#024: The holidays—enjoying festivities AND food

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Find your own version of peace and joy this Christmas

You can genuinely enjoy December even if you’ve been struggling with This Food Thing.

This is the episode for you if previous Christmases have looked like: 

  • wanting to eat perfectly only to end up eating everything, 
  • aiming to create a fasting window that’s crashed and burned, 
  • diving into the chocolate selection box in secret, or 
  • buckling under the pressure to eat treats presented by all the family

Pick and choose from a selection box of ways to bring new relaxation and enjoyment to this holiday season so there’s less need to turn to food to escape, self-soothe or calm your clamoring nerves.

It really can begin in December!

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

View the full episode transcript

Maybe it looks different for you but, if The Food Thing is a challenge—and you know right, that’s it’s been a huge challenge for me over the decades, so I really am sharing this from a place of understanding and empathy and having been there—but if The Food Thing is a challenge for you then there are ways to make it easier on yourself and even to make the food more enjoyable this year, and that’s what this episode is all about.

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. If you’re listening to this episode as it comes out, it’s the beginning of December and finally no one can say it’s not ok to play the Christmas tunes—my favourites are those beautiful oldies from Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and all of them and they are in my ears now! So I hope you’re enjoying some good festive tunes too.

Now, December … when it comes to eating it can be a time that carries a lot of pressure and almost a sort’ve inevitability that the food’s all gonna get too much—we’re going to eat to much and feel stuffed and probably regret it and maybe come down really hard on ourselves about it, like all the voices inside our heads that say things like, “I can’t believe you’ve done it again; you’re an embarrassment” or something really mean like “you’re nothing but a stupid fat pig,” — you know, all those super-mean, internal voices that say awful things to us that we’d never dream of saying to someone else cos they’re so unnecessarily cruel and cutting.

So, today we’re gonna talk about what it’s like to be surrounded by festivities and food and feasts really at this time of year and also how to find ways to enjoy it—like really and genuinely enjoy the food and whatever else is happening at your house or wherever you’re visiting or whatever you’re up to..

Now not everyone’s experience of being surrounded by food is … well, is a happy or easy or relaxing time.

Maybe you recognise yourself in one of these:

  • This is going to be the year I get it right—eat really well no matter what—I’m going to resist temptation and only eat the things on my good-list
  • Or, I know, I won’t eat in morning then I’ll create a fasting window, but, on no, lunch is late and I’m absolutely ravenous &, oh those nuts look good, and now I’m stuffing them in my mouth, and the chocolates, and those truffles I was given as a gift … oh help! 
  • Or, oh I really love this food and i want to try a bit of everything and now my plate is like piled but I love it and I’m going to eat it and I can’t stop and I’m stuffed and now it’s time for dessert and really want that too
  • Or it’s a few days of visiting and everyone’s made an effort to present some kind of special food and it really does look delicious and it feels impossible to say no
  • Or, now I’m on my own and I’ve got all this food and there’s no one here to tell me what to do and I just want it all,
  • Or there’s that huge chocolate selection tin that only comes out at this time of year. This was always a totally alluring but also terrifying sight for me and it was even worse because the coffee creams were my favourite and no one else even likes those one so there were always so many left in the tin just calling my name!

Maybe it looks different for you but, if The Food Thing is a challenge—and you know right, that’s it’s been a huge challenge for me over the decades, so I really am sharing this from a place of understanding and empathy and having been there—but if The Food Thing is a challenge for you then there are ways to make it easier on yourself and even to make the food more enjoyable this year, and that’s what this episode is all about.

Some of those ways, of course, will be about trial and error, looking back at your experience, either as recently as yesterday or looking back at prior years—and noticing what’s worked for you and what hasn’t, what felt good and what didn’t, and what you might like to try next.

And, as always, I really want to encourage you to give yourself permission to gravitate toward what feels good for you—what sort of settles with you as feeling right—so anything I suggest that sounds awful or just wrong for you, please, please put it in the “nope, that’s not for me” bin and move on.

This podcast is never about telling you what to do. It’s about uncovering—well, let’s use unwrapping just to be seasonal—so it’s about unwrapping the present that is you, everything that is authentic and unique about you, so that you can find the right fit and what genuinely feels good for you and your life.

So here are some suggestions you can pick and choose from to see which appeal—which give you a feeling of sort of openness and possibility and resonance in that they feel good and you can sense they might bring something new to this holiday season that you’d like.

So here they are:

The first is to plan to eat some of your favourite foods, whether that’s mince pies or turkey and stuffing or chocolate log or apricots in brandy or whatever that almost irresistible treat is for you.

