For many of us the festive season is a time to indulge, have fun, and connect with our friends and loved ones. This is a time when we start to relax our eating and our healthy behaviors that have been in place all year. Perhaps we're out a few more times a week having a few extra drinks, big rich meals, too many Christmas mince tarts!
It's very common that once we start to relax a little with food, that this can easily accelerate to being out of control with food. Think: on the couch, binge watching on Netflix with your PJs on, eating a whole tub of salted caramel ice cream.
But you're probably thinking come January 1, you will be back in control again with your eating and exercising. You'll be back on your diet, or start a new one, and all will be OK with the world.
Does this resonate with you?
Are you either in control (dieting, detoxing, or intensely exercising) or out of control (you can't stop eating anything and everything in sight) with food?
In the world of psychology, we call this all-or-nothing thinking.
You are either a success or a failure. Your eating is either good or bad. You're exercising like crazy or doing nothing.
The issue here is that while you have this all-or-nothing thinking, you will only have two gears to work with: in control or out of control with your eating.
You spend many years going back and forth, trying desperately to get back in control (thinking this is the answer!). If only I had more willpower and discipline!
The secret is that the more you try to be in control (think dieting and restriction) the more you are setting yourself up for a binge and to be out of control with your eating. You could spend years swinging like a pendulum between the two. You're in control, then out of control, then in control again. It's an internal battlefield, it's emotionally exhausting, and it's incredibly stressful.
Control is seductive. We want more and more of it. When we are out of control we think that we have failed, and there must be something wrong with us. But you haven't failed; you've just had the wrong tools and mindset.
It's time to break this vicious cycle.
There's another way. It's all about living according to a continuum. Wouldn't life be so much easier and enjoyable if you were able to work with more than two gears?
The game changer to getting on top of your emotional eating and weight is seeing life (and food) on a continuum—or a balanced approach.
Here are three tips to stop letting control run your relationship with food:
Take the no-dieting pledge in 2017.
It's time to ditch the dieting mindset.
Start today by exploring intuitive eating, which involves having no food rules or restrictions. By giving yourself unconditional permission to eat, you fend off deprivation (which kicks in when you start dieting).
This means that there's never a "last supper" because there are no restrictions. This is a far more balanced, sustainable, and enjoyable approach and will change your relationship with food and your body in a really positive way.
Start to place your awareness on your body (taking your awareness out of your head).
Be aware that when you start to seek control, your awareness is always in your head (think: rules, rigidity, and restrictions). You want to shift that awareness into your body.
Slow things down including your breathing and eating and start to really connect with your body. Just go day by day, meal by meal. This is the opposite of the dieting mentality in which we will plan out all of our meals in our head for the whole week and don't check in to see what we really want or need, only what we "should" be having.
A big part of this journey is to start to become more self-compassionate and let go of our perfectionism. Beating yourself up and being critical won't give you a good relationship with food or your body. In fact, studies have shown that this could even lead to emotional eating.
Having acceptance of where you're at right now is key (even if you're not happy with where you're at) rather than waiting to accept yourself when you get "there." Otherwise, your life will be on hold, and do you ever get "there," anyway?
It's an elusive goal that always leaves you feeling not good enough and disappointed, which often leads us back to food. Transformation and change come from a place of self-acceptance rather than often what we believe, which is I will never change if I accept myself now.