Self Care and Saying No Through the Holidays

Since I was a small child, I remember the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals as always being a time when everyone would eat to past fullness. It was normal and common to fill the dinner plate to the brim and then go back for seconds...sometimes thirds. There have been many holidays in my past in which I can remember feeling sick afterwards, finding it necessary to even go lie down right after dinner to "sleep off" the meal. 

Of course, there's nothing wrong with some over indulgence at the holiday meal time. Some may refer to this eat past fullness as a binge, but according to the DSM V and the diagnostic criteria for Binge Eating (link to archive blog), eating past fullness or eating more than others normally would only applies if it occurs in a situation in which others do not normally eat more than usual. In this case, the overeating behavior would not apply as a binge eating episode because it is normal for overeating to occur during the holiday season. 

Autumn Salad

However, I can remember my father engaging in the holiday meal time very differently. My father suffered and still suffers occasionally with acid reflux, in which sometimes certain choices with food results in having a very negative reaction for his stomach and digestion. He learned that it was better for him to start saying no to eating past fullness. He practiced saying no at family gatherings if he knew he had already ate a satisfying meal. Though at times other family members initially questioned and were dismayed at his behavior, most learned to expect and respect his decision in his eating behaviors during the holiday meal. My dad was making the choice to eat for how he wanted to feel, an intuitive eating practice.

During the holiday season it is known and nearly expected to overeat. Many find it difficult to skip out on meal selections that perhaps, they wouldn't normally eat. For example, if you don't LOVE green beans, but perhaps you still feel compelled to put them on your holiday meal plate just because they're there. Some reasons might be because you want to "get in your vegetables" or because "they were there and so I thought I would eat them."

Holiday Cookies

Another common mistake some make in intuitive eating at holiday time is eating items in order to make others happy. Many individuals are blessed with multiple family gatherings, sometimes back to back in the same day, where they feel obligated to eat at each get-together. Again, it's a cultural expectation to eat during the holiday season and many fear offending the host or the cook if they skip certain food selections or if they were to not eat altogether.  

Sometimes, the best way to take care of yourself is to learn to say no. If you don't love the green beans and you're only eating them because you feel like some "food rule" has told you to eat all your veggies, or because they were there, then mark this as your freedom to say no. Instead, choose to eat items at the holiday meal that you truly love. For example, this time of year may be the only time you will be able to enjoy Grandma's apple pie. The pie is something you definitely want to make room for, so why take up some of that room with green beans you don't love and can have any time of year? 

During the holiday season, there can be a lot of pressure to eat ALL THE FOODS because you don't want to offend the host or the cook. This could easily turn into a problem if you are going to multiple engagements and there are multiple hosts to please. Practice saying no in these circumstances. Sure, it's plausible someone might become slightly curious about why you're not eating, but remember that most individuals will be in the same boat as you, with multiple holiday gatherings to attend in which they won't feel hungry for. Just like the experience with my father, your family members will learn to expect and respect your choice to not overindulge. 

Self Care

All of this to say, listen to your body's cues this holiday season. The holiday meals ARE a time to indulge, celebrate and engage in fellowship with others which usually involves food. This time of year it is considered "normal" to eat past your fullness cues and it would not be considered problematic to do so. However, if you feel it is best for YOU to pick and choos what items or meals you plan to eat because ultimately you will physically feel better after eating, know that it is not selfish or bad manners to say no. 



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