Planning to eat that food is a totally different experience to eating it on the sly, sort of sneaking it guiltily and telling yourself you really shouldn’t be eating it or cramming it down when no one’s looking.

This way, you can anticipate it, know you’re going to get it so you don’t have to resist or feel deprived, and if you actually give yourself mental permission to eat the food, you can also slow down and enjoy it, really savour every bite, instead of eating it in that stuff-it-down, frenzied type of eating that you might be so familiar with—I know I am.

I’ve already planned my Christmas pudding with brandy butter and I can’t wait to eat it with my dad, who’s the only other person around who likes it too. And it’s so different from the way I used to feel about that kind of sweet, indulgent food at Christmas time, which I usually ended up eating in secret and eating way more than a single helping, that’s for sure.

The second suggestion is about setting yourself up for the day—starting the day in a way that feels, well … how you wanna feel.

You’ll know a few different ways to start the day that feel good for you. Maybe it’s a coffee and walk. Or poached eggs for breakfast. I like creating these smoothies packed with all sorts of ingredients that just give me a boost.

Maybe it’s a stretch or yoga. Or a few words in a journal. Or a cuddle with your pet.

But have a think about it. What do you notice sets you up best in the mornings? Because it can end up continuing to support you well into the rest of the day.

These next two reminders are short and sweet. And they are to drink lots & lots of water. I promise, you’ll just feel sooooo much better for it because staying hydrated impacts hunger, cravings, your mood and energy levels—all in a positive way. 

And to get snoozing. Because, along with drinking lots of water, getting enough sleep is the other major physical cravings buster along with the great benefits to mood and energy. 

But, in the holidays, staying up late with a glass of wine or because you’re out at a social thing, or being woken up at the crack of sparrows by the kids—sleep can often be, welll … more of a dream, but getting a bit of extra zizz whenever you can —- think sneaking in a bit of shut-eye in a quiet moment — but just those moments of rest can be a recharge which means you’re that little bit less likely to turn to the Christmas chocolates or pretzels or cookies for an energy boost. 

And a snooze also creates a pause, a little quiet time away from it all—which is especially valuable if you’re an introvert and you recover when you have time to yourself—shutting your eyes for a few minutes can make that little bit of time to settle and rebalance your nervous system, or reset your energy, so you feel more grounded and then ready to go again.

This next suggestion can be especially helpful when it comes to eating because you feel trapped or out of your comfort zone or just put-about or overstretched by all the activity or people around you. And it’s to switch and from the assumptions that start with“I have to,” to “I’m choosing to” 

So to explain that idea more, many people who struggle with overeating or bingeing or just using food to get through, have that feeling of being trapped in a situation—of having to do what other people want or demand of them. Things like being stuck at a Christmas party, or festive family gathering, or round of visits, or having visitors descend on you. 

But almost always, if that’s happening and you really get down to the bare bones of it, there’s likely to be a way out (even if there’s no way you’d ever take it!)—But there’s always a possibility of something like feigning sickness and staying home alone in bed all day, or saying “nope, I don’t wanna come, I’m done.” People might be upset, but those options are still there. 

But, I’m guessing, there’s a part of you that actually wants to go to the party or the get together or whatever the thing is. So, if you do choose to go, it’s just so helpful to recognise that part of you that wants to, for whatever the reasons are, and give it a voice. 

It might say something like this:

  • I don’t like travelling at Christmas and staying in someone else’s house BUT I really want to be with my partner or my sister or the kids so I choose to travel so that I can be here with them
  • Or, yes auntie Susie is probably going to comment on what I’m wearing or my love-life … I know it’s coming, she’s got no filter and I know that I’ll feel embarrassed and probably blush and then feel outraged with her. But I’m still going to go cos this is the only time of year we all get together and, well, my mum gets nervous about it and I want to be there for her as much as for myself.
  • Or even, I want to be the kind of person who goes to these events so that, when they stop happening or when some of the people aren’t there any more (cos that’s gonna happen at some point, right?), well, I won’t regret not having been there.

Whatever the situation you find yourself, whoever you are or aren’t with, this shift can work wonders to ease that feeling of being powerless and trapped AND give you a totally different experience. 

For example, instead of trying to squish down feelings of resentment or being trapped or somewhere you don’t wanna be …. 

Which usually lead to something like withdrawing from interactions with other people and being kinda standoffish, or getting snappy and fighting and getting into arguments, or my default which used to be to sink into silent moodiness and sulking (which I’m not at all proud of and still cringe at)

Or maybe for you it’s feeling tired and lethargic, or ending up smiling through gritted teeth while you dream of escaping to the garage with the rest of the chocolate log. 

