Thursday, December 6, 2007

Surviving Stress and Enjoying the Holidays

By Dr. Susan Mendelsohn
eDiets Psychologist

There are a variety of emotions that may surface as a result of seeing your family during the holidays. With these emotions come some unforeseen difficulties. One challenge is the common possibility of reverting back to old behavior patterns as if being back in the same place (emotionally) as we were when the family lived and grew up together.

In other words, if you grew up being told your worth was based on your appearance, or if you were taunted and teased because of your weight or body size, you may begin to experience those same feelings of inferiority during your family reunion, regardless of whether you have grown out of that inferiority complex and have been functioning independently for years.

Because of these feelings floating back to the surface, old habits tend to reappear. These habits may include overeating to numb the pain, or overeating because that is what your family expects of you. In this sense, they may load your plate up with your favorite foods from childhood with the expectation that you are to eat it all.

You do NOT have to please anyone by cleaning your plate. You have a CHOICE this time. People pleasing is especially common at this time of year. However, it’s time to realize that asserting your rights to refrain from your old favorites will help you gain a newfound respect and get your family to treat you differently in the future.

If this is problematic for you during these typically stressful reunions, then now is the time to prepare for this situation in case it does arise.

The following checklist will help you survive the holidays by coping in a more effective manner:

1.Plan ahead.

2.Visualize how you will feel after eating a particular food or after eating too much food.

3.Visualize yourself maintaining your healthy pattern of eating.

4.Set limits with yourself prior to that holiday meal.

5.Use your feelings journal to prepare you for uncomfortable emotions.

6.Learn about food substitutions .

7.Use positive affirmations. Develop a list of things you love about yourself and read them several times a day. This will help you be kind to your body without overstuffing yourself.

8 Do NOT skip meals prior to your holiday meal. This will only slow your metabolism and set you up for a binge. Keep your meals as structured as possible.

9.Practice your assertiveness skills by reviewing this archived article.

10.Be aware of your trigger foods. These are foods that when you eat a little make you want to eat a lot.

11.Eat slowly and savor the taste.

12.Take smaller portions of each food so you can eat a variety of foods without feeling deprived.

13.Be conscious of what you are eating. Think before and while you eat.

14.Eat only at the dinner table. Do not pick.

15.Increase your exercise for a couple of days prior to and on the day of the holiday meal. (Make sure you have clearance from your physician).

16.Stop eating when you feel full.

17.Do NOT continue eating to numb feelings or to be simply “sociable”.

18.Get rid of the guilt. If you CHOOSE to eat a particular food, allow yourself to do so without the guilt and return to your healthy lifestyle when the holiday meal has ended.

19.Stop people pleasing. Do NOT eat to please others. You will be the only one paying the consequences later.

20.Recognize that only YOU are in control of your body and the consequences of your actions.

The holidays do not have to be stressful if you plan ahead. I'm wishing you the very happiest and healthiest holiday season ever! You can do it if you stay focused.

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