#023: The holidays—creating your own feel-good

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Enjoy the season without being a prisoner to food

Looking forward to the holidays can seem part of our genetic makeup.

Dreams of smiling faces, delicious festive food, and that coveted gift under the tree … expectations are high.

But what happens when the holidays don’t turn out like the fairy tale in our imaginations? People don’t show up, you’re sick, or finances are strained.

If food helps get you through—to feel better or escape the whole shebang—it can lead to falling off-the-rails over the festive season … with an overeat or binge.

Listen in to discover how to create the holidays you want without relying on food to be your knight-in-shining-armour.

Click here for your FREE Guide: 8 simple strategies to break the binge eating cycle

View the full episode transcript

So dreams of a picture perfect holiday—or even just a couple of festive highlights that you’d love to happen—can end up in anything but lovely.

AND there is a way to avoid going down that route of disappointment or disillusionment.

There is a way to know that, whatever happens, you’re gonna be ok. To begin to look after yourself almost in advance so that the food doesn’t have to become the knight-shining-armour that rescues you when something isn’t going the way you want it to.

Welcome to the YoYo Freedom Podcast.

This is the place to learn actionable, step-by-step tools and strategies to help you stop bingeing or overeating and start feeling relaxed and confident around food, 

so that you can show up for your life on your terms.

I’m Gemma Keys and I know first hand what it’s like to feel out-of-control around food and trapped in the pain of binge eating and body-shame.

There is a way out. 

Keep listening to discover your path to food freedom.

Hello and welcome. It’s wonderful to have you here.

This episode is the second in a short series as the festive season looms

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, whether you have a different kind of celebration or if you take the opportunity for some down time, this can often be THE time of year to feel as if you’re going off the rails when it comes to food, so that’s why it’s great to be thinking about it the holidays—plan what they might be like and talking it through now.

The people we spend time with at this time of year can often be a reason to feel a bit more out of control and to get that “help, I’m falling off the wagon” when it comes to food and if that’s something you feel a bit of, you can go back and listen to episode 22. It’s all about how, whoever the people are in your life and however they end up behaving, you can still look after you, and even have fun not matter what’s going on around you.

Today we’re talking around holiday expectations …. Because they often come with such high hope, right? 

Maybe really looking forward to the relaxation and rejuvenation and luxury of a bit of time off work.

Or a vision of happy children, laughing and playing and delighted with their presents—and getting everything they wanted.

Maybe you dream of creating (or enjoying) an immaculate spread of delicious food that brings a smile of pleasure and thankfulness and to everyone’s face at the table.

Or you’re looking forward to meeting up with friends for a Christmas movie or drinks or walks—and having a laugh together.

It could be that this is a time to look forward to treats and getting those special somethings you don’t tend to get at other times—-things like time with the people you love, special gifts, having fun with parties and sparkles, or romance snuggled up in front of a fire, or connection and really feeling known and loved by friends and family.

You might be looking forward to people visiting, or to being left in peace and not having to cater or organise for once—looking forward to a rest this year.

Or you might be dreaming of snow and that kind’ve glistening beauty outside—or my lovely in-laws in New Zealand are probably longing for golden sunshine for their Christmas day bbq.

It’s almost like all those adverts on TV kind’ve sneak into our consciousness when it comes to the holidays and our expectations are heightened in a way they aren’t when it’s another average week at work or doing the school run or running errands or whatever.

Although, have you noticed over recent years the Christmas ads are getting more sort of heartwarming and real with things like people being lonely & a chance to reach out to them, or the food burning and being ruined and so the holiday time becoming less about everything being perfect and more about other things that matter. I love some of those ads because they work in such an inspiring way to almost take the mask off expectations of perfection and get us smiling at the irony of what really happens and how we can make it special anyway.

But, getting back to expectations of what the holidays will be like, well—I for sure have those dreams and hopes just like everyone else.

But what happens when the holidays don’t turn out like the fairy tale in our imaginations or how we dream?

Perhaps something happens and you end up feeling exhausted, or run down or get sick. Oh my goodness, one of my dearest friends has had COVID for the last 2 years on the trot and has had to isolate on her own at home—I think she’s lying low in advance this year to try to stave it off!!

Or maybe the people you long to be with have other plans this year. Like your children or siblings are going to their in-laws, or want to be with their friends at college, or are travelling. Or the friend or friends you usually get together with are doing something different this year. Or it happens that you’re on your own for whatever reason, and you might revel in that OR you might really not want that to be the case.

Or maybe you’re working—which can either be a blessing or a curse, depending on your perspective! I know my brother has had years when he’s loved escaping the festive shenanigans and dramas by taking on extra shifts at work and getting the extra pay, so it was his ideal for a few years. But someone you want to be with might be working, especially if you have a partner or friend or family member who’s a critical worker or in healthcare or the emergency services or any of those phenomenal people we rely on so much to always be available.

