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Food for Thought: The Holidays

By: Katy Martin, LPC

Oh, the holidays.  Christmas lights are appearing on houses, Christmas music is playing everywhere, and Christmas trees are beginning to glow in windows.  Stores are highlighting great gift ideas and sales.  Stores are filled with crowds and calendars begin filling up with parties, gatherings, and holiday traditions.

And should we mention the food?
Sweets are everywhere, aren’t they?  Cookies, bakery items, and treats that would make fantastic gifts for that person in your life.  (Trader Joe’s has the best!)  Aisles at the grocery store suddenly have entire sections dedicated to making the perfect green bean casserole and holiday trimmings. 
Not to mention the fact that it feels as if most holiday gatherings and parties are centered around food.  Fancy dinners, potlucks with co-workers, cookie parties with friends, and we can’t forget those holiday dinners with the turkey (or ham) and every side dish being some sort of casserole.  We dress up, gather together, and celebrate with the people in our lives.
Food is a big part of this season, isn’t it?  We cannot escape it.  We truly have an abundance of food that God has blessed us with.  For some, it’s wonderful, we’re thankful, we enjoy it.  For some, it’s beyond overwhelming.  If we have an unhealthy or dysfunctional relationship with food, it is a marathon of anxiety and/or destructive behavior. 
How do we stop this cycle?  It might be helpful to share your anxiety with a friend, pastor, or mentor.  Checking in with a therapist can get you on the right track.  Practicing self-care by spending time with people in positive settings, preparing yourself for certain food situations, and maintaining good food and exercise habits that you have formed previously in the year.
In the book, “Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food” by Jan Chozen Bays, MD, she encourages the Zen practice of mindfulness to utilize self-care.  Mindfulness allows you to be fully present in the moment.  Try asking yourself these questions when you begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious:
Am I hungry?
Where do I feel hunger? What part of me is hungry?
What do I really crave?
What am I tasting just now?
I want to encourage you during this time, particularly if you know the holidays are a difficult time for you or if you suspect you’re heading that way.  No matter how severe your struggle is; you can care for yourself and enjoy this time of the year.  
Merry Christmas!