How to Prioritize Your Health and Eliminate Negative Self-Talk During Holiday Meals

How to Prioritize Your Health and Eliminate Negative Self-Talk During Holiday Meals

Written by Jacqui Cooper-Morgan (Center for Discovery)

Prioritizing your health during the holidays can look different for everybody. Whether you are in recovery from an eating disorder or not, you may feel guilt or shame about eating during the holidays. The first and foremost thing for prioritizing your health through the holidays is eating enough. This is regardless of your body size, what you ate yesterday or what you ate today. You need to eat enough food and a variety of food. But with all the chaos that comes along with the holidays, what exactly does that look like? How do you prioritize your health this holiday season?

5 Tips to Prioritize Your Health During the Holidays

1. Don’t skip meals

A lot of people restrict or overexercise before a holiday meal. Seeing your family engage in these behaviors to “prepare” for holiday meals might be triggering for you. During the holidays, schedules are off, so eating at regular intervals is key to maintaining and protecting your health and recovery, if you’re in recovery.

2. Set boundaries around diet talk

If you predict there will be triggering conversations around diet culture at a gathering, have a code word or a safe buddy that you can give a nod or a smile to. Have someone who sees you and knows your struggle. Offer a different topic to talk about. If you just want to leave the situation, that’s also an option. Working towards accepting that you cannot always control a conversation, or the actions of others can also be a positive strategy. People might still talk about their diet even if you’ve asked them not to. Work towards acceptance.

3. Remember that you don’t need to earn food

You deserve food just because you’re a human. Think of food not just in terms of numbers this holiday season. Food can also be nourishment in a spiritual way, or a soulful way. It adds value to our lives because it’s family, culture or just plain tasty.

4. Be mindful of your alcohol use

Alcohol can interfere with your ability to connect with your body, so if you’re not totally in touch with your hunger and satiety cues, you might not be able to register if you’re still hungry or full.

5. Plan ahead

If a certain meal or a certain time that you are going to be eating is causing so much anxiety for you, have a plan of what you might want to do. Go through it in your head. If there are a lot of options in a buffet style to select for your meal, eat a little bit of everything in a mindful way. How does the food taste? Bring it back to the meal. I think this is a good coping skill for triggering conversations. Negative food or diet related talk, focusing back on your meal can be a way to avoid that conversation.

Feeling Dysregulated this Holiday Season?

The holidays present many challenges, such as a change in schedule, travel plans and seeing people you may not typically be around. This can all lead to dysregulation of the body. If you are feeling super dysregulated, the following strategy can help you get grounded, bring you away from triggering conversations and allow you to focus on your meal.

In the “5,4,3,2,1 skill” first identify:

  • Five things you can see
  • Four things you can hear
  • Three things you can touch
  • Two things you can smell and
  • One thing you can taste.

This grounding strategy can help bring you back to yourself during times of dysregulation. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or like you can’t focus on your meal or internal cues of satiety, this tool might be able to help.

Enjoy Yourself this Holiday Season!

While it may seem like you’re just trying to go through the motions of the holiday season, remember to try to enjoy yourself, too. You deserve a break. Even if it’s just for an hour. Give yourself permission to enjoy yourself and your meal.

About the Author:

Jacqui Cooper Morgan, RD, CEDRD is the Director of Nutrition at Discovery Mood & Anxiety Program. She utilizes a compassionate, individualized approach to support individuals heal their relationship with food and move towards long-term health goals. Jacqui started her career as a dietitian working at the residential level of care, treating individuals with eating disorders. She has since provided care for individuals struggling with mental health and substance use issues. Jacqui is a certified eating disorder registered dietitian whose work is grounded in evidence-based nutrition practices including Intuitive Eating® and Health at Every Size®.