Eat & Be Merry: 5 Ways to Be Kind to Yourself this Holiday Season
Written by Lindsay Midura, RDN, LD
The holiday season is upon us, a time that is meant to be joyful, but often comes with baggage as heavy as Santa’s knapsack.
Being Merry and Bright can be quickly extinguished by the increase in diet culture talk. Diet culture is the centuries-old set of beliefs that values thinness and appearance above authentic, individualized health and wellbeing. We see this set of beliefs in various forms throughout the year, but it is heightened during this season, which centers around celebrating with food and “resolutions” like “new year, new me.”
It doesn’t have to be this way. This year can be different. You can reclaim your holidays from diet-culture and celebrate what truly matters: gratitude, connection, family, and your well-being.
When you have a peaceful relationship with food, you can enjoy all the great dishes at holiday events that may only be available at this time of year. You can find pleasure in the moments that make up these special occasions, instead of obsessing over “making up for” what you’ve eaten. You can find enjoyment in what you eat, but move on from it when the food is finished, instead of having an inner-battle about it long after the festivities are over.
No matter where you are in your relationship to food and your body, please know that body peace and food freedom are available to you.
“But, where do I start?” You may ask. Here are 5 way to be kind to yourself as you navigate the holiday and all that comes with it:
1. Have your self-care essentials on rotation.
We hear the term “self-care” a lot in popular culture, but self-care can be a lot more than a bubble bath or a spa day. Self-care is any action that adds to your well-being.
Self-care is not just used when you are maxed out on stress, either. It can be an everyday part of your routine to build your resilience. It can be planned out ahead of time to prevent you from having negative experiences, or at least bolster your ability to navigate the negative experiences you do encounter along the way.
Self-care can be individualized from one person to the next. For one person, it may be phoning a friend weekly to unpack recent events. For another it may be solitude in nature to decompress and practice mindfulness. If you are unsure what self-caring actions are most effective for you, or you’re already feeling frazzled heading into the holiday season, I recommend making a brainstorming list of self-care ideas. Start with naming what you’ve done in the past that helped you feel more calm, more energized, more resilient, or more content. Then, add ideas that you wish to try, that you believe may bring positive or hopeful feelings. Exploring the DBT skills of mindfulness, ABC PLEASE, Self-soothing, and IMPROVE the Moment are great places to start if you are looking for ideas while brainstorming.
There are some basic types of self-care that are helpful to everyone. These include regular, balanced eating and hydration, getting enough restful sleep, moving your body in a way that feels nourishing (not punitive), and taking necessary medications regularly. Remember that keeping regular therapy and dietitian appointments through this time can also be an important part of self-care.
2. Build your circle of support.
Building a sense of community is incredibly good for our well-being. Your circle of support doesn’t have to be large. It can be beneficial to have just two or three people that you feel comfortable sharing energy with.
While you may care deeply for your family and friends, it is possible that not every member of these groups are supportive in your journey towards food freedom and body respect. And that’s OK. Take stock of those in your life that may share similar anti-diet or body liberation values as you, or at least do not bring up judgements about their or others’ food choices or bodies in conversation. See if you can prioritize time with these individuals throughout the coming holiday months.
These supports can extend beyond family and friends. Your professional recovery team can be part of this circle. Set time aside with them to unpack any concerns you have relating to the holidays in your appointments. If you are wanting deeper support surrounding the holidays, join our Holiday Support Group!
Our social media community can be pretty amazing, at times, when we are intentional with it. Take some time to unfollow any accounts that center talk about aesthetics or rigid food rules/judgements that feel unhelpful to you. Then, add in accounts that share values you wish to grow in your recovery journey, like Health At Every Size, body acceptance, body diversity, intuitive eating, and/or anti-diet culture.
Here are a few of my favorite accounts to follow on Instagram:
3. Set boundaries with friends and family.
Oh, yes. This is an important one. When it comes to unhelpful diet-culture talk around at gatherings, at times you can feel like a goalie trying to block a dozen balls at once as you work to keep comments from getting to you.
Before working on boundary setting, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
First, it’s OK not to always have the right responses or to play anti-diet advocate in every conversation. Sometimes you may stumble on your words or sometimes you may choose to just walk away and that’s OK.
