Let’s just say it: This is not the season to be on a “diet.” Whether you’ve decided that you’re just going to cheat for the next two days (or two weeks) before you restart your diet, or if you’re trying to white knuckle your way through eating healthy all holiday season, you might need to shift your perspective.
I want to encourage you to re-examine your mindset around holiday eating to improve your mental health and happiness this holiday season, by learning (or re-learning) how to let true hunger signals guide your eating, that no food is “bad” or off-limits, and how to have a healthier pelvic floor and core this holiday season
Let true hunger signals guide your eating
The holidays are primetime for emotional and stress eating. Instead of reaching for whatever is within arm’s reach every time the inkling arises, maybe try what I cal the brain/heart/belly process.
First, before grabbing some grub, notice what’s up in your brain. Are you stressed, racing to the next holiday task, or telling yourself there’s no point in even trying to eat healthy? Then, notice what’s happening in your heart or emotions. Are you eating or drinking to numb some emotional discomfort? Or maybe you’re eating or drinking out of joy – to be a part of a festive holiday crew. Last, notice the sensations in your belly. Does your belly feel full or empty? Do you have clear hunger cues?
Once you have all of that information, you can re-examine whether or not you want to munch.
No food is “bad” or off-limits
Our brain is hardwired to operate from automation – it’s more efficient, given the kajillion tiny decisions we have to make all day every day. Our brain doesn’t want to have to make qualitative decisions all the time, so we make hard-line rules about our diet, like “this is bad and that is good.”
Of course, if you’ve studied dietetics, you probably know about the neurological effects of things like salt, sugar, and fat. These foods are inherently rewarding to our brain (they give us hormones that feel GOOD). This made sense when food was scarce and we needed to stay alive, hence there was a built-in drive to eat more calorically dense foods. However, it makes less sense when food is abundant.
So, we’re in a situation where we have a physiological and emotional drive to eat salt, sugar, and fat. Yet, we’ve made a cognitive decision that all of those things are bad. Rather than examining that emotional drive, we get stuck in this ping-pong of “wanting to eat healthy” but not being able to muster the willpower to force ourselves to eliminate foods that have a strong physiological and emotional reward built in.
So, what do we do instead of fighting this willpower battle? Get rid of the cognitive rules. When we create rules, we make it easy to determine whether we’ve succeeded or failed. Once we’ve failed once, there’s very little motivation to attempt to succeed again. By eliminating the black and white rules, we force ourselves to make qualitative decisions about what we really WANT to eat at any given meal. (See: brain/heart/belly process.)
Stop sucking in!
Maybe you “suck in” totally unconsciously. Maybe you do it because the cameras are out and active this time of year or maybe you’re just self-conscious about carrying a little extra baby weight. In any case, “sucking in” or engaging the abs for an extended period of time to make you look thinner can be really problematic.
- It makes your core muscles really tight, and not in a good way. Like any muscles in your body, your abs can get stiff, sore, and tight from being over-engaged all the time. This can be uncomfortable and increase the likelihood of these next two issues.
- It can increase the likelihood or severity of diastasis recti (DR). This ab separation is exacerbated by constantly tugging more on the abs by pulling them in.
- It can increase the likelihood or severity of organ prolapse. If you think of your torso as a canister, the diaphragm is the top, the pelvic floor is the bottom, and the abs are the sides. If the sides are constantly pulling in, that’s going to displace a lot of pressure downward. If the pelvic floor isn’t engaged to support that pressure (which you don’t want, as that would create a host of other issues), then that may result in organ prolapse.
So, the moral of the story really is, let’s all just lighten up a bit this holiday season and take a deep breath. Check back in with your heart and mind, and give yourself permission to feel a little stress or heartache. Allow yourself to feel and process those emotions rather than relying on food to numb them.
If you’re ready to get a jump on the New Year and start feeling better NOW, I’d love to invite you to a free 30-minute wellness consultation.