HEALING HOLIDAY MEALS
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN
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The signs are just about everywhere…from the broadcast media to all the stores. Our biggest annual holiday season is fast approaching. And along with the holidays come family…and with family gatherings come feelings. So how do we handle the holiday season knowing that its venues provide the perfect atmosphere for family quarrels…especially the dinner table? Don't fall prey to this annual recipe for family angst and dilemma! Recognize that this season you don’t have to stuff down your childhood insecurities or your families' faux pas with extra large portions of cranberry sauce, potato latkes or gingerbread cookies. Nor do you need to numb yourself and/or try to gain control by denying yourself the enjoyment of those decadent dishes that are surely memorable components of your families’ holiday celebrations.
Separate Food and Feelings
First and perhaps most important…recognize that food and feelings are not one or the same. Then craft a plan to make the holiday season about the friends and family members you adore. Limit sharing meals with those you tend to feel uncomfortable around. Of course, we all know that this is not always possible. If you must dine with relatives who comment on your food choices…or the brother who gets all of your mom's attention…take a deep breath! Maybe even two or three deep breaths!
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Be Mindful of Yourself
Really…take a deep breath and center yourself before and after this mountain of a meal. Use a mindful mediation, four-square breathing or a form of guided imagery to separate your meal from your fears, your holiday chaos and, of course, the anxieties leading up to this family time. Realize that this is simply just another meal. The difference is the company…and just what being with these people conjures up for you. Knowing that the situation is loaded with feelings, perhaps you might want to excuse yourself and get up during the meal. Taking this “breather” gives you time to check in with yourself. Just ask yourself whether you’re eating to calm your nerves; eating to avoid talking; or perhaps not eating anything at all? Is your response emotional, behavioral or physical?
Eat for Physical Reasons
Rather than deprive yourself of this delicious meal, make a personal pact to eat the holiday meal because you need the fuel and this particular fuel tastes really good. And there’s no need to skip lunch or even earlier meals. Doing so will just set you up for overeating at dinner. Instead, prepare to go to the feast feeling neutral so that you’ll get hungry in time for the entrée. Then use a hunger fullness scale and consider noting your food intake, emotions and behaviors in a log. You must give yourself permission to eat the meal without guilt in order to diffuse the emotional aspects.