The holidays always seem like a very volatile time to me. At a time when we are pressured to be “thankful”, all we can think about is the stressors and triggers in our lives that are all coming to the forefront.

Personally, I have checked out from all the holidays and get-togethers the last few years. By now, my family is more surprised when I make an appearance then when I am absent. For a long time this used to make me feel incredibly guilty. I felt I was being a bad daughter/niece/cousin/granddaughter.

This year I have come to the realization that my actions have meant that my mental health has been better preserved for all the avoidance. It means I was better able to care for my Self.

Because it is not just the pressures of family we end up contending with… It is pressures surrounding food, and how we end up reacting (emotionally) when there is such abundance.

Being around our triggers, it is normal for us to turn to something easily accessible to comfort us. We evolved with a sweet tooth as a survival mechanism (as part of our primal ability to stave off starvation). Often this means that the overabundance of calorie dense, sugar and carb laden foods become a substitute for more constructive outlets for our emotional distress.

There is a growing body of evidence showing that there is no such thing as “all things in moderation”, and that willpower, although possible in small doses, really does us no good. The real saying should be “out of sight, out of mind”.

Why am I talking about food?

I find that many of us use food as a reward or a punishment. We either go all out and shove our emotions down with unhealthy foods, or we deny ourselves to the point where we do not recognize our hunger. Actually, both ends of the spectrum do not recognize real hunger. And that hunger can be a metaphor for emotions such as love, grief, sadness, anger, happiness. Overeating or starvation is a good way (and “socially acceptable” way) to numb out.

Going on a holiday binge can lead to the “abuse voices” critisizing us, berating us. It can start a downward depressive spiral that is hard to dig out of.

If you cannot avoid family on the holidays, consider modifying the holiday recipes you usually cook. If you don’t cook, look up some easy recipes with simple ingredient lists and short cooking times. Focus on desserts. They are the typical trigger foods, and if you have something that you know is “safe” to eat, you will be less likely to binge.

On a personal note: I have gone both extremes, I have been anorexic, and am now a recovering emotional binge eater. It was a snap decision to change when it hit me that the source of my health problems were dietary. I have now gotten off one antidepressant, off one pain med, reduced a mood stabilizer, and an anti-anxiety/anti-migraine med. I had suffered from edema in my feet for months, and not only is it gone, but I can now sprint in intervals, when I was previously unable to run for years.

My focus is health, so it is a bonus that I am down 10+ pounds (necessary weight loss though!). I have increased my intake of healthy fats, like coconut oil, and butter (!), and I find that that has eliminated my cravings for sweet and carb-y foods.

The desert I had tonight was an almond flour muffin with cacao nibs and coconut sugar. It is dense and filling, so while it is a small muffin, one is enough, and fills me up.

Looking at the cause of your emotional eating / starvation can help you tap into emotions that you thought were long dormant. Healing needs a synergistic look and effort. It is not linear, or easy. But the results can be well worth the effort.

Stay Safe ❤

 

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