So I will just eat everything in my house, and then I will be really good starting tomorrow…
It’s that time of year when everyone is obsessed with not eating too much food. Or trying not to.
It’s like a cultural rite of passage: Will you complain about how much food you’re eating this holiday? Will you discuss how bad you’ve been and how you plan on repenting come January 1st?
It’s in the air. There is too much food around! None of us have any control! We are all the worst! Take this pie out of my hand! Lock me in a room with lettuce! …BUT EGGNOG!
Welcome to the Annual Month-and-a-Half-Long Holiday Binge.
Joey knows what we’re talking about…
In order to get to the bottom of this phenomenon and find out how to stop the annual holiday binge, let’s talk a little bit about binge mentality.
Binges happen under restriction.
People who binge on food are also the people who have a lot of guilt and stress around food. Contrary to what you might think, the guilt and stress are actually the things causing the bingeing, not the other way around. These are the chronic dieters, the people who feel constant guilt or judgment over the foods they eat. Their entire life feels like a diet, which is extremely mentally and physically stressful, so the body and brain react by having them systematically lose control over food: bingeing.
Almost all binges come along with this sentiment: oh well, I’ve messed up now. So I will just eat everything in my house and then I will be really good starting tomorrow.
We binge because we restrict. I know that seems like an oversimplification, but I promise it is true. I have worked with hundreds of women, and bingeing always comes back to feelings of restriction. Notice I said feelings, not just actual restriction. The important thing to realize is that the emotional aspect of this is just as powerful as any physical aspect of restriction.
So what does that mean about holiday overindulgence?
It’s the same black-and-white binge mentality.
Oh man, I really shouldn’t be drinking wine and eating all this pie! But I’ve already had a lot of wine and a lot of pie and cookies this whole month…so I may as well keep going before I have to cut it all out. I’ll be really, extra good on New Year’s, and then for the rest of my life.
Our relationship to food is so screwy, restrictive, and judgmental that the holidays become the socially acceptable time to to let loose and go a little crazy.
The truth is there is nothing wrong with letting loose and going a little crazy. There is nothing inherently wrong with eating pie and cookies and stuffing and wine and eggnog.The actual problem is how black and white it all becomes. How we start judging ourselves and panicking and deciding to just get it all in now before January 1st rolls around. That’s binge mentality, and it doesn’t get any better once you’re in binge mentality. Binge mentality feeds itself. It is the guilt/repent cycle. It is the black and white, good and bad, off the wagon/on the wagon. And it will not stop ’til you decide to stop the cycle.
Here are some suggestions for stepping out of the holiday binge cycle and experiencing some normal, healthy indulgence.
Consider NOT Having A Food Or Weight-Related New Year’s Resolution.
Crazy? Well, I am almost certain that most of our collective Holiday Binge Syndrome comes from the knowledge that on January 1st, it’s goodbye wine and cookies and hello celery. I promise that your eating will be so much more normal during the holidays if you don’t think it’s your last chance.
Challenge That Guilt You Feel Over Food.
Why should you feel guilty for eating pie? Even eating a lot of pie? It’s just pie. It’s a holiday. It’s a celebration. It’s probably really good pie. If you feel guilty over the pie, it’s just going to make you think that there is something to repent for soon, so you may as well pound that cookie tray too before the impending repentance. Food guilt is not serving you.
What Holiday Food Do You Actually Like?
Sometimes we go nuts over certain foods just because we think we should or because it’s decadent. What holiday treats do you actually like? What is your ideal holiday? You’re allowed to create your holidays to be however you like.
Consider Not Being On A Diet At All, Ever.
Dieters go especially crazy with food at the holidays, depending on which part of their guilt/repent cycle they are on. I know I did. It was the food apocalypse after the fall diet. It was inevitable, once my resolve had finally weakened. My body wanted more than the lame restrictive meal plan I allowed. This was my one chance to eat amazing food…
Don’t do that to yourself. Don’t give yourself something to rebel against! The more normal you allow food to be all the time, the more normal your holiday eating will be, I promise. You’ll be able to eat lots of delicious food — and even drink lots of eggnog — and move on with your life.
This post originally appeared on Ravishly and has been republished with full permission.
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