The holiday season is meant to be full of joy, family, friends, laughter, and fun, but for many the holidays can add layers of anxiety and stress. Most holiday gatherings revolve around food, which be highly triggering for someone struggling with body image issues. An individual’s body image refers to how a person perceives, thinks, and feels about his or her own body. The stressors of holiday gatherings may be compounded by comments regarding one’s weight or appearance, the amount of food one eats, or other sensitive subjects. While some may be unaffected by such remarks, others may compensate for their discomforts by changing their eating patterns. Studies in adults and teenagers imply that experiencing more social stressors (e.g., feeling lonely, having conflict, etc.) can influence short-term eating behaviors. To avoid letting your holiday anxiety around eating get the best of you, Columbia University Department of Psychiatry suggests implementing the following strategies:
- Arrive prepared: One day or two days prior to the holiday gathering, think about what and when you will eat, and work out a strategy that both helps you feel in control and aligns with your comfort level.
- Eat regularly beforehand: Do not fast all day in preparation for an anticipated big meal at the event because it can cause you to feel hungrier, more food-focused, and irritable at the holiday gathering.
- Have a previously established ally: Rather than facing it all alone, reach out to someone with whom you can confide and have them check in on you. This can help alleviate some of your in-the-moment stress and allow you to adhere to your eating plans.
- Do not catastrophize indulging a little: If you gain weight during the holidays, it is highly unlikely it will be a significant amount. A recently published study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the average holiday weight gain in adults was just under a pound.
Although the holiday season is supposed to be a time of celebration and happiness, it can also be a time that illuminates underlying feelings that a person may have been trying to ignore, hide, or bury. Be kind to yourself during these times and set yourself up for healthy holiday eating success.
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The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. As such, please do not use any material provided above to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.