Or perhaps times are tight financially and not all the things you want to make happen for yourself or for the people around you are within reach, without racking up a huge credit card bill and all the anxiety of creeping debt.

Or the special thing you were really hoping someone would give you as a present (especially after all those obvious hints, right?!) but the present doesn’t materialise, and you feel sooooo disappointed.

Or (& this used to be me) you want to play charades after lunch and mess around a bit, but everyone else is dead set on settling down and watching James Bond on tv and having a doze.

You get the idea right? When we have certain ideas and expectations of what the holidays should be like. And when it doesn’t turn out that way, it can feel a whole range of bad.

And if food helps get you through or cope with emotions like disappointment or frustration or loneliness or overwhelm or just feeling low—if food is a way to feel better or to zone out or to escape the whole shebang, that can lead to feeling off-the-rails when it comes to what you’re eating.

It might look like overeating or bingeing. It might look like stealing other peoples Christmas treats (I can’t tell you how many time I’ve done that so many times before, and just been so embarrassed and ashamed about it!). It could be sneaking food to eat in secret. 

And it can take you to a place of feeling checked out—that sort of overfullness and fatigue and being numbed to whatever else might be happening. Or  to days of those food-hangovers which can feel so similar to having had a night on the tiles with the booze.

So dreams of a picture perfect holiday—or even just a couple of festive highlights that you’d love to happen—can end up in anything but lovely.

AND there is a way to avoid going down that route of disappointment or disillusionment.

There is a way to know that, whatever happens, you’re gonna be ok. To begin to look after yourself almost in advance so that the food doesn’t have to become the knight-shining-armour that rescues you when something isn’t going the way you want it to.

So, the next question is, how can you begin to create that for yourself? How can thinking around the holidays in advance help you feel more settled or more nurtured or more of any of the feelings you’re hoping to experience?

Well, the first thing to do is to identify what your expectations or hopes for the holidays actually are. And that’s because sometimes they can be a bit non-specific and vague and intangible, and so it’s tricky to put pur your finger on them.

What is it that you really want? That you’re really hoping for to make these holidays good for you?

See if you can get specific. What exactly is it that needs to happen? What do you want it to look like? Who needs to do what? What gifts or special gestures will mean so much?

The clearer you get, the better—cos then it’s so much easier to really understand what’s going on in your mind—and sometimes our minds can be a bit opaque when it comes to understanding them, right? 

So what is it that you want this year? Maybe try listing out all the little things you’re hoping for so you can see it in on the page in black and white.

The second thing to do is to understand why you want those things.

If that thing happens—or you get that present, or are taken to that special event. or that person is with you, or the turkey is absolutely perfect this year—whatever it is, what does it mean for you?

Will you feel loved? Or appreciated? Or connected? Or taken care of?

Will you feel rested and restored? Will you feel delighted? Will it be fun and create a laugh?

Will you feel good enough—like you can measure up to your own expectations of yourself?

Or will you feel worthwhile and worthy? LIke you’re making a difference somehow.

If finding the why behind each of the items on your list doesn’t come so easily or isn’t obvious at first, you can try a trick called The 5 Whys—it’s brilliant at uncovering the feeling that we think will come with getting something we want.

So, the 5-Why’s trick is literally asking yourself another why after each answer you come up with.

Let’s take a simple example.

Say the thing you want to happen is to be given that beautiful snuggly jumper you’ve had your eye on for weeks.

The first why: Why do I want to be given the jumper?

Answer: cos I love that jumper!

Second why: why do you want to be given the jumper you love?

Answer: Cos it means someone’s thought of what I’d like

Third why: why do you want someone to have thought about what you’d like?

Answer: Cos it means they’re taking notice of me and care about me

And the fourth why: why do you want them to take notice of you and care about you?

Answer: because I want to feel loved and special and that I mean something to someone

And then to take it even further with the fifth why: why do you want to feel loved and special and that you mean something to someone?

The final answer could be, because it means I’m worth something. I’m worthy. I’m ok. I’ve found my right place in the world. I’m safe & secure.

It really can be fascinating what this process—using the 5 whys (or however many why’s it takes to get to whatever’s underlying what you want …. But my advice is to ALWAYS go an extra Why when you think you’ve got no more answers left in you!

You might end up thinking, who knew? I’m pinning my self worth and safety in the world on being given a fluffy jumper …. A jumper I’ve been secretly covetting and haven’t even asked anyone for, other than maybe nonchalantly mentioning I’d like it and hoping they’ll get the hint — or, frankly, read my mind and KNOW what it’ll mean to me to get it.

Now this works for any example. What the people do. How the food is. The party. The fun. The outfit. The weather even. Whatever!

It really lets you understand why your expectations are there and what they mean for you.

And this last step is the one I think is truly beautiful and liberating.

And also, like everything in this short holiday series, it can be used for so many aspects of life at any time of year.

