Originally published on Body Love Wellness and cross-posted here with their permission.
It seems that every year around this time, I get gazillions of e-mails from folks who are nervous about the holidays.
Explaining to your family that you don’t want to know the number of calories in pecan pie, that you’re not interested in that new diet book that worked for your nephew’s former roommate, and that – yes – you have put on a little weight, and it’s totally okay, may not be your idea of a fun holiday.
So what can you do to survive through it? I’ve got some ideas.
1. Breathe Deeply and Often
I’m a veteran of those aerobics classes where the teacher constantly tells you, “Don’t forget to breathe!”
I remember finding that advice kind of annoying and yet strangely helpful when a deep breath was really what I needed.
How It Works: As you probably know, taking a breath that’s a little deeper than normal is an important way to reduce anxiety and relax your body. It also helps you to enjoy your food.
Pro Tip: Instead of taking a really deep, 100% full type of breath (which can actually be a little stressful to your body if you’re not used to it), take a 75% full breath. Just try to fill up your lungs about three-quarters of the way, hold it for a few seconds, and breathe out.
Do this whenever you think of it, and especially if you’re feeling anxious.
This will relax your body and allow you to engage with the four other tips.
2. Set Boundaries
This one is so important, but often so hard to do.
For a more in-depth post on how to set boundaries, check this out, but I want to give you my handy formula for setting boundaries right here:
1. Acknowledge The Other Person, Their Feelings, and Positive Motives
2. Make Your Request Clearly
How It Works: Let’s say you have an aunt who always comments on your weight, and you’d really like her to stop.
Here’s how you can use this formula to set a boundary:
“Aunt Ethel, I know you comment on my weight because you think it’s helpful, but it’s not, and I need you to stop doing that.”
Pro Tip: You may need to repeat yourself a lot when setting this boundary, and it’s possible that Aunt Ethel is never going to get it.
However, by setting the boundary, you get the benefit of standing up for yourself and acknowledging what you need, which is quite empowering.
3. Enjoy Your Food
Enjoying food can actually be quite difficult during the holidays, even if you love holiday food.
If you’re feeling stressed and anxious, it’s likely that your body is in fight or flight mode.
This means that the blood is in your arms and legs, rather than the core of your body where you need it to digest and assimilate your food.
How It Works: It’s especially important during this time of year to focus, as best you can, on actually enjoying your food.
As much as possible, take time to breathe, go a little slower, and engage all of your senses.
One of the nicest things about this time of year is the special food that we don’t normally eat, so take time to really enjoy it.
Pro Tip: If you start to feel your inner critic going on and on about how you shouldn’t be eating this or that, take a moment to think, “I approve of my food choices.”
Use this as an affirmation that will calm your mind and allow it to get on board with the fact that you are enjoying your food.
4. Follow the Fun
Sometimes the holidays can feel really demanding.
You may have endless shopping lists, way too much food to prepare, or social situations that require seeing people you usually avoid. So I think it’s important to find the fun where you can.
How It Works: Finding the fun in not-so-fun situations is an art, and it takes practice, but if you look for it, you can catch it and amplify it.
Turn on some music and make cooking into a dance party. Tell jokes, laugh, and move your body whenever possible.
The moment you start feeling stuck is the moment, it’s time to change things up and follow the fun.
Pro Tip: Ever been to a party or get-together where it seems like the most fun is happening in the kitchen? Sometimes volunteering to help (or asking others to help you) is actually the most fun.
If you can make neatening up, doing the dishes, and cooking more of a group activity, it can change the energy of it, make it feel less overwhelming, and give you something to talk about other than so-and-so’s latest diet.
5. It’s Not You
Being around people you love who diet can make you feel positively nuts, so it’s important to remind yourself that choosing not to diet is actually a sound choice.
How It Works: It’s hard enough to operate in a world where facts about fat and health and the reality of diet marketing is an unfamiliar subject. So it’s important to have some backup.
Call a non-dieting friend when you get a moment alone. Look at body positive Pinterest boards. Bring my book with you so you can remind yourself that going to your Mom’s OA meeting over the weekend is not the answer.
Pro Tip: You don’t have to convince anyone that you’re right. Attempting so will just leave you frustrated.
The holidays should be a time of joy and cheer – that’s what all the songs tell us, right? And they can be!
Sometimes it just takes a little bit of extra work. But, as always, you’re worth it.
Got any other tips on how to survive the holidays? Leave them in the comments!
Golda Poretsky is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. She’s a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. Follow her on Twitter at@bodylovewellnes. Read her articles here and book her for speaking engagements here.