I’m Not Going to Stress-Eat the Holidays This Year

holiday health

I make a mean chocolate chip pumpkin bread. Totally tooting my own horn, I know, but it’s fine. It’s worth it. Because that bread is amazing. And because I grind the flour myself, and it has pumpkin in it, I convince myself that it’s practically a vitamin.

Vitamins are good for you, right? So it’s okay to eat it for every meal of the day.

It’s a lot easier to convince myself of this misguided truth when I am feeling the stress of the holidays. It seems that the shortened days filled with grayness and bitter cold are never ending, and yet there is no time to do all the things that need to happen between Halloween and Christmas. So while I’m engaging into the fourth hour of a 30-minute craft that we both know won’t turn out, desperately trying to give the perfect neighbor/teacher present, those baked goods scream that they will offer validation and comfort in my distress. So I eat, and I numb, and I eat, and I numb, and then I wonder why I don’t have any energy to get the things done that I need to.

This holiday season, it will be different. We will be different! Because we are going to health-up the crap out of this season. Here is my plan.

  1. Drink all the water. If part of your winter routine means putting on a Costco sized bottle of lotion each day, chances are pretty good that you aren’t drinking enough water. Shoot for half an ounce for every pound of body weight. You may pee every three seconds, but eventually, your body becomes accustomed to the increased water volume, and you return to your normal peeing patterns.
  2. Do an emotional inventory to identify what you feel like when you’re stressed. Sometimes during the holidays, we go into panic autopilot, where we just do things to get them done because we know we have to, and then we end up crashing and burning once our checklist is complete (or even when it isn’t). If you aren’t sure what your stress cues are, ask someone who knows you well what they notice about you when you’re stressed. Figure out what those are, and take a time-out when those cues pop up.
  3. Give yourself the gift of physical activity before the holidays start. Been eyeballing that Zumba class that meets at the rec down the street? Sign yourself up. Perhaps yoga is more your speed, or you’ve been wanting to try weightlifting. Find out what’s available in your area, and do what you can to treat yourself to this. Getting out and seeing other people who are taking care of themselves can be therapeutic in itself, and it will also give you the endorphins to make the stress more manageable. If nothing is available nearby, get a new DVD to work out with.
  4. Give yourself permission to say “no.” If someone asks you to do something and you don’t immediately want to respond with a resounding “yes!”, opt to take a beat to think it over. Practice saying no in the mirror until it feels comfortable. Decide that pleasing yourself is at least as important as pleasing others.
  5. Go ahead. Eat the pumpkin bread. Ask yourself first, though, if you’re eating to feel the joy inherent in delicious pumpkin bread, or if you’re eating to numb the stress and despair that can come with the season. Because when we eat treats to enjoy the treat, we are more likely to enjoy them, and we are satisfied a lot sooner. But if we eat them to stop feeling the difficult feelings, we tend to keep eating, and eating some more, and our poor emotional health starts to impact our physical health.

Enjoy the good things about this holiday season, because you deserve to experience joy. Seek out those things in your every day. And when it starts to feel like it’s getting difficult to find the joy, take a break. Watch some garbage television. Go to a spin class. Put the “me” back into “merry.”

Treat yo’self.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Tags: conscious eating, depression, emotional inventory, holidays, hydration, mental health, panic, self care, stress

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