And it just doesn’t feel good, does it? For you more than anything, and probably not for anyone else who happens to be around. 

But the simple reframe of acknowledging it’s your choice to be there for whatever reasons you have, and the recognising the benefits and bonuses for you of making that choice, as well as what’s challenging about it—just knowing your “why” behind what you’re doing is just so incredibly helpful in changing what it’s like to be there and just feeling better about it.

My next suggestion is to let go of the idea of having a complete about turn and transformation in the NY. 

The reason for that is the idea of the 1st of January being the golden start of perfection can lead to an “oh man, well I’d better make the most of being able to eat what I like while I can”

 …. And I’m guessing you’re pretty familiar with where that thought goes. Me too. 

But feeling better and making changes really is most successful when it happens in small increments because that’s the way it can truly last. 

January 1st isn’t a magic date or a New Year totally differentt You. 

Thinking of the next 2 minutes can be far more helpful. It really can be that short a time. What could I do for these 2 minutes—or whatever time you’d like. How can I take care of myself now.

I could be something like go into the bathroom for a couple of minutes to take a breath and regroup. Or to step outside, or hug your favourite person or pet. To drink that glass of water or to load the dishwasher (I mean, there’s a moment of peace right there, right, in that dishwasher!!), 

Or it could be to decide to really enjoy whatever it is you’d like to eat—to savour every bite. 

Or to take those couple of minutes to pause and check in with yourself and say in your mind, “Hey you, how’re you doing? What’s going on for you right now? How can I help?” Talking to yourself in the 3P, it’s not crazy at all, it creates that little bit of space and love that can make all the difference!

Which leads nicely on to this final focus that can be so very supportive. And that’s go easy on yourself. 

If you can, be so very kind—as if you were talking to a little version of you aged about 5 or 6. Let yourself feel how you feel. Acknowledge it and let it make sense and be ok exactly as it is. 

That’s easy when you’re happy and relaxed and  having fun and engaged and all those feel goods, right? 

But it’s even more important to be kind and nurturing when the feelings aren’t so sparkly-perfect. To let it be ok in those times you feel tired, or bored, or irritated, or overwhelmed, or disappointed, or sad, or distracted; when you feel left out, or lonely as well. 

Just noticing and acknowledging what’s happening for you makes such a big difference, rather than trying to suppress or pretend it’s not there or force yourself to be different. 

Letting your experience, whatever it is, simply be there, and finding why it makes sense can be an absolutely huge relief and one of the most profound gifts you can give yourself. 

By allowing yourself to be and feel exactly as you do, you can open to a possible, “hmmmm, and if that all makes sense and might be ok, what now.” 

Perhaps a shift to “it’s ok to feel like this” is just what you end up needing—what you’ve needed all along. Especially during all the full on expectations of the Silly Season.

So those are my suggestions for you to experiment with—-a selection box of ways to pick & choose between to help and support yourself over the next 3 or 4 weeks, no matter what December looks like for you—or what any day of year looks like

Here’s a super-quick reminder of this new style selection box:

  1. Plan to eat something you really like
  2. Start the day in a way that feels good and perhaps feels like a bit of a boost
  3. Drink lots of water, and
  4. Get snoozing
  5. Switch any “I have to do this” to “I choose to do this, because … “
  6. Let go of the idea of a complete transformation as soon as January 1st hits
  7. Be kind to yourself—let it be ok and make sense to be and feel and do exactly what you do

When you can look after yourself in these small ways, ways that are gentle and nurturing and probably invisible to most other people, they act to create a sort of comfort and soothing message to yourself, like “I’ve got you, I’m looking after you, you’re worth taking care of, we’re gonna be ok.”

That message of acceptance and support and love that so many of us long to get from someone else, but really being that person for yourself—it means there’s less need for trying to create that an escape or needing to self-soothe or calm your clamoring nerves or stress-induced cravings through eating.

And, as well as helping you get through this crazy sparkly full-on season, trying on these suggestions can be the start of the kindness and understanding and genuinely looking after yourself that’s so fundamental to changing your relationship with food.

It really can begin in December. Who knew?!!

If you’d like more ideas for the very best step by step starting points to move toward feeling more comfortable in yourself and in your life without needing to rely on the kind’ve food you really wish you didn’t eat to get you through, you can download my free guide, 8 essential skills to break the binge eating cycle. Just go to the show notes for this episode at yoyofreedom.com forward slash 24

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.

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

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