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If you’re in the States, that means Thanksgiving is coming up in a couple days and then the official “holiday season” starts for most people. If you’re not in the States (or Thanksgiving has already passed), keep reading anyway. The info I am going to share today applies to anyone and everyone, no matter the time of year or the special occasion.
The holidays are such a time of stress for people when it comes to food. We so want to enjoy the abundance of the holiday, but we are afraid of allowing ourselves to eat all of our favorite foods. If we do allow ourselves to “indulge” we may punish ourselves with restriction or over-exercise to compensate for our “bad” behavior.
My social media feed has been filled with ads saying ridiculous things like: “how to avoid getting fat during the holidays” and “10 days to a slimmer you before Christmas” and “new liquid diet = guaranteed weight loss by the new year!“.
Ugh. I hate how we have gotten so used to having weight loss shoved down our throats and how the media takes any opportunity they can to tell you how you’re not good enough…but you would be if you just dropped x, y, z pounds using their a, b, c methods.
Anywho, that’s why I wanted to pop in during this week before Thanksgiving and the official start of the holiday season and write a quick post to help you navigate the holidays with a little less stress. Even outside of the Winter holidays, this info is applicable no matter what special occasion you might be celebrating (birthdays, weddings, promotions, etc.) so read on, even if it’s smack dab in the middle of summer. 🙂
Consuming Food in a Stressed State
Did you know that when you consume food in a stressed state, your digestive system shuts down, no matter how “good” or “healthy” that food is?
The body is smart in doing this because if we are being chased by a bear, we do not need to be spending precious energy digesting our last meal. That energy needs to be pumping out into our legs and arms so we can get the heck out of there.
After the immediate threat is gone, our body returns back to its base state and things can go back to normal. Your body can start digesting its food again and using more energy to make it happen (digestion is a very energy-heavy metabolic process).
However, there’s a problem here.
The problem is that the body cannot tell the difference between a real threat (i.e. a bear chasing you) and a perceived threat (i.e. the table is lined with all of your “forbidden” foods).
All day long, we are being bombarded by perceived threats and things that cause our nervous system to stay stuck in this fight or flight nervous system. It’s not just a fear of food or shame about our body that can do this.
- Traffic on your way to work
- An overly noisy office building
- A last minute project from your boss
- Long lines at the grocery store
- Being late for an appointment
- Arguments with a loved one
- Environmental toxins
- Not getting enough sleep
- Not getting enough exercise
- Getting too much exercise
- Too much smart device exposure
When the threat is perceived and not real, then that is where we run into real trouble. These perceived threats don’t go away. They are always there, creating low-level, underlying stress that slowly ruins our health.
If our digestive system slows or shuts down because of this low-level stress, 3 things happen:
- You don’t assimilate the nutrients from your food, meaning you are slowly starving yourself because you are not getting the nutrition you need. This applies even if you are eating the healthiest food possible.
- You are more likely to suffer from digestive issues like heartburn, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, undigested food in the stool, microbiome damage, increased food sensitivities, etc.
- You are more likely to store fat, rather than burn the food for fuel. This happens because any time our body goes into a stress response (no matter if it is a real or perceived threat) we produce more insulin and cortisol, both of which can lead to fat storage over time if the levels stay elevated.
What You Can Do to Reduce Stress and Support Your Digestion
Today, I wanted to make one request: Enjoy the holiday! Please eat as much delicious food as you want. Please don’t over-exercise or punish yourself in any way after the holiday is over.
Remember that holidays are special occasions that bring loved ones together around delicious food. From here, strong memories and connections are built. While yes, there is likely going to be a ton of food that you would not normally eat, that doesn’t mean that you have to shy away from it. Remind yourself that a special occasion is just that — special.
According to Merriam-Webster, “Special” is defined as:
distinguished by some unusual quality, held in particular esteem, readily distinguishable from others, set apart, being other than the usual, designed for a particular purpose or occasion.
How you eat on a holiday is not how you eat normally. One day of enjoying wonderful food (yes, even your “bad” foods) is not going to ruin your health, set you back, make you gain a ton of weight, or cause any other negative thing to happen.
Of course, if you have food sensitivities, allergies, or other health conditions that require you to be a little more strict than others, you need to be respectful to yourself and listen to your body. While I really don’t like to see people restricting unnecessarily, we do still have to be the best advocates for our body and what it needs at a given time. Again, this is the perfect time to listen to your intuition and breathe into what you really want without any shame, guilt, or punishment afterward.
If you’re new to listening to your body and intuition, you might want to read this article: How to Trust Yourself Around Food Again + 3 Practical Steps to Get Started
If you find yourself getting stressed out around the holiday food, here are 3 things for you to remember:
- Breathe – This is the #1 way we can switch our nervous system from the fight or flight side (sympathetic) to the rest and digest side (parasympathetic).
- Slow Down – This is another great way to help your body relax into the rest and digest side of the nervous system. When we eat in a hurry, our body perceives that as a threat situation. Really take time to savor each bite. Pay attention to the flavors and textures. There is no race to the finish line here. This can be a really powerful exercise because when you begin to pay attention to things like flavor, texture, etc., you may discover that you really like something OR you really don’t like it. Many times we eat our food so fast that we don’t give our minds a time to really know if we like that food in the first place.
- Laugh – My mentor, Marc David, calls this Vitamin L. Laughter is an excellent way to reduce stress and keep your nervous system in the relaxation state. Laughter not only makes you feel good, it creates a deeper bond and connection with those sharing in the joy.
I hope you have a beautiful holiday, filled with joy, laughter, relaxation, deep breaths, and lots of amazing food. ❤❤❤
P.S. If you have been struggling with feeling out of control or unable to be trusted around food, please know that you are not alone. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not broken. You are not a failure. I am here to tell you that these issues that feel so overwhelming and hopeless are incredibly powerful opportunities to heal and shift your life in directions you may have never even thought of. It is possible to have the life you want, live your dreams, and not feel chained down by food.
That is why I created my free 7-day Food & Body Freedom eCourse. You can join here. If you are to a point where you are ready to change your life and start healing these issues once and for all, I would love to help and this free eCourse is a great place to start. This is the core work I do with women around the world and it’s an area that I am beyond passionate about. I can’t wait to see you in the course. You can join for free here.