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"Home for the holidays": 5 holidays tips for the emotional eater

5 holidays tips for the emotional eater

"Home for the holidays" doesn't always mean days and days of warm fuzzy feelings. For many, being home for the holidays induces stress and conflicting feelings. We love our family, and they love us, but all the togetherness isn't necessarily easy. You may have spent the year doing the hard work to grow as a person, to become a healthier version of yourself, but when you get "home", you may instantly feel like a child again. You have a long history with each relative and see them through a certain lens, and they see you through a certain lens too. If you grew up in a house where body image was "a thing" or you were the one who was always struggling to lose weight, you may be accustomed to the comments about your food choices, the remarks about your weight, your body. Maybe the comments aren't even said with ill intentions, but that's how you hear them.

When we deal with stress eating or emotional eating, being "home for the holidays" can be an absolute powder keg waiting to explode. There are foods that trigger overeating. There are relatives and family situations that trigger us to self-soothe with food. And food is even more readily available than ever during this time. So what can we do to navigate the holidays without giving into the tension or pressure? First, keep reminding yourself of who you are right now, because you've worked hard to get where you are here at the end of 2021. No one can take that away from you, but it can be difficult to remember when emotions are higher than normal. Secondly, you can set boundaries for yourself. And that can be hard. I encourage you to approach it with this mindset: You are not creating boundaries to distance yourself emotionally from your family. Rather, you are creating boundaries as a way to protect yourself out of self-love.

Here are 5 tools you can use to set boundaries with your relatives:

1. Ask yourself "what do I want and what do I need?" If you aren't even sure what you want or what you need, then ask yourself "what do I NOT want? What do I NOT need?" Maybe you DON'T want to be involved in conversations you find triggering, like talk of diets or losing weight. Maybe you DON’T want to discuss how good others look or how much weight they have lost. Identifying what you don’t want or need can be just as helpful as what you DO want and need.

2 .Intentionally take space when you need it. If you need to purposefully leave the room every couple of hours just to recenter yourself, do that. You don't have to offer an explanation. Using this as a self-care tool gives you a little space, so that you refocus your mind on YOU, which will allow you the opportunity to manage any emotions that may be running high.

3. Be the one to be vulnerable first and ask for support. Tell Aunt Betty that you are working really hard on getting healthier and talking about your weight makes you feel uneasy. Then ask her if NOT talking about it is something she's willing to do. Most often, the answer is yes! Relatives are sometimes unknowingly insensitive, and opening yourself up for a moment of vulnerability on the front end can bring about a certain awareness that clears the air and expresses your needs.

4. Journal about it ahead of time to process what you're feeling. This can be especially helpful when you're not sure what your needs are. As you write freely, you often end up identifying what it is that you need and want from your time with family.

5. Send an email. Compose a friendly email that mentions your hopes and expectations for the time together. If you can preemptively state what you need, you might be surprised at the level of heartfelt support you receive in return.

Navigating the holidays can be tricky for us all! Family isn't always easy. But if you can go into it with a plan that comes from your desire to care for YOU, you can feel a lot less overwhelmed because you've got a release valve ready to pull when needed.

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