The holiday season can be an especially challenging time for people with Binge Eating Disorder (BED). For some, it is a time of family and social gatherings where special foods are widely available. For others, it is a time when difficult feelings surface. For everyone, it is a time when we are bombarded by diet talk from the media and from family, friends and colleagues. Since dieting behavior can cause and/or sustain binge eating, it is important to make sure you don’t fall into the diet mentality trap. Here are some gentle reminders to help you navigate the holiday season.
Remind yourself you can have it later.
Who says you can’t make your sweet potato pie any time you want? If you believe you can’t have a special holiday food for another entire year, you are likely to have it whether you are really in the mood for it or not.
Instead, promise yourself you can make turkey and mashed potatoes any time of the year, and that those special desserts can be baked or bought whenever you desire. Knowing these foods are available any time reduces the need to eat something at a holiday celebration that you don’t really want at that moment.
Consider asking for the recipe or a doggie bag when you are at a holiday event. This strategy stops the worry that if you don’t eat a special food immediately, such as the appetizing double chocolate caramel brownies that Grandma makes once a year, you won’t be able to have it again until next year. When appropriate, you can say to your host, “The brisket looks delicious, but I’m not hungry right now. Would it be O.K. if I took some of the leftovers home for later?” Or, “This cake is fabulous. Can I have your recipe?” People are usually flattered by your desire for their food, and knowing you can eat that food later decreases the need to overeat something you’re not hungry for.
Avoid becoming too hungry.
It can be tempting to “save up” your hunger for parties and special events. However, when you go without food for a long period of time, you become ravenous. At this stage of physical hunger, you are likely to eat anything and everything in sight, leading to feeling out of control.
Instead, eat in accordance with your physical hunger throughout the day. If you want to ensure you have a good appetite when you arrive at an event, try to eat enough to take the edge off your hunger before you leave home, without becoming too full. A piece of fruit, some crackers or nuts, or a slice of cheese can help you respond to your hunger so you don’t walk into the party feeling desperate to eat. Then, you will truly be able to relax and feed yourself exactly what will satisfy you!
Stay compassionate with yourself.
Just about everyone overeats at times, especially during the holiday season. If you yell at yourself for your transgression, you are likely to create anxiety which actually fuels overeating. You are also likely to fall into the trap of telling yourself you might as well eat whatever you want right now because as of tomorrow – or next week or January 1st – you will have to restrict your eating. This attitude typically guarantees that you will eat more food than your body needs, leading to feeling out of control and increasing your sense of guilt.
Instead, remain gentle with yourself. Attuned/mindful eaters notice when they feel too full, and then naturally wait for their next sign of hunger to eat again. Acknowledge the discomfort you feel from overeating, and promise yourself you will do your best to wait for the next signal of physical hunger to let you know it is time to eat.
I hope these strategies will support you on your journey toward a healthy, satisfying and peaceful relationship with food!
Thank you to our Guest Blogger, Judith Matz. Judith is co-author of Beyond a Shadow of a Diet: The Comprehensive Guide to Binge Eating Disorder, Compulsive Eating and Emotional Overeating (2014 2nd Edition) and The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating, Acceptance and Self-Care (2006) and author of the new children’s book Amanda’s Big Dream (2015). She has a private practice in Skokie, IL.
Parts of this article appeared in Weightless. Copyright (C) 2015 Psych Central. All rights reserved. Reprinted here with permission.