“It's never been true, not anywhere at any time, that the value of a soul, of a human spirit, is dependent on a number on a scale.” Geneen Roth
The holidays are great. We party. We eat. We bake. We eat. We give gifts. We eat. We travel. We eat. The problem is most of us feel guilty that we’re eating too much. Then we gripe and complain that we’ve gained weight and feel fat.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever:
- Gained weight during the holidays
- Eaten too much over the holidays
- Lied about your weight
- Wanted to lose 10 pounds after the holidays
- Talked critically about your body
If you answered yes to 3 or more of those questions, you’re probably not comfortable in your own skin! Why so much self-loathing when it comes to our bodies around the holidays? It complicated. But here’s the skinny on what we can do to make healthier choices, keep body dissatisfaction at bay, and actually learn to get comfortable in our own skin.
I know what you’re thinking, avoiding holiday stress is impossible. But think about this, stress produces a hormone called cortisol which makes the body hold onto calories longer. This makes it harder to burn off the holiday fat. Try focusing on the true meaning of the holidays and what’s really important. At the end of the day no one cares if everything is perfect.
Don’t skip meals
Lots of us think if we skip a meal or two we can overeat at the party. Not so. Research shows that skipping meals only makes us more susceptible to overeating. Keep your blood sugar stable by eating regular meals.
Practice mindful eating
The first step is to notice how often you find yourself judging your body. Try replacing judging accusatory statements with words of acceptance toward yourself. When eating, take time to savor your food instead of inhaling it. Notice the tastes and textures. Slow down the process so you can enjoy it. Learn to notice when you’re hungry and pay attention when you’re full.
Watch what you tell yourself
Most women who have body dissatisfaction issues are perfectionists. They think the table has to look like it’s been set for a Southern Living photo shoot. The kids have to look like they stepped out of an ad for Macy’s, and the pie has to be better than Rachel Rays. To increase your self-awareness of perfectionistic tendencies, place a rubber band on your wrist. Each time you find yourself saying something harsh about your body, wanting to overeat, or find yourself running on the performance treadmill, snap the rubber band against your wrist --hard. This will do several things: 1) help you notice the frequency of self-criticism 2) remind you to replace your negative self-talk with positive counterstatements 3) stop trying to be perfect 4) give you a chance to decide if you really need that extra piece of pie.
Recognize what lies beneath
The skinny on holiday weight gain might surprise you: most people only gain about a pound during the holidays. The problem is they don’t take it off during the year. If you’re already overweight this becomes seriously unhealthy. In my work with eating disordered clients, I find that its not about the food as much as it is staying present with oneself. It’s really about what lies beneath the conscious surface and what we’re trying to avoid. The holidays can be difficult for many because they stir up feelings of loneliness, sadness and emptiness. Our go to from there is to eat to feel comfort. If we’re honest, the empty feelings in our soul don’t go away when we overeat. This holiday season, try sitting with your feelings even if they are painful. Journal, talk to a trusted friend or pastor. If depression sets in see a counselor.
The key to all of this mess can be summed up in one word. Acceptance.
If you’re complaining about your body, grumbling about how you’ll never lose the holiday weight, or pushing yourself to be perfect; you’re fighting the wrong battle. The battle you need to fight is learning to accept yourself for who God created you to be.
Acceptance starts with living in the moment.
A reality check can help you realize that all the time and energy your putting into getting a better body (dieting, exercising, obsessing, and berating yourself) won’t change anything on the inside.
You may look better, but you still may not like who you are. Put your energy into work that will payoff. The results will be life changing.
Then, allow yourself the freedom to be defined by more than your body image. You are fearfully and wonderfully made—rejoice!