How to Get Through The Holidays Without Binge Eating
It’s that time of year. The Trinity: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. A compulsive overeater’s nightmare. These three holidays are the most difficult times to get through without bingeing. But in this article, I’m going to show you how to get through the holidays without binge eating.
Here’s the scenario: It’s 7:00 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. It’s a frosty 32 degrees outside. The late Fall air feels more like Winter. But you’re sitting in front of your fireplace in your warm, cozy sweater. You’ve just finished leisurely eating your low-carb breakfast of chorizo, scrambled eggs in butter and a half cup of cantaloupe. Now you’re drinking a steamy hot mug of coffee.
And you’ve been abstinent from sugar and flour for the last 3 months.
So you’re feeling committed. NOTHING can derail you from your food plan. Sipping your steaming cup of hazelnut flavored black coffee, you reminisce and marvel at the way you passed up on those Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses on Halloween without a second thought…
Or, how effortlessly you turned down the wine, the Lasagna, the Penne Pasta ala Vodka, the Braciole and the Canolis at the Italian-themed office party last week. And how about when you went out to dinner with your girlfriends and ate protein and salad, while your friends ate pizza?
Let’s face it. You’re on a roll. Being smug and self-congratulatory, you pat yourself on the back. Literally.
Naturally, when you get together with your family for Thanksgiving dinner, you have every intention of sticking to your low carb plan – eating only turkey, some salad, and some vegetables.
“No problem,” you think. “I got this.”
Now, it’s 2:00 p.m. You arrive at your parents’ home. When mom opens the door, the heavenly aroma of turkey, fried catfish, honey glazed ham, homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, biscuits, black eyed peas, potato salad, collard greens, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and candied yams, smack you right in the face!
By now, you’re deliriously hungry. But you’re still committed to staying abstinent.
So the family sits down, and dad says grace. As dad’s saying grace, you’re wishing he’d hurry the hell up. You try to force yourself to keep your eyes on your own plate – the one with the lonely turkey leg, cup of salad and cup of collard greens. Yeah. That plate. But you can’t. The smells are heavenly, and your eyes are glazing over and marveling at this amazing landscape of food – especially
the fried catfish.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, dad finished saying grace – and you’ve planned your binge in detail.Here’s the kicker:
Everyone in the family knows about your binge eating disorder. They also know that you’ve been abstaining from sugar and flour for the last few months. They also understand that you can’t just have one. You’re like an alcoholic with food. Your family supports you 100% So what do you do? You eat your turkey, salad and greens – slowly and daintily – all the while planning your binge. You’re getting irritated because you want everyone to leave the kitchen. Dessert comes and goes, and you, of course, pass. Everyone’s so proud of you. What self-control!
You offer to clean up the kitchen. Now’s your chance…
While everyone’s in the living room, sprawled all over the couch, pants unbuttoned and unzipped, watching football, you snatch an empty plate out of the cabinet and proceed to pile on turkey, stuffing, catfish and potato salad a mile high on your plate. Frenzied and in anticipation of stuffing your face with these tantalizing southern delicacies, you dash into the bathroom, lock the door, and
After stuffing your face, you peep out the bathroom to see if anyone wandered back into the kitchen…
Satisfied that the coast is clear, you purposefully walk over to the dessert counter and nonchalantly proceed to take half of the pumpkin pie with whipped cream, put it in Tupperware, and stick it in your bag for your binge later. As if that wasn’t enough, you pile more potato salad on your plate, add 4 more pieces of catfish and dart back into the bathroom and eat yourself into oblivion. It felt good going down.
Now, you’re disgusted with yourself. It’s your dirty secret.
What went wrong? You had the best of intentions. Well, first, let me say, don’t beat yourself up. As compulsive overeaters, that’s what we do. We sometimes relapse. It’s not a moral issue. If you can accept that your binge eating disorder is not a moral issue and forgive yourself, you can pick yourself back up and start again. But first, you have to understand what went wrong so that you don’t do this again on Christmas and New Years Eve!
Have a Game Plan
First, if you’re going to get through the holidays without binge eating, you’ve got to have a game plan. That means you have to anticipate being tempted by all of the foods you avoid on Thanksgiving. Get phone numbers of people who are in the same predicament. Hopefully, you’re in a 12-step fellowship for compulsive overeaters. Having that kind of support, from people who really understand, is crucial.
Bookend with these like-minded people. Make a call before you sit down to dinner and commit that you’re going to be abstinent. Then after you eat, call that person again to bookend. Or, you can just call your network throughout your stay. The point is, you’re not alone, so don’t try to do it alone. You’ve got people who are able and willing to talk you off the ledge.
Remember, you at breakfast at 7:00 a.m. But by the time Thanksgiving dinner was served, it was already 2:30 p.m. That’s a good 7 hours. That’s way too long to go in between meals. What happened? You went into HALT mode. HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tired. In AA they say don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired, as those are triggers to eat and drink.
Next time, plan to have your breakfast later so that you’re not ravenously hungry.
