The Gift of Permission

The holidays are a time for celebration and connection, but they can also be a source of stress and anxiety, especially if you struggle with your relationship with food.

Feeling out of control around food, eating past comfortable fullness, beating oneself up for doing so, and then vowing to make up for it by “getting back on track” in the new year is such a common experience. The idea that we get one chance to eat all of the “bad” foods before we have to reign it in and be “good” again is just another example of diet culture at work.

So how do you quiet that all-or-nothing thinking during the holidays (and every day of the year for that matter)?

Start by giving yourself permission:

Permission to enjoy all the foods that feel satisfying and nurturing to you. There is room for ALL foods. You aren’t going to develop a nutrient deficiency or suddenly become unhealthy because you ate dessert instead of vegetables for three days in a row. In fact, trying to avoid foods that you crave is only going to set you up for more intense cravings and a preoccupation with those foods. When you deprive yourself of food, whether physically (actual restriction) or psychologically (I can’t have that; it’s bad for me), you set the stage for feeling out of control around food.

Permission to eat more than feels comfortable one day and not have to make up for it the next.  Bodies are smart, and they don’t need you to be a perfect eater in order to operate efficiently. They know how to handle a lack of vitamins and minerals one day or an excess of calories on another day. Overeating one day does not mean that you don’t deserve to eat as much the next day. You still need and deserve proper nourishment every single day. Your body can handle it. Trust it.

Permission to opt out of triggering discussions around food and weight loss. There is so much diet talk this time of year. You might not be able to avoid it, but you don’t have to be a part of it. Set boundries for yourself.  Whether it be verbalizing how/why these types of discussions are not helpful for you, changing the subject, or removing yourself from the conversation, disengage from these situations in any way you can.

Permission to NOT start dieting in January. The threat of an impending restriction is one of the reasons why so many of us feel so out of control around food during the holidays. Remember, mental deprivation can be just as strong as physical deprivation. How we think about food greatly influences how we act around food. If our body senses that a restriction is on the horizon, our biological survival mechanism kicks in, and the desire for food becomes strong.

How might it be different if you knew you could still eat Christmas cookies if you felt like it after January 1st?