Second, even for the most experienced goalie, some balls get through. That is, sometimes a comment or topic may feel triggering or hurtful. Remind yourself that you are human, and tend to your needs afterwards with the self-care ideas explored above.
Boundary setting can look like many things. I recommend coming up with an individualized plan in appointments with your care team. Here are a few ideas for upholding boundaries:
- Set time limits that you will spend at family gatherings. Choose a time limit that feels right for you.
- Text your family members ahead of time letting them know that you are working on a personal goal of not talking about diets or weight loss this holiday season and tell them to please help you respect that goal by not bringing up these topics at gatherings.
- Use the “ball-change” move. This is one of my favorite gentle maneuvers to pivot away from diet talk in conversation. Have a couple places in mind ahead of time. When diet talk comes up, say, “that reminds me of this documentary watched about someone living in (insert place here). What do you think it would be like to visit (insert place)?” This can work for almost any type of conversation!
- Come up with a list of possible scenarios you are concerned about encountering with friends and family. Then write possible responses or ways to problem-solve the situation. Practice these responses with your therapist or trusted support person.
4. If overwhelmed, have an escape plan.
An escape plan is pretty straightforward. It means realizing when you’ve reached your limit if a situation is too overwhelming or triggering, and having an exit strategy to leave the situation. This might mean leaving temporarily to go on a walk or to another room, or it may mean exiting all together. Having an excuse in mind can be helpful, like walking a neighbor’s dog, or having an early morning. You may even have a friend you can text a SOS to, as an indicator to call you and give you a reason to leave the event more urgently. Be mindful that this exit is helpful for your well-being/recovery, and not a way to avoid gatherings as part of your eating disorder, especially if family time is an authentic value of yours.
5. Focus on self-compassion and respect.
Above all, this is the best tip to remember when practicing being kind to yourself around the holiday season. It is the tip that you can base all the other tips around. Because, true healing comes when we understand that we are worthy of compassion and respect wherever we are in our relationship to food and our bodies.
Diet-culture is reductive; It subtracts from our lives, our energy, our wellbeing. Self-compassion is additive; It nourishes, revitalizes, and heals.
Ask yourself this simple question when setting up your season for success, “Is this (behavior, thought, action) helpful for my wellbeing and recovery?”
Wishing you health, healing, and hope these holidays. – Lindsay
Mind Body Co-op is committed to supporting you through the next few holiday-packed months with our Holiday Support Group, facilitated by Registered Dietitian Lindsay Midura and Therapist Katrina LoBue. This virtual group meets weekly on Mondays from 7:15pm -8:30pm for 10-weeks, from November 22nd 2021 to January 24th 2022. Click on the link below to start the intake process or email info@mindbodycoopchicago to schedule an intake assessment! (Space is limited.)
Written by Mind Body Co-op’s Integrative Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, Lindsay Midura. She has a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics from the University of Minnesota. Post-graduation, she completed a 1200-hour Dietetic Internship through University of Minnesota, specializing in eating disorder treatment and recovery. She is also a registered yoga teacher and level one reiki practitioner, having completed over 500 hours of advanced study with an eclectic mix of more than 25 teachers both locally and internationally recognized. She merged her passion for nutrition and yoga by studying Ayurveda, Tibetan Medicine and Yoga in Dharamshala, India, through the University of Minnesota’s extensions program. Lindsay’s experience allows her to be uniquely qualified to integrate nutrition therapy for healing the body while simultaneously supporting those struggling with their relationship to food, exercise, and/or body. She takes a trauma sensitive approach, weaving Intuitive Eating and mindfulness into her sessions when appropriate. At Mind Body Co-op, she also offers group sessions which explore these areas deeper in a supportive community.
Mind Body Co-op is Chicago’s only space for individuals to discover, explore, and heal what is occurring internally at the cognitive, emotional, and physical levels. This unique, holistic approach to treatment and wellness is born out of the belief that examining the cognitive, emotional, and physical pieces and how they intersect helps lead to uncovering your full potential by providing thoughtful, collaborative, and complete integrative mental health care. We offer a variety of clinical services, including individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapy, psychological/neuropsychological assessments, medication management, CPT (comprehensive transitional program), medical nutrition therapy, somatic mindfulness, somatic groups, DBT, adventure therapy, therapeutic yoga, and more. We provide culturally competent services in English, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Russian & Arabic.