Don’t Offer To Clean The Kitchen
I know this may seem rude, but do not offer to clean the kitchen. The temptation to eat something will be too great. Instead, let someone else clean the table and you go play with your nieces and nephews. Or, offer to sweep the floor – after all the food is put away. If you’re feeling really guilty about not cleaning up, just be honest and say that you’re feeling shaky and can’t be around all of the food.
Most people will understand. The most important thing for you is to get through the holidays without binge eating. Who cares what others think?
Watch Out For Anger and Resentments
Being around family can definitely stir up old resentments. It’s natural that we all fall back into our family role when we get together.
Hey, I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me want to eat compulsively more than my anger and resentments. Oh, yes, fear makes me want to eat too. But anger kills me. The person I’m angry with doesn’t even know I’m angry, and if they did know, they could care less.
Pray For People to Ease Resentments
So the only person left with this devastating feeling is me. I pay the consequences because I don’t know how to deal with it, except to eat. So if someone pisses you off (not just on Thanksgiving), bless them. Even if you don’t mean it. Keep blessing them. My favorite is, (say the person’s name) _____________ I wish you good health, happiness and prosperity. I pray that you have everything good in your life as you desire. That’s it. I swear, the more you do this, the quicker the resentment lifts.
Take Care of Yourself
Last, but not least. Take care of yourself physically, spiritually and mentally (emotionally). Go to the gym and workout, or go running. Even go for a brisk walk. Exercise always clears your mind, restores your health and makes you look good.
Pay Attention to Your Thoughts
Watch your thoughts. Your thoughts and your mental images create your feelings, which create your reality. If you want to see your circumstances change, pay attention to, and change your thoughts.
Meditation doesn’t have to take hours. Just 5 to 10 minutes a day works wonders. Sit in a relaxed position. Set your timer, close your eyes, and breath in and out. Focus on your breath. There are lots of free apps on guided meditations too.
I hope this article has been helpful. Feel free to comment below on how you get through the holidays without binge eating.
Thank you for that website! It looks like it will be a great resource for me. Unfortunately the only group in my state is about 2 hours drive away, however, I will definitely look into the online support groups. Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention.
@Megan: Hi Megan. Yes, it’s hard. But doable. at http://www.greysheet.org there are lots of meeting lists, phone numbers to phone meetings where you can get lots of support anywhere in the world. I hope you’ll give it a try. Also, there are lots of people sharing their experience on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZNwEtSUfHc
Thanks for your response Shalisha – When I pack my lunch and have my head in the right place it’s easy to walk past but some days it just all becomes too much. Unfortunately I work in an environment that means it isn’t always easy to make a phone call. You’re right about being comfortable in your own skin – I’ve never achieved that.
When the food calls me, I call my support system until it passes. Most times it works. I will definitely have a look into finding a support group near me – thank you!
@Megan: Thanks for your honesty! My office is filled with that stuff too. Honestly, it is difficult. I find that when I pack my own food, have a support system in place (I call people who too have an eating disorder and are abstaining) I have a better chance.
When the food calls me, I call my support system until it passes. Most times it works. Sometimes I fall down. When I give in and eat, even after I’ve made the calls, it’s because I’m still uncomfortable in my skin. I need to ride it out by reminding myself this too shall pass and keep calling people.
I would join a free 12 step group like overeaters anonymous or greysheet.org. Those groups are very helpful for people who binge eat. This way, when you have the desire to eat, you can call these people for support.
Thank you so much for such a timely post. I have never admitted this out loud to anyone but I binge eat. I will buy food while out and sneak it into my room to eat when I’ve gone to bed so the kids don’t know. When I have my head straight and I am in weightloss mode and clean eating and feeling good I okay but the minute something goes wrong my first instinct is to binge. I then feel guilty and ashamed and angry at myself which leads to more bingeing which leads to more guilt, shame etc and I get stuck in the cycle again and put on weight. I love the HALT acronym – I hadn’t heard it before so thank you. One of my biggest triggers is work – I work long shifts and I have a feeder on my team. She always brings in lollies, biscuits, crisps, etc and I get stressed or busy and don’t think and grab – what are your suggestions for dealing with this?
@Penelope: Thanks for stopping by. Yes, eating before you get there is a great idea! Works for me.
yeah, holidays are really hard not just because of the addiction to flour and sugar but also because of all the emotional triggers of other people, and the nostalgia foods. I like that you suggest bringing HALT to the gathering. One thing I do is eat before I get there, so there’s less room in my tummy for that temptation.
Hi Melody! Thanks so much. Yes, it is lonely “out there” when you’re trying to do this on your own. A community of support is always best – whether it’s an online forum or a live meeting. Having connections with others is super important on this journey.
Thank you for all of these tips! It brought me back to my binge eating holiday days. Being in a program has been a game changer for sure. I forgot how lonely it is out there trying to stay on a plan when everyone around you is going nuts with consumption! You are amazing Shalisha. Keep sharing your insight please.