Being mindful of what you eat, think and say around food during the holidays may be challenging as old behaviors and triggers rear their ugly heads around family/social rituals. Maneuvering holiday gatherings without binge eating requires finesse. There are so many people on the planet without food or infrastructure, is it too much to ask one to be grateful to those who invite us to sit at a chair at their table? Yet we all struggle to think of how much we truly have amid the chaos of opinions as to how we eat, how we look and our take on social issues. Knowing yourself and responding, not reacting with food when faced with holiday challenges is what this blog is about.
Knowing your self from the inside is self-care. Can you think of three self-care practices that you do regularly? Looking at your list are they extrinsic, meaning does it require someone or something else (ie massage, pedicure, glass of wine)? What would it be like to take your self-care practices to the next level by learning intrinsic self-care? Personally, before I can integrate a new practice I need to know where I am starting from, what my current behaviors and triggers are and why do I want to evolve them. For the holidays, acknowledging my comfort eating style was a good start.
I tend to be introverted and shy away from holiday gatherings. When party tasks are delegated I am the one that signs up for cutlery. This is my way of staying accountable and actually attending, as I know that the hostess and persons who brings a big bowl soup would be terribly annoyed with me if I did not show up with spoons.
Getting ready for a holiday affair, my old self would drink a few glasses of wine (liquid courage), then grab the Cutlery and head for the car. I would take a deep breath and tell myself, everything will be okay. You only have to stay an hour. My senses would be overstimulated with holiday lights, sounds and smells. My digestive system greeted by soda pop, Chex mix, and holiday themes of cheese, gluten and white sugar.
In large groups, I tend to accommodate. Why? I want to socially fit in with the tribe. To be accepted and liked. I would eat food I didn’t want to eat because I wanted to fit in, knowing that I would be rewarded with a distended belly in the morning. I would smile and listen to conversations that really weren’t that interesting. I would experience a sleepless night due to the digestive mix and worry that I said the wrong thing. Late at night my inner voice spoke to me in a loud critical voice, rewinding the night’s events.
Know Your Comfort Eating Style
Ali Shapiro, MSOD, CHHS, holistic nutritionist and health coach and founder of True with Food explains binge eating through the lens of three comfort eating styles: the Accommodator, the Competitor and the Avoider. I like the way she breaks the styles down because I easily identify with all three of them.
Everyone has experienced all three eating styles at one time or another. Like the three doshas, we identify with the one style or dosha that is the most dominant. For the Ayurveda perspective, I turn to Brodie Welch, health coach and self-care strategist. She describes the Accommodator as Kapha, the Competitor as Pitta and the Avoider as Vatta.
Kapha: The Accommodator: Do you eat to please others and/or keep the peace? If yes, you are an Accommoder. Scenario: You are at a family gathering. Aunt Clara proudly displays the holiday table and feast she has been preparing for days for you and others. When you take a small portion of each dish you are greeted with: “You eat like a bird. What is the matter with you? Eat more I prepared this for you!” What do you say to yourself and then Aunt Clara?
Pitta: The Competitor: Are you a competitive eater? Do your eating patterns fluctuate between strict and binging? If yes, you are a Competitor. Scenario: At the work party you are feeling super fit and toned in your new slinky little black dress. The strict diet and workouts have paid off! You are enjoying holiday toasts when suddenly, the topics turn political. You feel yourself becoming angry as you do not agree on the political nature or tone. Listening to the supportive cheers you feel more and more disenchanted with the evening. You walk to the wine table to refill your wine glass and are greeted by mouth-watering cheeses, salty crackers and delectable chocolates. Does the voice it your head say, awe screw it and you start binge eating?
Vatta: The Avoider: Do you eat absentmindedly on the run? Are you hungry after you eat because you did not chew, smell or taste the textures of your food? If yes, you are an avoider. Scenario: You made it to the party and you suddenly realize how tired you are. You find yourself in the kitchen next to the holiday Chex mix. As you unconsciously put you hand in the bowl and begin eating, you review your day and check off the boxes, suddenly realizing that you have not eaten all day. You look down at the bowl and the Chex mix is all gone. What is the voice in your head saying after you ate all the Chex mix?
Developing a Relationship with the Voice in Your Head
Working with the voice in my head, my inner critic, is a daily practice. I have learned strategies and some of the best are from Acharya Shunya. She is a master and spiritual teacher of Vedic Yoga and Ayurveda. From Vedic Philosophy there are 4 guidelines when speaking to yourself or others.
- Do no harm (nonviolent communication)
- Speak your truth
- Speak in a pleasant tone
- Rein in your ego. Is what you are about to say contributing to the conversation?
Using the 4 guidelines of Vedic communication as a base, you can decrease the anxiety and tension which can arise during conversation while speaking your truth in a kind and caring way. We can all begin with acknowledgment. Hosting a party and food preparation takes time. Many men and women work full time, juggle household duties and have responsibilities caring for children or aging parents. They may also have financial or medical struggles we don’t know about.
Kapha: What do you say to yourself and then Aunt Clara? Take a breath and get centered. Begin with acknowledging her for her efforts and complimenting her on the savory food. You can tell her that you are taking smaller portions because you know that each dish was prepared with love. You want to take the time to enjoy the smell, texture, and taste which will fill you up faster.
Pitta: Does the voice in your head say, “Awe screw it” and you start binge eating? When alcohol is flowing people tend to become ungrounded. Everyone has their own opinion which is based on their perspective to life. What would it be like to be curious and ask questions with no judgement?
Vata: What is the voice in your head saying after you ate all the Chex mix? What would it be like to say in a gentle, kind voice, “Opps! Hummm, I can’t undo that and I am still hungry. I think I will sit down, slow down, and breathe. I will nourish my body with some warm vegetable soup.”
Holiday Action Plan: I want you to have a healthy and nourishing holiday season. Now that your clear on the three styles of eating, grab a piece of paper and brainstorm on how you will change your patterns. Tell me below in the comments.
*Special thank you to Elise, Kari and Alec for your encouragement on writing this blog.