And it’s working out how—no matter what happens externally as far as how your hopes and expectations for the holidays go—but how you can create a little bit of what you want to feel and experience for yourself.

When you’ve uncovered what it is you’re really hoping for, how can you plan to make it happen for yourself, and what might that look like for you?

My dad always makes me laugh because he buys a few little things he wants, wraps them up and puts them under the tree to open on Christmas Day. I just think it’s hilarious, but what a perfect example!

Something along those lines really does work if you do it with the right intention. 

So, I love buying myself a sort of sweet & spice scented candle cos it feels decadent and creates a warm, nurturing, really lovely feeling for me and it’s really easy to do that small thing for myself.

And how to create what you’re really looking for for yourself looks different for everyone. But it could be something like:

Having a hot bubble bath to luxuriate in relaxation—so cliched, right? But remember, it’s the intention that creates any feeling that comes from it—so if you’re looking to feel rested and relaxed, how might you create that for yourself in certain moments you’d like or need it?

It could be going to see a movie, with or without a buddy.

Or googling and reading about festive mishaps until you’re laughing out loud? Or, if you’re like me, looking at cats dressed in Christmas outfits with looks on their face as if they want to maul the person who’s put them in that get up!

It could be a Zoom call with someone who’s far away, or a plan for reading a great book in a coffee shop.

It could be planning a get together with family in a month or so’s time.

Or proposing a secret santa with a £10 or ten dollar limit (—honestly, you’ll be amazed at how popular an idea like that is because it relieves so much inspired-present-buying pressure and the financial pinch that comes with gifting.)

Of course, it can come to food too. Maybe this is the only time of year you even consider eating warm Christmas pudding with brandy butter and you absolutely love it. So plan to eat some—to eat it slowly and really, really enjoy it rather than feeling guilty about it or thinking “ooh, I really shouldn’t but … “. Be fully present and revel in the sensations of every bite. We’ll take more of a look at that idea in a future episode, but allowing yourself that sort of food—the food you might consider a red-alert, danger food—and slowing down as you eat it to tune in much more to your experience can really increase your levels of satisfaction and take the charge out of eating that thing. Which makes it much less likely that it’ll lead to a binge down the track.

Small things you might do are to make sure you have enough water and sleep—both of which are key to ramping down cravings for food and to just feeling better in ourselves and our bodies.

And another way of looking after yourself at a really deep level can be talking to yourself to remind yourself that you’re important, you’re valuable, that you’re worthwhile and worthy exactly as you are—-cos you are! 

One way to do this which is really really effective is to go back in time to a younger version of you—when I do this, my younger self is always about 6 or 7. When you think of a child—a younger version of you—it can be easier to talk to them and tell them all the things you want them to know about how truly beautiful and precious and wonderful they are. How they’re ok exactly as they are. How much you love them and think they’re important. How they’re safe with you and you’ve got them.

Because that little one is often where so many of those big feelings of wanting to be loved and accepted and appreciated and part of something come from.

And that little version of you—-well, when you think of them, don’t you just want to scoop them up, let them be and say and do and feel exactly how they do, and take so much care of them and let them be accepted and loved as 100% who they are?

Give it a try. What is little-you longing for. What can you offer her or him? Words or actions. See what happens.

And if you don’t yet believe it yourself then, if you want to, you can let me be the person to tell you that I believe that about you. You are valuable. You are worthwhile. You are important and you are loved exactly as you are.

So to wrap up, we can often fall off the rails when it comes to food because we’ve created those rails through our expectations of what we want the holidays to look like.

And by getting clear on what you want to happen and exactly why you want it—in other words, how it’ll make you feel if you get the thing you’re dreaming of—you can start to get curious about different ways to create those feelings for yourself, no matter what happens outside of you or what anyone else happens to do—which, after all, we have very little control over!

Maybe something you’ve heard in this episode particularly resonates or you’re just willing to give it a go. Whatever it is, please do share it if you’d like to. You can message me privately at yoyofreedom.com / contact and I really would love to hear from you.

And, as we approach the last few weeks of the year and move into a new one, you can find even more compassionate, nurturing, supportive ways to find your way through overeating or binge eating or feeling compulsive or out of control around food. For starting points and ideas to get going with, go ahead and download my free guide, 8 simple steps to break the binge eating cycle. I’ll link to it in the shownotes at yoyofreedom.com forward slash 23

And any questions you have or particular challenges you’re coming up against or topics you’d like to hear more about, just shoot them over to me in a message, again via yoyofreedom.com / contact

Last of all, for those of you in America, wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving this week.

That’s it for today’s episode. Thank you for listening.

I hope you’ve found this episode helpful. Subscribe to The YoYo Freedom Podcast for more insight, tools and support as you pull back from bingeing, overeating or yoyo-dieting and step into your most authentic, vibrant life.

And, if you liked what you heard, it would be wonderful if you’d take a moment to rate this podcast on whichever platform you listen on.

Thank you so much! And Bye-bye for now.

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