The holiday season is usually an uplifting time for many people, but others may quietly struggle with it each year. While growing up, all of us had different experiences around the holidays that shaped our perceptions about them. Were yours joyful and fun or unpredictable and chaotic? Or maybe a little of both? Whether they were good or bad, those memories are likely to pop up with the sights, sounds, smells, and activities associated with this time of year.
Holiday Triggers Around Food
For example, if your memories of Christmas are tarnished by scary or unpleasant events that regularly occurred, you may be really stressed about your upcoming family get together—it’s understandable! Perhaps one of your parents always got drunk and became enraged and acted badly in another way, or heated arguments around the dinner table were part of the status quo. Whatever it was, you remember feeling fearful and uncomfortable, waiting for the day to be over.
Although the memories are distant now, getting together with those same people during the holidays can be triggering for you. Underneath your smile, there’s a part of you who still feels uneasy and anxious, waiting for a replay of past events. To help soothe your nerves, you find yourself repeatedly reaching for the comfort food options that seem to abound during family gatherings. And even if you felt resolved to stay strong, every time your antennae go up, you reach out for something to eat or pour yourself another drink.
Conversely, maybe you’re a person with fond memories of the holidays, because they included lots of good cheer, presents, and delicious food, including grandma’s freshly baked pies. Everyone was encouraged to indulge heavily in the smorgasbord of rich dishes, and you enjoyed doing this together as a family.
However, now that you’re older, overeating in the same way doesn’t serves you well. It drains your energy and makes you cranky the next day. And though each year you promised yourself that you’d be disciplined, the enticing aromas flooded your senses once again and the well-meaning, loving food pushers win you over, making it very difficult to JUST SAY NO.
If either of these scenarios rings a bell for you, it doesn’t mean being around food during the holidays is a lost cause.
Create a Simple Plan to Avoid Unhealthy Eating
You can be better prepared mentally by knowing what your holiday triggers are around food and making a plan for managing them—and your strategy doesn’t have to be complicated.
Since eating is one of the focuses of holiday gatherings, I like to bring something for the meal that I know will be satisfying and healthy, like a big colorful salad, that I can have plenty of along with whatever protein and veggies are there. This way, I don’t feel deprived while others are loading up their plates with tempting foods that I know would make me wake up the next day feeling sluggish and mad at myself.
I also think it’s a great idea to bring some desserts that are so tasty no one will suspect how nutritious they are. I always get great feedback about my Healthy Apple Cinnamon Crisp, as well as Nutty Butter Cups. I’ll just double the recipes if there are going to be a lot of people. And knowing that I can indulge in these treats without jeopardizing my health is a win-win!
It’s OK Not to Go
With all that said, it’s important for you to recognize that you are the captain of your ship. This means that if getting together with certain people—including relatives—makes you uncomfortable, you don’t have to go. Or if you feel somehow obligated, it’s ok just to go for little while, so you can make your exit before things might get out of control.
You deserve to have a good time during the holidays too, so don’t let anyone guilt you into going someplace and being with people who make you feel uncomfortable or adversely affect your mental health. Make yourself a priority this year and do what’s right for you.
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If you’re struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.