Monday, November 28, 2011

Connect with Yourself at Holiday Time

It may be the season to be jolly but for many it is a difficult and frightening time. It is that time of year when social occasions abound and we are faced with so many food choices it can be overwhelming. Navigating your way through the holiday festivities is a challenge to be sure!

Have you ever really paid attention to how focused our culture is on food? Virtually every occasion we experience has food as a central theme.

Think of Thanksgiving without turkey and pumpkin pie or Easter without candy eggs. How about Valentine’s Day with no chocolate, birthdays or weddings with no cake or even meetings without refreshment breaks? How often do we get together with friends without including food? We ask people to meet us for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. We invite them over for coffee or a drink. When was the last time someone asked you to get together just to spend time enjoying each other’s company? Food is everywhere and a part of nearly every occasion.

How can we take care of ourselves in this food-oriented culture? How can we socialize with friends, celebrate holidays and birthdays, go to fine restaurants and relax about it? How can we manage to enjoy ourselves, eat only some of what is offered and feel satisfied? How can we survive this constant exposure to food? If we eat too much, the result is anxiety and we will want to eat to medicate this feeling. If we eat too little, we feel deprived and set ourselves up to binge later. If we have weight to lose, we feel anxious about that and if we have lost the weight we wanted to lose, we feel anxious that we will gain it back. (Many people report that they find it much harder to maintain weight loss than to lose the weight in the first place.) So we eat because we have not lost weight and we eat because we have lost weight. What a dilemma! At either end of the scale, anxiety lurks and if we don’t know healthy ways to cope with the anxiety, we eat.

It is impossible to be harmonious, balanced and content all the time in social situations or in life in general. If we feel too successful or unsuccessful, for example, we find ourselves off balance and anxious. Anytime things are a little too “good” or a little too “bad” we find ourselves racing to the refrigerator in search of something to help us find emotional balance. We mistakenly think food can provide this for us. It cannot. Only we have the power to cope with our own difficult feelings as we negotiate our way along our own life’s path.

All this can be very confusing and discouraging. Whatever holidays you may celebrate, remember to keep your needs in the foreground and to nurture yourself. Even in settings where opportunities to sabotage yourself abound and your “Chew” is screaming for “treats,” you do not have to feel helpless and victimized. Give yourself time before you go out to sit, close your eyes, listen to your internal guidance system, connect with your appetite and breathe. Think through the event and decide how you will approach it. Be mindful once you arrive and make as many self-loving, conscious choices as you can. Enjoy whatever you do choose to eat and never, under any circumstances, beat yourself up. Remind yourself that you are in charge of you – not your “Chew” and remember, there are no mistakes, only lessons. So try to relax and be gentle with yourself. The more you nurture yourself in other ways, breathe and remind yourself that you have conscious choices to make every moment, the less important food will become.


Dr. Denise

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