When The Hairpin published a Guide To Eating Very Particular Feelings, we laughed, but it was a slightly bitter laugh, a nervous “Oh my God this is my life” chuckle. For those of us who eat our feelings or struggle with body image issues (so sadly, many of us), the holidays are especially treacherous times for emotional eating and body insecurity. This time of year can easily become a battle of wills: your self-restraint vs. that bag of Milanos. Your self-love vs. the panic you feel about seeing a higher number on the scale. Your self-esteem vs. the overwhelming pressure to start a restrictive New Years’ diet. There are plenty of articles out there about how to avoid overeating at holiday buffets and how to not let your mom’s passive aggressive comments spark a peppermint fudge binge, but we thought it was time to for a new set of holiday food and body rules: specifically, kinder, gentler, more realistic rules. Let’s stop over-complicating things and beating ourselves up for enjoying a slice of pie, OK? Here are 10 easy-to-follow commandments to help you make peace with your body during a season that’s all about eating…
1. DO eat a piece of pie after Christmas dinner without feeling guilty about it. Food is undeniably one of the best parts of the holiday season. You don’t have to deny yourself that pleasure, and you don’t need to feel bad about yourself for indulging either. Make a choice to enjoy your dessert because one slice isn’t going to make or break you.
2. DO ditch your scale from December 24th – January 2nd…and maybe for the rest of the year. It’s common and natural to gain a few pounds this time of year. If you can’t help yourself from stepping on the scale and beating yourself up about it, then put your scale somewhere that locks.
3. DON’T waste calories on sub-par Christmas cookies. Hold out for your mom’s Russian teacakes. Believe it or not, there is a way to be in control of your indulgences. That tin of stale, store-bought shortbread you’ve been mindlessly munching during “Scandal” does not hold a candle to your mom’s famous teacakes that you’ve been waiting for all year. Some extra calories are totally worth it, and some aren’t. Choose wisely.
4. DON’T eat or drink out of spite, stress or anger, boredom or loneliness. Eat mindfully out of joy. As we’ve mentioned there are lots of feelings this time of year that like to be soothed with sugar and fat. When these feeling start to take over, remind yourself that this season is about sharing time, gifts, love, and, yes, food with loved ones. Feel free to revel in that spirit, but don’t make food your emotional coping mechanism.
5. DON’T give yourself carte blanche to let yourself go and wear soft pants for a month, but it’s OK to loosen your vigilance for a week. Give yourself permission to be more laid back than usual about diet an exercise, but remember that eating healthy foods and being active doesn’t have to stop just because you’re attending three holiday parties a week. On your days off, you are free to steer clear of cheese logs and Gingerbread houses.
6. DO try to have some greens with every meal. Balancing all the rich foods with lighter, healthier fare will make you feel more energized (not to mention better able to brave the mall for that last minute shopping!).
7. DO go walking, dancing, sledding, strolling, or ice skating with your family. It’s tempting to be sedentary and watch movie marathons during the holidays. But there are so many fun, winter activities (key word: active) you can do as a family. Bundle up and go make some memories while you burn calories.
8. DON’T let mean comments get to you. Quality time with relatives can include some harsh criticisms (sometimes about your body), especially for young women. If your aunt says something mean about your thighs, remember that it’s a reflection of her own issues and has nothing to do with you. Come up with a positive affirmation you can say to yourself to combat crappy comments from family members. Example: “The size of my thighs have nothing to do with the content of my character. And…Aunt Jean is miserable bitch.”
9. DON’T use your New Years’ resolutions as an excuse to get down on yourself or hate your body. If anything, use them as a way to empower yourself. If you’re tempted to give in to the pressure to make your resolution about dieting, try focusing on a healthy lifestyle change instead. “I want to get outside and take a walk 3 times a week” is so much better (not to mention more doable) than “I want to lose 30 pounds by February.”
10. DO be kind to yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically. From avoiding the buffet at a party to making crazy diet-related resolutions, it’s easy to get hung up on being “perfect” this time of year. Try to let that go. It’s easier said than done, but commit yourself to the effort. Alter your self-talk to include loving, positive words. Forgive yourself for slip-ups. Treat yourself more like a friend than an enemy. Trust us, you deserve it.