For almost five years of my life, December was a terrifying month. Parties revolving around food, calorie laden drinks, cookies, candy, and big meals with the family. I would always feel like all eyes were on me. Of course, this was not the case, but because of the intense anxiety brought on by this time of year, my bad habits would get out of control.
I don't claim to be 100% recovered, because frankly...who is?! I still have bad thoughts and hear occasional whispers from Emily. But I'm pretty darn close and now, looking back on the things I would do around the holidays, I honestly get incredibly sad that I ever thought that was okay. Starting around this time (December 1st) I would restrict as much as I could before I went home to Lexington, because I knew once I got home it would be much harder to do so. I would load up on fruit and salads, and cut corners where possible. Depending on where I was geographically, I would either go to the gym once a day or take a few walks (even if it was snowing) followed by ab work in my bedroom. I would find any excuse possible to not attend holiday parties, and if I failed at that, I would eat maybe...an apple leading up to the event and go into it cloudy and feeling slightly intoxicated. If I knew I was going out drinking I would skip dinner and proceed to get accidentally drunk. I would plan to get a fancy hot chocolate from Starbucks and then chicken out and get a black tea. Even last year, when I was doing pretty well...the holiday season sent me into a relapse.
No wonder I would go into the week of Christmas completely on edge.
Because the holidays can be a very scary time for many people, here are some tips to get through it so that you don't succumb to any permutation of the bad habits I described above.
1.Remember what you are doing affects others: You might think it's none of their business, but every time you decline an invitation or snap at someone out of frustration, you are hurting them. You dragging them through a portion of the hell you are experiencing, and no one deserves that, especially this time of year.
2. Develop healthy coping skills: One thing that used to happen a lot to me during the holidays was people's schedules not lining up with mine, which would send me into horrible anxiety attacks. Family dinners would always be "too early" for me and I would leave the table feeling guilty. If this happens to you, don't beat yourself up about it. Develop coping skills to utilize after a big meal - yoga stretches to aid bloating, writing in a journal, practicing your ukulele, playing a board game with your family. Anything to get your mind off of the guilt.
3. Be kind to yourself: I know (I knoooow) how horrible you can feel after eating an "indulgent" holiday meal. But guess what. It doesn't matter. The world will not end, you will not wake up 10 pounds heavier, and you will still need to eat the next day. It's true!
4. Don't "make up" for what you ate: Studies show that this works 0% of the time. Don't restrict before or after a party. Because you will inevitably be a pain to be around and no fun whatsoever. I won't want to hang out with you, and to be honest I'm a St. Pete celeb so...your loss.
5. React to "lose that holiday weight!!!" the RIGHT way: 'Tis the season for diet tricks and tips to circumvent that pesky holiday pudge. Guess what...that is a load of BS!! You see, I know things now, and I know that diet culture is the most stupid thing that ever happened to humanity. So when you see those articles telling you to hit the gym, only eat 1500 calories, and swap cookies for broccoli (ummmm...), make the decision to laugh in the face of every perfect soccer mom in yoga pants to ever grace the pages of a magazine. THAT IS NOT REAL LIFE.
6. Pick something about yourself you love no matter what, and never forget that precious gift: December is the month of gifts, so why not focus on one that the universe has bestowed upon you? For me, it's my voice. Whenever I have bad body image thoughts, I remember that my voice is there no matter what (unless of course, I starve myself and lose it. HEYOOOO). It helps that I sing at my church every Christmas Eve, so I also have the opportunity to share my most precious gift.
So that is my December challenge to all of you. Whether or not you have anxieties surrounding food this holiday season, take a moment to think about the thing you love most about yourself and actively share it with the people around you. Maybe you're hilarious...go to a holiday party and get the people laughing! Maybe you love to paint...give your family art work! Maybe you are good with kids...offer babysitting services so that new parents can have a date night! There are countless ways to share your gifts...because that is what this time of year is all about. <33