Comfort Cravings

How to soothe yourself without food—and how to eat healthfully and mindfully

Coping with the Holiday Mindless Eating Blues

Coping with the Holiday Mindless Eating Blues

Every Thanksgiving my cousin bundles up his entire family and goes out to hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. For the past ten years, his family has gone to the same local Christmas tree farm. We felt honored when he invited my family to join him this year.

We piled in the truck. For over an hour, we searched for the best tree we could find-the right shape, height and shade of green. This was so much better than the slim pickings at the store. My cousin took out his chainsaw and piled all the trees in the back of the truck. We made our way to the house to pay. On the door, there was a sign tacked up. It said, "We are not selling Christmas trees this year."

Oops.

We have a lot of oops moments in life. There are things we just can't undo. Unfortunately, like the tree, we are unable to take back what we eat. This is a big problem on holidays when it is so easy to overeat. We've all spent way too much time lamenting and wishing desperately that we had skipped the extra slice of pie, or at least left off the scoop of ice cream. Mindless overeating can spoil the holiday and ruin the rest of the week (ex. I-ruined-it-anyway-so-why-not-keep-going approach).

One of the major "ah, ha" moments I've had as a counselor, is that people who are really successful in life are those individuals who can make a mistake or have a mishap and not let it overwhelm them.  Because one thing is for sure-oops moments are inevitably going to happen (i.e. the Christmas tree incident).

Ideally, we will all eat mindfully during the holidays. (Click here for tips to avoid stress eating and to obtain some mindful eating strategies). Even people who work very hard at eating right can slip into mindless eating now and then. If you happen to make an "oops," here are some suggestions for dealing with the Mindless Eating Blues.

1). The Scarlett O'Hara Approach. As Scarlett says, "Remember that tomorrow is another day." Imagine starting tomorrow on a clean slate as if you are wiping a dish clean. Don't let a day of mindless eating bleed into the next.


2) Take a Clown Bow. Sometimes it is helpful to graciously and humorously accept our errors. Imagine (or actually) make a big sweeping bow as if to say, "Thank you, no applause necessary."


3). Be Compassionate.  You may find yourself asking how you could be "so stupid" or making punishments or threats (ex. I'm not going to eat tomorrow). This never works. If you do overeat, gently acknowledge it. Imagine how you would comfort a child who made a mistake.

4). Take Charge. Instead of dwelling on regret, make a plan for what you can do now and change. For example, make a plan to go for a walk. Or, write down how you are going to eat mindfully for the rest of the day.


5). Let Go. Did you see the Disney movie, Up? Imagine or call to mind the balloons in this movie. Visualize placing your negative thoughts or feelings on a balloon and watching them fly away into the sky.


6) Perspective. How serious is this in the grand scheme of life? Put this incident of overeating into perspective. Could it have been worse?


7). Lesson Learned. Use this incident as a teaching moment. Ask yourself, "What did I learn from this experience that I can apply to tomorrow?" Does standing close to treats lead to mindless picking? Or, perhaps you notice that going to a party hungry triggers overeating. Use this as good information for the future.

We have lots of oops moments in life. Handling them gracefully is what really counts. Best wishes in mindfully eating this holiday. If not, it's okay. Use the techniques above to get you right back on track as soon as possible.

By Dr. Susan Albers, author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food and Eating Mindfully  www.eatingmindfully.com

 

Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a psychologist who specializes in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns and mindfulness. 

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