In today’s episode, I am sharing 5 steps to survive the holidays without the food guilt, body shame, or accidentally yelling at that one relative who’s always bringing up ‘health.’ As much as we don’t want to put up with that, we also don’t want to cause a scene or get in a fight with any of our relatives! So, this episode will be all out helping you to find a middle ground.
In this episode, I talk about:
- Identifying what you’re anxious about
- Figuring out what you can/can’t control
- Setting boundaries
- Implementing holiday survival techniques
- Preparing in advance for the holidays
- Navigating post-holiday guilt and shame
My Pre-Announcement Announcement
Before we get into that, if you’ve been following me on Instagram, you probably know that I’ve had an announcement I’ve been wanting to make. I’m not going to go there just yet, but I do want to let you know that if you’ve been thinking about one-on-one coaching with me, NOW is the time.
I am going to be significantly limiting the one-on-one coaching spots I offer starting in January because I have some exciting things coming in the Spring! To book a clarity call, head over to whitneycatalano.com/book so we can chat and see if we’re a good fit.
This podcast is brought to you by Club TYB!
Club TYB is what I like to call your ‘food freedom family.’ It’s a Facebook group and a membership site where not only do you get a ton of access to me and my assistant Lindsay, but also a ton of support from all the other Club TYB members. You also get:
- Weekly journaling prompts
- The opportunity to celebrate your wins
- Live chats with me in the Facebook group
Along with all the support in the Facebook group, you’re also going to get monthly live calls with me (which you can watch live or recorded) and submit questions for me to answer. There’s also a second live call every month with a surprise guest on a certain topic. I’m hoping to get more guests who specialize in diseases, so next month I’m interviewing Julie Duffy Dillon about PCOS. In the past we’ve talked about meal prepping, drunkorexia, body positivity and body neutrality.
When you join Club TYB you don’t just get all of that, but you also get access to the entire archive of videos and questions I’ve answered for the group.
The 5 Pillars Of Food Freedom
If you’re looking for even more information than what you get from my podcast, Instagram, and website, then The 5 Pillars Of Food Freedom mini course is your next stop!
In this program, I cover:
- The foundations of food freedom
- What it means to give yourself unconditional permission
- How to connect with your hunger and fullness cues
- How to stop emotional eating and why you do it
- What kind of mindset you need to cultivate for food freedom
- How to identify the diet mentality (and how to get rid of it)
- Health At Every Size and how to prioritize health while healing your relationship with food
This mini course gives you so much information and value, so I’m really excited for you to dive into it. I initially offered this course as a bonus for people who signed up for the beta launch of Club TYB, and I’m doing that yet again! Head over to whitneycatalano.com/club-tyb to sign up for the 6 month membership of Club TYB (save $75) and get The Pillars Of Food Freedom ($49 value) for FREE.
Or, if you’re just looking for The Pillars Of Food Freedom on it’s own, head over to whitneycatalano.com/pillars to get started.
5 Steps To Survive The Holidays
Without further ado, let’s get into the episode! Whether you’re worried about diet talk from friends and family, body or weight comments, or if you’re just worried about the food and feeling out of control or feeling guilty, we’re going to dive deep into how you can get through it all.
1. Identify what you’re anxious about
If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed about the holiday season, it’s important to get clear on what you’re stressing about so you can do something about it. This is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself as well as the things that bring up stress for you around the holidays.
You might be anxious about:
- Food and body talk from friends and family
- Comments from parents/relatives who mean well but it never feels good
- Entering the for holidays for the first time on your food freedom journey
My biggest tip to you is to sit down with your journal and write ‘what am I anxious/scared about going into the holidays?’ From there, brain dump everything you may feel anxious/sad/frustrated about or anything you’re trying to avoid.
2. Figure out what you can control & what you can’t
When it comes to how the holidays will actually go, there may be some things that are not in your control. It’s not going to feel good if it doesn’t go how you envision. But understanding what is and is not in your control can help you to move on and accept what happens without blaming yourself.
Here are some things that are not in your control:
1. What people say or do
If every year your aunt talks about the diet she’s following, chances are she’s not going to stop anytime soon. It sucks, but it’s just how she is.
