The holidays can be a tough time for many reasons and for those of us that struggle with food, eating and weight issues it can be an absolute night mare. It doesn’t have to be though. Below are 5 tips that can alleviate the “Holiday Crazys”!

  1. Support is KEY! Whether you’re in strong recovery, precarious recovery, relapsing, or still trying to wrap your head around the idea of food addiction and how to confront your food or weight challenges…we cannot do this alone! Many of us can probably look back at our attempts to control our food and/or our weight and agree that ‘doing it alone’ has not been the most successful strategy. Need support before heading over to your in-laws for that big turkey dinner on Christmas Eve? Or feeling stressed about the holiday office party? Is your best friend hosting a holiday cocktail party that you just cannot decline but know it will be filled with appetizers, eggnog and cookies galore? We at ACORN have found sharing our fears, anxieties and stressors with someone else to be a crucial part of recovery and every day life. And doing so could involve any of the following: Going to 12-step recovery meetings, calling a close friend who you can confide in, speaking to a therapist or family member, texting a fellow or friend your thoughts and feelings while at the event, excusing yourself from the dinner table and making an outreach call in the bathroom, texting a fellow or friend your dinner commitment ahead of time…the possibilities are endless! There is strength in numbers!
  2. PLAN AHEAD! When we fail to plan, we plan to fail. Walking into any situation involving food without a plan is walking into treacherous territory when you have a complex history of eating/ weight predicaments. If you are going to a party or dinner… call the host or restaurant ahead of time and ask what is on the menu. Check out the restaurant menu online if possible. Do not be afraid to speak up for your needs. Many restaurants can accommodate special requests if they know about it ahead of time. If this is not possible, bring a dish (or two!) that you know you can eat comfortably! Another strategy is to consider eating a meal prior to going to a party where there will be a lot of food present. You will be satiated and then you can focus on socializing and enjoying the holiday ambiance more than the appetizers and desserts. Or you could bring your prepared dinner with you! Wherever you are in your food journey…putting yourself first in these situations is extremely important. It may be helpful to ask yourself: What is going to put my abstinence, my recovery OR my highest self that I am working towards ahead of anything else? What would it look like if I were putting my needs first?
  3. IT’S OK TO SAY NO! Often our default is to say YES! Have you ever said YES when you really wanted to say NO? At ACORN, we believe healthy boundaries are a very important part of self-care as well as food addiction recovery. If attending a particular event will threaten your abstinence, your sense of well-being, or your emotional stability…here is a gentle reminder that it is okay to decline an invitation. Many times you do not even have to give an explanation! A simple, “I’m so sorry but I am unable to attend. Thank you so much for thinking of me! Happy Holidays!” Is enough! It is easy to over complicate RSVPs when overwhelmed by feelings of fear, anger, or sadness. Less is more! Keep the RSVP short and sweet. And enjoy an activity on the evening of that event that feels loving and gentle to you. 
  4. CREATE AN ALTERNATE EVENT! Try planning a holiday gathering for you, close friends and/ or family that does not involve food and drinking! (This might be hard to imagine…) BUT the possibilities are truly endless…craft nights, bowling, ice skating, attending a live sports game, organizing a ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange, going for a hike in the park, attending a yoga class, seeing a movie in theaters, visiting a comedy club, getting manicures and pedicures, a meditation class…These are all wonderful ways to spend time with loved ones. And better yet, the focus is not exclusively on holiday cookies, desserts, and warm sugary drinks. 
  5. RE-EVALUATE YOUR VERSION OF SELF CARE! In a season filled with MORE…more gifts, more desserts, more cookies, more parties, more beverages, more family, more friends…it is helpful to take a step back, take a deep breath and remember that these materialistic and external ‘things’ do not necessarily ‘fill us up’ internally. Haven’t many of us spent our lives trying to ‘fill up’ with various external items such as… diets, expensive clothing and shoes, food, food and more food… working excessively, compulsively exercising, compulsively spending, gambling, trying to control others… the list goes on and on? Ask yourself ; did these ever work? Have I ever been truly serene and at ease engaging in this particular activity? What may be a better way to feel content and at ease internally? Often the answer is rather simple…maybe it is spending just 10 minutes a day reading your favorite book? Is it hugging your pet? Is it meditating for just 5 minutes? Telling another person how you are feeling? The holiday season is often categorized by an excess of materialistic things; but self care can take on so many different non-materialistic forms. Less is very often MORE! What helps you feel calm and serene inside?