Tomorrow is often a time of gratitude and thanksgiving. A time to gather with friends and family and celebrate one another. However, for the eight million people in our country that suffer from disordered eating, holidays can be a stressful time. “What will I eat?” “How much should I eat?” “How many people will be there?” “Will they be watching me eat?” These are just a few of the questions that go through the mind of someone with disordered eating. Holiday gatherings can be a joyous time, but they can quickly become stressful and overwhelming for someone with disordered eating.
Whether you have disordered eating or you just have some questions about eating around the holidays we have a few easy tips for you.
First, always offer to bring a dish to the gathering. This will ensure there is always something that you can eat and is ‘safe’ for you. Typically the host or hostess will be delighted and appreciate the offer.
Second, when you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner (or any gathering) assess the food...check out everything that is being offered so you can decide ahead of time what you want to eat. Then begin filling your plate - remember you do not have to fill your entire plate. Start by taking very small portions, this will allow you to try more items. Enjoy eating and tasting your food; eat slowly and enjoy the company. If you are still truly hungry after finishing your plate, wait a few minutes (up to 20 minutes) before taking a second helping. This will allow your body to digest the food you just consumed and allow your stomach to send a signal to your brain, determining whether you are truly still hungry or not.
Often times we get a second helping so quickly that our brain has not yet reach the signal that indeed our stomach is full, so we keep eating. By the time our brain has received the signal we are beyond full, like unbutton your pants full. By taking a few minutes in between helpings we allow our food to digest, and remember that we are eating to fuel and nourish our bodies.
Once you feel you are done eating place your napkin over your plate covering any remaining food. This will prevent you from picking at the remaining food on your plate. Studies show that if you leave food on your plate while waiting for others to finish eating, you will continue picking and will indeed clean your plate before you are even aware of what happened. This is not the ‘clean your plate club’... there is no medal for eating the fastest or eating everything on your plate. Eat slowly and consciously, and leave a few crumbs or pieces of food on your plate. Dessert...more often than not, the favorite part of the meal. Dessert can also be a challenging time for those with disordered eating, food allergies or intolerances, or an unhealthy relationship with food. Dessert can be very emotional, and bring back memories of your Grandmother’s apple pie or holiday cookies. Some crave these desserts solely for the emotional connection; while others purely crave dessert and sugar. Most desserts (especially my Grandmother’s favorite recipes) include tons of butter or lard and sugar....not the healthiest. Many desserts contain no nutritional value, and are simply a pleasant way to end a meal or gathering. In a future blog post we will share some of our favorite holiday desserts...with a healthy spin of course!
So what do you do when dessert in being served??? Pick one or maybe two desserts that you simply must try....and have a very small piece of each. This way you will still be able to enjoy dessert with family and friends without feeling deprived or left out, but you will do so in a healthy and conscious way. Often times this is the part of the meal that I like to bring. I like to bring something traditional but with a new twist. Something I know I will be able to eat with my food allergies (ie: gluten free and dairy free) but my friends and family will not be able to taste the difference. (recipes coming soon!)
Long story short... go into your holiday meal with excitement. You can do this. You can conquer this dinner by eating consciously and being aware of your body. Often times when we get into trouble with food it is because we are not listening to our bodies, we are not in tune with what our body needs. Eat slowly and mindfully, listen to what your body needs. Ignore comments or concerns from others; especially the food pushers of the group. You are doing this for yourself and your health. Enjoy! Allow the holiday to be about more than just food, allow the holiday to be about family and loved ones.
We have another blog post coming soon that will go into more depth about holiday eating... if you have any questions before then please email email@example.com or leave a comment below!