It’s dubbed “the most wonderful time of the year,” yet we all sometimes struggle during the holiday season. Whether it’s unsettled family relationships or sticking to your usual healthy routine, expert advice for how to deal is a welcome gift.
We turned to Megan Bruneau, psychotherapist and wellness and executive coach, for some seasonal coping tips.
Holiday Healthy Eating?
It can be done, says Bruneau, who is also the host of the Forbes podcast, The Failure Factor.
Remember there are no “good” or “bad” foods. “In our ‘clean-eating’-obsessed culture, it is easy to forget food has no moral value,” says Bruneau. Food guilt and “fat-talk” are pervasive and normalized, perpetuating the belief that there are “good foods” and “bad foods.” “By making room for all foods in our diet, we remove the conflict and learn to listen to what our body really wants and needs.”
See this time as an opportunity for learning, and don’t pressure yourself to progress linearly. Perfectionism, which is generally at the root of eating disorders, is characterized by
unrealistically high, inflexible expectations. “Be gentle with yourself and trust that the discomfort and anxiety you feel is likely a sign you’re breaking free of the diet-culture shackles that have oppressed you for so long,” says Bruneau. If you see a therapist, now is a great time to discuss realistic expectations for the holidays, potential triggers, coping, and self-care.
Set boundaries, ramp up self-care, and ask for help. “In my first few years of recovery, I found visits with my family very challenging,” she explains. “Eating disorders and diet culture are everywhere in my family, and I felt constantly triggered.” It is absolutely OK to say no to a family event, or choose to spend time with friends or going to yoga instead, she affirms. “The key here is to be honest with yourself about whether your desire is informed by a recovery mindset or an eating disordered one.”
Practice self-compassion. Self-compassion is perfectionism’s kryptonite. Treat yourself with the same love and respect you would a friend.
Ask yourself, “What will be more important when I look back on my life in old age?”
When you reflect on the holidays (and your life) in 20, 40, or 60 years, what will have been more important? Connection with loved ones; experiences uncontaminated by food guilt, shame and anxiety; sleep-ins with your partner over spin class? Or having another full-time job to attempt or maintain an unrealistic body weight. ”The diet industry makes billions trying to sell you something that doesn’t deliver,” reminds Bruneau. Extricate yourself from its propaganda and start living instead.
Going Through an Emotionally Tough Time? Three Ways to Emerge
- Let go of expectations for how the holidays should “look” or how you should feel. “The reality is the holidays are challenging for many,” says Bruneau. “You’re not broken or negative for not feeling excited about them.”
- Remind yourself it’s not real, and you’re not alone. “As your social media feeds are flooding with engagements, happy family photos, and perfection, remind yourself these are people’s highlight reels. The truth is, while some people have less dysfunctional families than others, most of us are going through something.”
- Surround yourself with people who make you feel good, lower your expectations for “performance,” and practice self-care. You’re allowed to set boundaries with people who dim your light, says Bruneau. “Choose to surround yourself with people who lift you up and with whom you feel most yourself.”
Keep up with Megan!