2. What your body is physiologically wired to do
When you’re starting your food freedom journey, the holidays probably won’t look like a perfect picture of intuitive eating. That’s okay. Use this year as a benchmark for how much better off you’re going to be next year. It’s literally going to be night and day.
3. How you feel
Although you can’t necessarily control how you feel, you control how you deal with those feelings. Most importantly, if you get angry or upset, don’t get mad at yourself or shame yourself for feeling that way. Stop getting worked up over your feelings and just allow yourself to feel how you feel so you can decide how you want to react or respond.
4. What you have not yet learned
When we learn something new, we tend to look back at a situation we aren’t proud of and fall into the trap of thinking we ‘should’ have done X. Well if you would have known, you probably would have acted differently! Now, you can use that information going forward. But at the time, you didn’t know. So don’t look back on a situation and beat yourself up. It is what it is.
If you aren’t the most proud of how this holiday season goes, remember that you are still learning. Things may feel really messy right now, and that’s okay! That’s the nature of healing your relationship with food. Get on board with the discomfort and allow yourself to be a work in progress.
It doesn’t matter how grounded and good you’re feel in your relationship with food right now, if this is your first holiday season after giving up dieting you’re probably going to run into some issues. That is okay! This is an opportunity to learn.
Now, let’s talk about some things that ARE in your control:
1. Setting boundaries
What people say or do are not in your control. But setting boundaries (ahead of time or in the moment) IS. Whether or not people follow those boundaries, it’s important to make it known what you want/need and honour yourself in that way.
You could say something ahead of time like…
- “Hey, would it be okay if we don’t do any diet or body talk?”
Or, in the moment you could say something like…
- “I appreciate your concern but you don’t have to worry about me, I’m healthy and I’m working on my mental health. Talking about my weight isn’t helpful but I get where you’re coming from.”
Having a response ready can be helpful, especially if something catches you off guard.
2. How you respond
You may have a lot of sadness, anxiety, anger, frustration, grief, or other emotions in the moment or leading up to it. You’re allowed to feel whatever you’re feeling AND choose how you respond.
For example, you might be having a lot of anxiety about eating a certain food. But now, you get to choose to eat that food anyways because it’s in alignment with what you want, which is food freedom. Putting yourself in multiple situations where you’re relinquishing control might be messy at first, but you have a choice to not fall back into disordered behaviours or prepare for it if you do.
No matter what happens when you expose yourself to family members, new foods, and whatever else, you can choose how to respond to everything.
3. How much you internalize the negative thoughts and comments
You have the opportunity to decide whether or not you want to internalize and believe your food and body thoughts.
When it comes to other people, their comments are a direct reflection of what is going on within them. If you have a certain relative who always makes food comments, it doesn’t mean that you have to listen. You get to choose what you do with that information. The best way to look at it is ‘wow, that person must really struggle with food or body image’ but you don’t have to listen to it.
You don’t have to change your eating or do anything different just because someone is projecting their own internalized stuff onto you. They don’t know your body, your mind, or where you’re at. You have to do what’s best for you, regardless of what other people say. People will always have something to say, especially if they have a disordered relationship with food. Let people be on their own journeys without letting it influence where you’re at on yours.
3. Figure out what your ideal holiday situation looks like.
Make a side by side list of things that are in your control and things that aren’t. Step away from that list and think about what an ideal situation (within your control) would look like:
- Maybe that would mean that you would have no binge urges with any of the foods that you’ve worked on healing your relationship with.
- Maybe any comments you receive from others have no effect on you at all.
- Maybe you set some boundaries with family members.
- Maybe you have someone to turn to in case the holidays don’t go exactly how you want.
We can only do so much with the things we’re anxious about without knowing what we want instead. Take some time to get creative with this so you know what you’re moving towards.
I’ll be honest- you can come up with exactly the situation you want and outline the whole thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to turn out that way. When you’re healing your relationship with food, you’re going to do a lot of learning in the moment and reflecting back on what you would do differently. It’s about figuring out what you want the ideal situation to be without holding yourself up to impossibly high expectations and feeling guilty afterwards.
4. Prepare in advance in any way you see fit
Look at the things you can’t control and decide how you want to react and respond if they happen. Then, look at the things you can control and create mantras, guidelines, or mental prep for making decisions that are in alignment with what you want to do for yourself.
