates you received as gifts and then having to do it all over again during New Year. No doubt about it, if you are like most women with any kind of overeating or binge eating issue, Christmas can be a difficult time of year.
The thought of all this temptation can leave you a little concerned or even fearful and it’s common to find yourself swinging one of two ways: either trying your best to limit or control what you eat – all while spending the bulk of the holiday worrying desperately about how you’ll look at all those gatherings. Or else giving in to the relentless pressure, stuffing your face, and saying “sod it. I’ll start another diet in January.”
Either way, after all the laughter and glitter of the parties and get-togethers, come January, you’re likely to find yourself making the exact same vow - to make ‘this New Year’ different from all the others. “This will be the year I lose weight and get control of my overeating.”
It doesn’t have to be this way though. There is a simple, effective and inexpensive solution to the problems of overeating, binge eating and yo-yo dieting and it is being used successfully by hundreds of women like you.
These women are now entering the holiday season filled with the confidence that they no longer have an issue with food. They know they can enjoy a fear-free Christmas, without all the previous shame, disappointment or frustration they have experienced in the past.
In this short guide I’m going to give you two essential steps you can take to protect yourself from overeating temptations so you can thrive this holiday season without weight gain, without feeling out of control around food, and without worries about your body clouding your celebrations.
Here they are….
Step #1 Drop the ‘restriction’ mentality
No doubt about it, over the next couple of weeks you are about to be faced with a lot of food temptations and so this first step I’m going to share might seem somewhat counterintuitive.
The first thing I’m going to suggest is that you counter these temptations by completely dropping your dieting or food restriction mentality.
I know, I know, that doesn’t make much sense. Your whole being is screaming at you right now to be on your guard and count the calories in every morsel you eat and I’m asking you to throw caution to the wind and eat more freely. Stay with me, there is a sound, scientifically proven reason behind this suggestion…
RESTRICTING your food intake or DENYING yourself what you want to eat always, always, ALWAYS leads to a ‘bounce-back’ reaction of overeating.
This is a biological fact and it’s precisely why the diet industry is worth BILLIONS.
I’ve explained this in more detail in a free resource I’m going to give you at the bottom of this page but briefly, here’s how it relates to Christmas…
If you’re like most women with any kind of overeating issue, you’ll start to reduce your food intake during the weeks leading up to the holiday season. It’s perfectly understandable. You want to look as good as you can in that new dress. You want to feel as confident about your body as possible at those parties and get togethers.
The problem is, your body interprets this drop in calories as a period of food scarcity – it thinks it’s starving. Hormones dutifully kick in so as to lower your metabolism and make you crave food and it gradually gets harder and harder to maintain this new regime.
You might manage to control your eating and maintain your diet through the entire festivities. But for most of us, eventually, the body’s need for food becomes too powerful to overcome with willpower alone and we end up eating more than we’d like to.
And then, when January comes and the celebrations are over, the reality of the situation hits – you’ve put all that weight back on (and probably a little extra into the bargain). This leaves you feeling fat, frustrated and perhaps even depressed.
The only logical solution for the person who sees food restriction as a viable option is, of course, to go on (YET ANOTHER) diet. And lo… the cycle continues with this ‘new year’ and ‘new you’ being no different to the last.
So…recognising that dieting and food restriction does not work in the long term is the very first, most important step in your journey towards permanent freedom from binge eating and overeating.
Step # 2. Identify and take action to reduce your ‘emotional triggers’.
Over the years, through my personal experience and my work with other women, I have become aware that there are certain emotional triggers which cause us to binge eat or overeat. These must be identified and addressed if we are to find real food freedom.
Any negative unpleasant feeling such as stress, frustration, anxiety, fear or loneliness, to name just a few, can act as a trigger and because they can be so uncomfortable, we tend to use food and/or alcohol to distract ourselves from having to face them.
This is a largely unconscious process; we are usually completely unaware of the specific emotions driving our behaviour and this is precisely why emotional eating and bingeing is so problematic. Most women don’t even know they are doing it; they just know that it makes them feel better… for a short while at least.
But the ‘escape’ from these feelings doesn’t last for long. At some point, maybe as you pick up the sweet or biscuit wrappers and hide them in the bin, the negative feelings come back with a vengeance - guilt, shame, frustration, self-dislike... the list goes on. It soon becomes a vicious circle as you eat to avoid these newly surfacing feelings too.
The key to breaking this cycle is actually quite simple, although it does take some practice. You need to question your craving or desire to eat as it materialises so as to start to discern real hunger from emotional hunger. So, whenever you have a craving or desire to eat, before you unconsciously tuck into that cake or mince pie, you need to start asking yourself “What am I really hungry for?” You may be really surprised at the answer.
Let’s look in a little more detail at how emotions affect us – particularly at Christmas – together with some additional strategies for dealing with them.
For most women, Christmas is a really stressful time of year. There is so much to do leading up to the big day and as the days pass by the pressure mounts with less and less time to cram it all in. Presents to buy and wrap, the house to tidy and decorate, carol services, school plays and parties to attend, end of year work to complete, bills to pay/finances to juggle etc. etc. We rush from one thing to another, a sense of urgency running through every waking hour.
You are also likely to miss out on the things that usually help keep your stress levels down, like a relaxing coffee with friends, your weekly yoga class or your long walk with the dog or your meditation practice.
Then there are the other emotions that more commonly surface at Christmas; feelings of grief or loss for people who are no longer with us are often heightened at this time of year. Loneliness is another emotion that lingers longer during this time of family and celebration.
This slew of emotions is obviously bad news for those prone to emotional eating so it makes sense that we try to reduce them as much as possible. One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to proactively build some time into each day to SLOW DOWN!
This may sound impossible right now when you have a ‘to-do’ list as long as your arm, but actually with a little planning and preparation (and a real desire to change) you can do it.
For now spend two minutes thinking about the main things that are really causing you that ‘pre-Christmas pressure’ and take action to address them. For example, is it your own expectations of what ‘needs’ to be done that is actually the main cause of your emotional discomfort? Maybe you could save time, money (and the environment) by deciding not to do Christmas cards and to make a small donation to a charity instead? Or choose to do an ‘online shop’ instead of facing the shops? Could you make an agreement with friends and family to limit the number of gifts you buy each other? Could you miss out on one or two parties and give your children the best gift they could hope for – quality time?
And, most importantly, be sure to block out some ‘you time’ where you can simply let go of some of that pressure. Even if this is just ten minutes a day with your feet up and a cup of tea. But instead of planning or worrying about the things you still have to do, actively choose to think about something calming or positive that makes you feel more relaxed and happy. I call this a ‘hug in a mug’.
Whatever the triggers for your eating, they can be reduced or even removed with some conscious effort and a sprinkle of self-care.
Here’s wishing you a holiday season filled with love and laughter and fun and a healthy, happy New Year.
Don’t miss these 2 additional FREE resources: