How To Manage Feelings of Guilt Around The Holidays
I remember being in my early twenties, with a new celiac disease diagnosis, horrible body image, and hating the holidays. I literally would dread them. I would dread all the different foods I would be tempted by, or all the social engagements that I felt so much pressure to be at that perfect weight for. Not to mention the guilt I would feel every time I ate something that wasn't "part of my plan".
There was a lot of "my diet starts tomorrow" or "if I just restrict today it will make up for last night" thoughts that would go through my head, and it really took all the fun and enjoyment out of the holidays, and replaced what should be a wonderful time of year with a whole lot of guilt.
Because that's just it, the holidays are, and should be, such a fun time of year, and they don't have to be a cycle of restriction all day, and binging on holiday cookies at night. They don't have to be about your body, your food, or impressing anyone who you think you may need to impress at all. The holidays are about so much more than food, or being at the perfect weight for the holiday party, they are about spending time with the ones your love, and reflecting on your amazing life, and what you want for yourself in the future.
But, it is easier said than done, and because I personally know what it is like to feel entirely overwhelmed by the holidays, and consumed by feelings of guilt or shame or "my diet starts tomorrow" moments, I want to walk you through my favorite ways to help you manage feelings of guilt around the holidays, and truly allow yourself to enjoy this special time of year.
These practices and intentions really helped me, and overtime I can gladly say that I now experience no pressure, guilt, or shame around my body, or my food when it comes to the holidays. It is such a freeing feeling, and I want you to know that you can get there too.
01: Give Yourself Permission
I personally don't think that the holidays is really a good time to rock the boat when it comes to your usual routine...this is the time of year to just go with the flow, and try avoid putting too many expectations on yourself. But I do think that it is so important to give yourself permission to enjoy these few weeks out of the year, that is a "rule" I can get down with.
When it comes to holiday-related food guilt I always recommend that my clients give themselves the permission to eat all the foods. I mean all of them (excluding any medical/allergy related restrictions). This is because the second we start making rules and restrictions for how we will enjoy the holidays, and holiday food...we begin to want all the foods even more.
All of a sudden because you told yourself there is no way you are eating another cookie or carb until the weekend, now every baked good that is brought into the office sounds appealing. Even the ones you wouldn't have looked twice at before.
We want what we cant have, it's human nature...and our food isn't any different. So I want you to rid yourself of this "can't have" mentality and literally give yourself the permission to eat anything you want. This I know is going to feel so so scary for so many people, but trust me while you may feel overwhelmed or "out of control" in the beginning, those feelings will pass and you will begin to tune into your own intuition, and will actually begin to feel much more calm around holiday food and your holiday food choices.
Simply knowing that you can have absolutely anything you want, can sometimes be exactly what you need to bring clarity to what it is your body really wants.
02: Eliminate The "I'll Start Tomorrow" Phrase From Your Vocabulary
If you are reading this post, I am going to assume that you have experienced guilt around the holidays, or maybe have experienced guilt even daily around your relationship with food. I am also going to assume that the phrase "I'll start tomorrow" has made it's way into your thoughts or vocabulary in the past, and I want to encourage you to eliminate it.
Think about that phrase for a second. "I'll start tomorrow". Who the hell ever came up with that?! At it's core, it is a phrase that implies that your life today is not one that you are living, and that tomorrow is when you will begin to take hold of your life. I'm calling bullshit.
The "I'll start tomorrow" mentality is a marketing ploy that for decades and decades diet companies, advertisers, and marketing professionals coined to make you think that there is something wrong with today, and that tomorrow you will really begin. Begin what?! That next restrictive diet that will always lead back to unhealthy habits and a poor relationship with food and your body? That intense exercise program that doesn't feel natural for your body? None of these "I'll Start Tomorrow" thoughts are positive, they aren't intentional, they aren't you tuning into your own body, and your own intuition, in many ways that are robbing you of that by giving you a start date and a deadline to have everything all figured out.
So, this holiday season I want you to remove this phrase from you vocabulary (and mind!) and try replacing it with, "What Person Do I Want To Be Today" or "How Can I Support My Body Today". See how much kinder and more present those phrases are. Try saying them to yourself every morning before you get out of a bed, and answer them. Already you will be going into the day from a place of intention, rather than a "throw your hands up in the air and start tomorrow". Your life is happening today, everyday. Be present for it.
03: Bring Intention To Everyday
On a similar wavelength to the above, it is so important during the holidays to bring intention into each and everyday. You can start that by asking yourself those kind questions each morning to get yourself reflecting on the day ahead. You also can choose to decide how you feel comfortable handling every holiday gathering, and making an intentional choice around how you will engage with the food/drinks being served.
I like to remind my clients that you can eat any of the holiday treats any day of the year. You do not need to overindulge because you are afraid of missing out on something. Most likely you have access to a grocery store with an abundance of food at all times. You don't need to "get it all in" during the holidays. Remind yourself that you can make sugar cookies after Christmas and see how you feel.
If you then decide that yes you really want to enjoy the desserts at your holiday party then go for it, honestly I mean it you can have all the foods. Or if you decide that you actually would rather make sugar cookies at home with your kids, because your sugar cookies are amazing and no one makes them better, then awesome, skip the cookies at the holiday party.
When you bring intention into the holidays and especially when you bring intention into your food choices around the holidays I promise that you will be so much less likely to experience guilt, and will be more likely really enjoy the holiday foods you decide to indulge in.
04: Feel Confident Saying No
I really really really really really dislike food pressure, or peer pressure of any kind really, but food pressure especially. Many times food pressure is a part of a family culture, for instance, my Italian grandmother was the queen of food pressure, it was just part of her culture and how she grew up. She really meant well, and was always coming from a place of love, and honestly most of the time I think when food pressure does happen it isn't meant to be harmful, but it can be.
Today there also is a lot of food pressure that is a direct result of people wanting to feel better about their food choices by pressuring other people to eat what they are eating. I think a lot of this really does stem from diet culture.
Most of the time I find that when people are pressuring other people around food, it's because they may not be comfortable with their own food choices themselves. That person needs to do some self-reflecting, just like you need to do some self-reflecting and feel confident saying no to food pressure.
If you are choosing not to eat holiday cookies during the day at work because you truly don't want them that is your choice, it is no one else's.
So this holiday season, I really encourage you to adopt this phrase when you know you are going to encounter a situation where you do not want to overly partake in the food or alcohol being served. "Thank you anyway, but I am going to pass". Super simple, super effective.
By taking charge of your own choices and feelings you will be so much less likely to experience any guilt this holiday season, and again will be more likely to enjoy the foods you personally decide you want to enjoy. You are an adult, no one can make you eat anything you don't want to, so if you don't want something start getting comfortable saying no.
05: Your Self Worth Is Not Determined By Your Food Choices
This needs to be taught in middle school, high school, and college because boy do we have a problem with both girls and boys feeling that their self-worth is defined by their body, and then by default by their food choices.
If you are someone who is really struggling with your body image I know that your self-worth feels so very connected to your body, your weight, your food, but you are not a number on a scale, or a diet plan. You are an amazing person, with talents, and hobbies, and friends and family who could care less what you weigh, and care so much more about you.
Learning to disconnect your self-worth from a number on the scale though, or a particular way of eating can be a really long road sometimes, and honestly that is okay. What I want you to remember as you navigate the holiday season is that no one else is judging you by your body, literally no one. No one will care if you indulge or even gain weight during the holidays, because no one else values you for your food choices, or your weight. They value you for you.
So when you are feeling overwhelmed or feelings of guilt are flooding into your mind over the foods you decided to enjoy, remember that your self-worth is not determined by your food choices, your self-worth is defined by the love you have for yourself.