What does that actually look like?
1. Think of what’s happened in the past and figure out how you would respond in the moment.
Go back to memories of past situations and how you wish you would have responded and write those down. Figure out if the person who says hurtful comments is open to hearing you, and determining whether you need to set boundaries.
2. Can you avoid the conversation, excuse yourself, or put your foot down in a way that doesn’t feel too intrusive or combative?
It can be as simple as having a way to deviate the conversation or switch topics. I always recommend that when food morality comes up to switch the conversation to the experience of enjoying that food. It’s not that dissimilar from what’s already being talked about, but it makes it into a positive conversation instead.
3. Write out what you want to say ahead of time.
You can do it on paper, in a note, or in a text. Whatever helps you make sure to protect your boundaries.
4. Eat enough ahead of time!
If you don’t want to binge and if you want to feel really good going in so you actually enjoy your night, eat enough leading up to the dinner. No matter how much you eat at dinner, follow it up with actual meals and don’t compensate or restrict. Just continue to go about your life as normal- this will help you stack the cards in your favour. Putting yourself in a situation where food isn’t restricted will only help you.
5. Talk to someone you trust.
Whether it’s by texting a friend, joining Club TYB or having a confidante at the party so that you know you have support, make sure you have someone to help you make it through.
6. Write out some mantras
Mantras can be super helpful. Saying things like:
- “I can eat the things I want”
- “I do not have to feel ashamed for eating”
- “I deserve to enjoy my meal without feeling bad’
- “It’s okay that this is hard, I will get through this”
Those are just a few ways you can prepare in advance for the things that are within your control or help you prepare for your reaction to the things that aren’t.
5. Navigate guilt/shame afterwards & in the moment when you’re overwhelmed
No matter how well in advance you prepare, you may still end up in family dynamics or other situations that your brain has conditioned you to respond in a certain way. You may do all of this work ahead of time, and then in the moment you’re faced with a ton of guilt and shame and don’t know how to get out of it.
Here is a super short and sweet way to help you through if you’re feeling guilty or anxious or have a thought playing on replay:
1. Notice the negative thoughts you’re having and name it
Say “I notice I’m experiencing a lot of guilt right now after eating. I’m feeling guilty, ashamed, and I’m kind of freaking out about my body.”
2. Recognize that this is challenging
Instead of being in that thought, take a step back and say “I notice I’m experiencing a lot of anxiety right now and thoughts that I need to restrict tomorrow. That’s okay, this is really hard.”
3. Make a promise to yourself
Promise yourself that you’re not going to make any decisions about food or your body when you’re panicking. Right now, you don’t need to make any decisions about your eating. You need to let the panic relax, go to bed, and see how you feel tomorrow.
The trick with this promise/mantra is that if you are panicking the next morning, you still can’t make any decisions in that moment. When you’re panicking, your brain is searching for something to get you out of it. Having that promise to yourself forces you to sit in the panic, which makes it go away. It makes you realize there’s nothing you can do about it, so you have to calm down because you’re not looking for a way out. Sitting with the discomfort makes it go away a lot quicker.
4. Get it out on paper.
Once you’ve calmed down a little bit, take some time with your journal and write out a list of everything you’re panicking about. Get everything that you feel you need to do/change OUT in a brain dump/list to just get it out of your head. Keeping this stuff in your head makes it feel really real. When you get it out on paper, you’re able to look at it through clearer eyes and realize it’s ridiculous.
Those are my 5 steps to surviving the holidays!
If the holidays are hard for you, whether there’s a lot of grief or family dynamics that are difficult to navigate, just know that you’re not the only one. It’s not abnormal to find the holidays lonelier or more anxiety-inducing than other times of the year. That’s just the nature of families and the holiday season. Don’t feel like you have to be the best version of yourself- you can just get through this.
I hope that every holiday season gets easier for you and you become a little bit more gentle with yourself so you can get better at managing your coping mechanisms and move through more smoothly. With all that being said, happy holidays!
I’d love to see you in Club TYB, so head over to whitneycatalano.com/club-tyb and I will talk to you all soon!
This post was transcribed and edited by Brittany Allison, Intuitive Eating Counsellor. You can find her on Instagram @thefoodfreedomlife.