Prepping For the Holidays

It's that time again! Holiday time. For some, this brings feelings of excitement and anticipation. While others, stress and a longing to go into a slight hibernation in hopes of by-passing the whole thing is on par. For the former, rock on and see you in 2017. For the latter, read on and hopefully, some of the strategies below will help make this time a little easier, or perhaps, even enjoyable.

#1 Plan Something You Like To Do: It's okay to make plans to do something you like. This can help balance some of the holiday activities you may not have much say about. Maybe it's going for a winter walk, or watching movies by a fire place. Explore the downtown shops or the local cafes you've always wanted to try. Whatever you like to do, plan time to do it or else you run the risk of time slipping by and another holiday season that you did not really enjoy will result. Remember, you don't have to do anything big or expensive in order for it to be fun, enjoyable or peaceful... or whatever it is you want it to bring into your holiday. 

#2 Intentionally Create Positive Experiences: You know that Christmas function at Aunt Gertrude's you attend every year with reluctance? Spice it up a little by intentionally creating a positive experience. This could be anything from wearing your favourite ugly sweater to bringing a game everyone can play. Maybe you invite your best friend to help ease the awkward yearly questions asked by family members or you make it your mission to sit beside your most liked cousin whom you can chat up a storm with over dinner. Whatever it is, putting some thought and effort into how you can make the best of the event has to be better than doing nothing and expecting the worse! Maybe it still won't be the best time you've ever had, but maybe it's slightly better than you anticipated. 

#3 Find Balance Between Social and Alone Time: This could go either way. Maybe you tend to isolate over the holidays, or perhaps you have difficulty saying 'no' to people.  Try to find time for social and alone/down time. This way, you don't run the risk of being lonely, or over booked to the point of exhaustion! Isolating will only make the time go by slower and over booking will leave you worn out and needing a holiday from your holiday. 

#4 Don't Forget to Take Your M n M's (Meds and Meals): Your routine and schedule will likely be nudge off track over the holidays. Maybe you're staying up later or going out of town more often than usual. Try to continue maintaining some of the basics in your recovery and wellness. Set an alarm to take your medication and meals so you don't run the risk of forgetting. Keep doing the necessary basics to help maintain your recovery instead of slipping backwards.

#5 Prepare for High Risk Situations: Don't go into the holidays thinking you can wing it. Take some time to know what activities or situations you are going into that are likely going to be stressful, or potentially triggering. This way, you can come up with a plan for how to manage them successfully. Write up a list of counter statements you can use when Uncle Mickey starts making unhelpful comments about weight or when Cousin Mildred gets on about calories. Use opposite action when presented with a food your E.D. is telling you not to have but you know you use to really enjoy. Know who you can call or text in times of trouble or stress. Go to your calm or safe place when you feel unsafe or distressed. In some ways, preparing for high risk situations is like fire drills. They help prepare you in case there is ever a fire to maximize safety and minimize harm.   

And remember... regardless of how the holidays go... they will not last forever. Hang in there. One meal at a time, one day at a time, one event at a time. Be gently with yourself, and ease off the perfectionism a little. Allow yourself to say, 'no', when you need to, and 'yes' when you want to. Look at cat pictures of the internet.... like this one. Take time to smile every once and awhile and just 'be'. 

(I couldn't resist this little guy... love hairless cats!)

Accessed from: Dec.12, 2016

Holiday Diets - Don't Let Them Fool You

I came across a Facebook post (a breeding ground for bloggers) the other day that encouraged individuals over the month of December to weigh the same at the end of the month as they did at the beginning of the month. With this challenge in mind, the hope was to influence people's food/exercise patterns over the holidays. Naturally, this rubbed me the wrong way and my deep passion for Health at Every Size and the treatment of eating disorders flared up. Let me tell you why!

#1 Our Society Likes to Pretend Set Point Doesn't Exist. Set Point tells us that when we have a healthy relationship with both food and exercise, our weight will stay within a range (yes a range!) that is genetically predetermined. In some ways, our bodies act like thermostats. A house  gets too warm, the cool air kicks in. Too cold? Sit by a vent and wait for the hot air to turn on. When we overeat, our bodies kick in to help use up the extra fuel that it was given. Maybe we start to sweat or have lots of energy. When it's too cold, we shiver and heat moves away from our extremities to vital organs as a way of preserving fuel. Therefore, if we did overeat during the holidays (which is normal) and don't weight the same at the end of the month as we did at the beginning, our bodies with makes the necessary adjustments when we return to normalized eating and exercise. Trust it :)

#2 Why Are We Weighing Ourselves To Begin With... Period? I'm not a fan of the scale... for many reasons. It truly isn't that important to know what you weigh as it isn't a measure of health. Two people could be of the same height and age and could weigh completely different from the other... and both be healthy. Why? Because of set point! Our weight doesn't tell us our cholesterol levels, whether our kidneys are working or what's going on with our blood pressure. When we step on the scale, it can also make us vulnerable to distorted eating, never mind having an unhealthy relationship with one's body. If you don't like the number when you step on the scale, you may think you have to engage in distorted eating to make it lower. If you've been restricting (or other ED behaviours) and you like what shows up on the screen, you'll likely continue engaging in unhealthy behaviours even more. It's a lose lose situation. Hide it, smash it, get rid of it. Remove the temptation that often fuels anxiety and worry around weight. 

#3 Our Choices Will Then Be Determined By Weight, Not Health or Enjoyment. I remember sitting in a restaurant, flipping the menu back and forth numerous times, trying to figure out what I was going to allow myself to eat.  A way to redeem myself for not being 'in control' during Christmas. It wasn't much fun. I remember the anxiety of trying to figure out what was permissible to eat, versus what I really wanted to enjoy. What makes me even more mad, is that this particular restaurant isn't even open any more... making me unable to enjoy what I denied all those years ago (you'd be surprised as to how often this has happened to me!).  The holidays bring a variety of foods and traditions we often don't eat/do during the rest of the year. This contributes to the 'specialness' of these times. It's important to remember that it doesn't last forever, and it will return. You don't have to eat everything in sight because it's only available for a short amount of time, but you can allow yourself to enjoy what is around you in a healthy way, knowing it will return again next year. Have the cookie because it's yummy. If you don't want the Christmas pudding, fine. No problem! That is completely okay too! Just make sure it is because you really don't want it, or because you know it will make sick as you've already had a few, etc. Not because it will throw off the 'weigh-in' at the end of the month.

#4 It Runs the Risk of Promoting Compensatory Behaviours.  Another reason why these diets bother me is that it gets people to link food and exercise in an unhealthy way. There could be a tendency to feel bad/guilty/shameful/obligatory after indulging. Try exercising because you enjoy it, not because you have to step on a scale at the end of the month. Don't like the gym, no problem. Find an activity where you move (because that's what exercise is... movement) and have fun. Build it into your lifestyle all year round, rather than a form of 'punishment' because of something you ate. 

The holidays can be a high risk time for many who are in recovery (or not) from an eating disorder. Go into the next month with a plan. Talk to your dietician and therapist about how to manage family dinners, how to stick to your meal plan, practicing flexibility and so on. Each stage of recovery has it's own challenges. What may apply to one's person in recovery may not apply to another, and that is ok. Remember that diets, or 'food/weight' challenges, don't work. Trust your body and your recovery and use the supports around you!