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Managing Food Fears during the Holidays

Julia Harris

Table is set for Thanksgiving meal with food.Holidays mean a variety of things – family, friends, joy, parties, holiday meals, and even heightened anxiety if you’re struggling with food fear, body image concerns, or disordered eating. Gatherings that are centered on food can quickly create feelings of shame, guilt, stress, and fear. Here are some tips to get through the holidays while still working towards or maintaining your recovery.

  1. Be Patient with Yourself.

Acknowledge where you are in your journey and try not to judge yourself. It’s ok that you’re struggling. Some meals might be difficult and other meals might be easier. There’s no perfect, right, or wrong to eating or feeling.

  1. Challenge All or Nothing Thinking

Since there is no perfect, right, or wrong to eating or feeling… try to challenge any absolutes in your thinking. Instead of absolutes, try finding a thought that’s somewhere in the middle. For example, “I will always struggle” or “I’ll never be able to eat the foods I like” to “Today, I’m struggling and I’d like tomorrow be different” or “I’d like to enjoy the foods I like”. Challenging absolutes helps us understand ourselves and create more hopeful thinking.

  1. Know Your Triggers

Identify what foods or thoughts trigger you and may lead to restricting, bingeing, or negative thinking. This doesn’t mean you need to avoid these foods, but being aware of your triggers can help you cope-ahead.

  1. Cope-ahead

Pick out some coping strategies that have worked in the past to help you manage triggers. This could be following your meal plan if you’re working with a dietician, planning to bring music and headphones to take a music break, self-soothing with your 5 senses, using mindfulness, or, if possible, using intuitive eating.  Whatever your plan is, it’s important to develop strategies to manage overwhelming emotions. Write down your coping plan, so it’s accessible and easy to use!

  1. Challenge Negative Body Talk

Challenge thoughts that encourage following a diet, not eating to prepare for a big meal, or judgmental comments about food and/or your body. For example, “This is going to make me fat”, “today doesn’t matter, I’ll just diet tomorrow”, “I shouldn’t eat this.” Also, be willing to walk away from people who make similar comments about themselves or comments about your body and/or weight.

  1. Have a Support System

Identify someone you talk to for accountability and support. This can be a family member, friend, dietician, or therapist. Let the person know in advance that you’d like them to be your support system and share how they can help you.

  1. Allow Yourself to Take a Break

Remember, it’s okay to take a breather. It’s totally acceptable to step outside, go to a quiet room, or talk a walk (if that’s compatible with your treatment plan).

 

If you’re struggling with body image concerns or disordered eating and are looking for support, please contact the Summit Counseling Center by calling 678-893-5300 and make an appointment with a therapist who can help!

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