A lot has changed in the last few years, since shifting from chronic dieter to intuitive eater, especially when it comes to binge eating around the holidays.
I typically spent all year yo-yo dieting...only being able to restrict for so long before I found myself feeling out of control around my "off-limits" foods. So naturally, by the time Halloween arrived, I was so burned out by all my food rules and failed attempts at sticking to a diet, I literally felt like I was starting over every single Monday.
It felt awful. I was discouraged and defeated and despite all of the hope I had for the new year, I found myself in the exact same struggle as the previous year.
Now, fast forward a few years- not only did I come to the realization that all of the dieting, restriction and food rules were the driving force behind my binge eating and weight cycling, I embarked on my very own Intuitive Eating journey and decided to help others do the same.
As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and Holistic Nutritionist, here are 4 Things I no longer do around the Holidays to avoid Binge Eating:
I No Longer "Save" My Calories for a Big Meal.
This is a big no-no when you embody Intuitive Eating. Why? Because in order to "save" calories, you are more than likely going against your body's hunger cue and need for food throughout the day leading up to the meal. This sets us up for a primal, urgent drive to eat once it's finally mealtime. When we are famished, there is a more chaotic experience with eating- we tend to eat quickly and more mindlessly. That doesn't exactly set us up to enjoy the meal and feel satisfied. This also leads to blowing past comfortable fullness and results in quite an unpleasant experience. Not exactly what we had hoped for, right?
As an Intuitive Eater, I plan to eat as I normally would, leading up to a big meal. I have breakfast, I honor my hunger throughout the day, and I have no fear of "spoiling" my appetite. In fact, when I arrive at a meal only mildly hungry, I am able to choose what looks and smells most satisfying and have a much more pleasant experience!
I No Longer Commit to Future Restriction as an Excuse to Binge.
This is a big NO for me...holidays used to be filled with broken promises of future diets (that never worked), so I could literally eat as much as wanted, without any regard to how it was making me physically feel. There are many terms that refer to this type of now or never eating; in Intuitive Eating, this is called "the last supper mentality." Basically, binge eating in anticipation of future food restriction. Again, this goes against everything it means to be an Intuitive Eater. It's just another way of ignoring one's internal wisdom and body cues that tell you when you've had enough.
As an Intuitive Eater, there is no fear of future restriction to drive me to overeat or binge eat around the Holidays. I know, that if I really wanted cookies or moms apple pie after the holiday season, I have complete permission to have it! That permission is key to avoid binge eating.
I No Longer Beat Myself up if I Eat Past Comfortable Fullness.
Overeating, despite feeling uncomfortable, IS going to happen from time to time. It's not a crime and is certainly not something to feel guilt or shame over. Yes, as an Intuitive Eater- this can still sometimes happen! Especially if there is more focus on the conversation sitting around the table, than emerging fullness. Or if there is imbibing in the holiday drinks (this can affect fullness cues), or simply enjoying the heck out of the mashed potatoes!
Instead of beating myself up, I simply get curious. I think: “hmmm, I wonder what that was about? Did I not eat enough at lunch? Did I misjudge my hunger a little bit?" I let it be a learning experience. If I spiral into thoughts that make me feel guilt and shame, my past experience shows me that often led to binge eating. Now, I simply find ways to make myself more comfortable. Maybe it's changing into comfier clothes or sipping so peppermint tea to ease any digestive discomfort.
Lastly, I No longer Eat Food I Don't Want, Just to be Polite.
While eating food I didn't really want just to be polite rarely triggered binge eating, it did often contribute to me feeling pressured. In studies published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, it found that people with a strong desire to please others, eat MORE when they believe their peers want them to. This can definitely interfere with Intuitive Eating. When you constantly cave into what other people want you to eat, it’s harder to be attuned to what YOU actually want and need. It can seem like a harmless thing when someone you love is asking you to try something (because food is a way people connect and express love), BUT unless you have already checked in with yourself and decided you want that food, all it is doing is making it more difficult for you to determine if you're hungry, full or what you actually want to eat. This can also cause some stress around the experience!
So for me, in order to continue honoring my own internal wisdom through Intuitive Eating, I know it's important to set boundaries. If you'd like some ideas, you could try:
“No, thank you”.
“Actually, I'm interested in trying ____ instead”.
"I would love to eat more food, but I couldn't possibly have another bite without feeling uncomfortable."
"Your dessert (or whatever the food is) looks delicious, but I am really too full to eat anything else. But I would love to take some home with me if there is any leftover."
The best thing about no longer doing these four things during the holiday season is that it keeps me connected to my internal wisdom. It reinforces the healing power of Intuitive Eating, and allows me to truly be present with my loved ones, instead of being hyper-focused on food, or my new year diet. Remember, food freedom is possible. Really enjoying the holidays without food anxiety or making diet plans, is possible.
I hope you found this helpful, and if you are interested in learning more about intuitive eating, you can schedule a complimentary call with a member of my team, or check out our NEW Online Intuitive Eating Course.
Katie Valley is a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and new mom. She founded Katie Valley Wellness in 2018 and her team currently offers 1:1 Intuitive Eating coaching, and a self-guided online Intuitive Eating Course.
After her own experience with disordered eating and poor body image, Katie found true healing by practicing Intuitive Eating and Body Acceptance and her goal is to dispel the myths of diet culture and reinforce a holistic, health-focused approach to wellness.