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Lowering Our Expectations for the Holidays

For quite a few years in my past, I fell into the misery of the myth of the Christmas That Never Was. I’d dredge up some vague memory of warm and fuzzy feelings of getting together with my family and having super good times. Or I’d reminisce about New Year’s Eve with one of my several boyfriends and how romantic and delightful it was.

But the operative word here is myth. While there were some very nice moments sometimes, there were other holidays that were awful, where I drank or ate myself sick, where I was on the outs with the boyfriend, where my family was contentious or just withdrawn as we often were with each other. Plagued by cutesy movies and TV shows, we can build up the holidays into childhood memories of an enormous magical pageant of perfect gifts and perfect behavior that none of us can live up to.

These imagined holidays would be harmless if the discrepancy between what we’ve imagined and what actually happens wasn’t so disappointing. And when active food addicts are disappointed, we medicate ourselves with food and add guilt, shame, and self-loathing to the mix.

This year, I’m working on going with the flow. My birthday party was cancelled because of snow and ice. Our 4-day family get-together was also impacted by the weather. One sister couldn’t come at all; another could only come for a few hours. But it was fine. We had some good times, some okay times, a couple of tense moments. I let them come and go. And I stayed abstinent.

How can you go with the flow over the next few days?

Consider joining me on January 7 for a 3-hour workshop at New Renaissance Bookstore in Portland, Oregon. For information: http://www.newrenbooks.com/creating-a-sweeter-life or email me for details.

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Staying on Our Food Plan through the Stress of the Holidays

The holidays are a time of a high rate of relapse for addicts of all persuasions. We don’t do well with stress at any time of year. As self-medicators, when we feel bad, we eat too much and we eat the wrong things to try to make ourselves feel better. Ratchet up the stress like the holidays tend to do, and we’ll ratchet up our self-medicating consumption.

But there are ways to support ourselves and stick to our commitment to stay off demon foods and out of overeating in the days ahead. Here are some suggestions.

We can be realistic in our emotional expectations. Many of us addicts have problematic families. We can fall into the trap of thinking that this year will be different. That somehow magical healing will have occurred and everyone will get along and be on their best behavior. While that may happen, it may not. If we assume things will be as before, we won’t be disappointed. And if things are better, hurray!

If things get difficult, we can leave. An addict committed to her recovery always has a prearranged escape plan.

  • Drive your own car to the function or family event.
  • Visiting family out of town? Get a rental car so you can get out of the house. It may be some of the best money you ever spend. 
  • Go for a long walk.
  • Go to a 12-Step meeting. Everyone is welcome there and if you call the Central Office of AA or OA in any town, almost always someone will come and give you a ride to a meeting. (Not an alcoholic? AA is still a safe place to go. If you’re abstinent from sugar, chances are good you’re abstinent from alcohol too.)
  • Go to your room or the bathroom and call a recovering friend.

We can limit our exposure to relapse opportunities.

  • Choose wisely when accepting invitations to holiday functions; if eating is the main activity, don’t go. Choose activities like caroling or feeding the homeless or a religious service instead.
  • Ask workmates to keep holiday demon foods in the break room and then stay out of the break room.
  • Give your own party where board games and charades are the focus.
  • Stay on the other side of the room from the buffet table.

We can focus on gratitude for our abstinence. It helps me to remember that sugar and flour foods are a short-term solution to a long-term problem. While eating them may give me a few moments of relief, it won’t get me what I really want: freedom from obsession and peace of mind with food. Instead, I’ll get shame, guilt, and self-loathing. And who wants that for Christmas?

What are some of your best ways to deal with holiday stress?

For more support for your journey to food freedom, visit www.lifebetweenmealscoaching.comv

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Four Ways to Know If You’re Addicted to Sugar and Flour

We throw the addiction word around a lot in our society. I’m addicted to Game of Thrones. I’m addicted to the burgers at Joe’s Grill. And it’s true that we live in a culture of excess and focus on pleasures. But this isn’t the kind of “addicted” I’m talking about. This isn’t the kind of self-destructive addiction that I suffer from.

If you’re concerned that you might be addicted to sugar and other refined carbohydrates (and there’s substantial science to show that some of us are), here are some things to consider.

  1. Once we addicts start eating sugar and flour, we can’t stop. One cookie turns into a dozen. One chocolate turns into most of the box. Even if we eat moderately in front of others for fear of shame and embarrassment, we’ll sneak into the kitchen for more or stop and get sweets on the way home.
  2. We hide our stash and lie about our consumption to others and sometimes to ourselves. We minimize the severity of the problem.
  3. We know we are harming ourselves (weight gain, poor nutrition, exacerbating our anxiety and depression), but we can’t give it up. The thought of abstaining for the long haul makes us agitated and even panicky.
  4. We’ve tried to abstain in the past, sometimes with some success, but we keep relapsing and each time we do, our consumption gets worse.

It is possible to get out of this loop of bingeing and self-loathing and step into a different relationship with food and your better self. If you think you may be ready to get off this merry-go-round, check out the support available at www.lifebetweenmeals.com 

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Grocery Shopping and the Overwhelm of Holiday Demon Foods

Yesterday, I went to my local upscale food store where I get my organic vegetables, fruits, and meats. The store was busy with staff creating displays of demon foods (aka sugar-flour-fat). As a recovering food addict, I’ve learned to avert my eyes when passing the bakery section and going straight for the deli where I often find some interesting salads that fit my food program before heading to the meat/fish and produce sections. However, yesterday, I had to run a veritable gauntlet of holiday treats to get what I needed.

I had only a couple of pangs of desire as I went by them, and I didn’t stop to examine anything. That’s playing with fire for me. But the experience nudged me into making a plan for grocery shopping for the next month that would protect my abstinence. You may find these ideas helpful.

  1. Make a list just before we shop. Include specifics so we’re not “getting ideas” as we wander around.
  2. Take that list with us (not always the no-brainer one would think).
  3. Reverse our usual routine: go to vegetables and fruit first (fewer demon foods on that side of the store), then to deli.
  4. Shop once a week right after breakfast. If I need to go to several stores for my usual menu items, I’ll do it all on the same trip.
  5. If we run out of something, make do with what we have. No extra trips to the store, no extra visual exposure to something we don’t eat anymore.

Visual cues are a trigger for us and store owners know that. We see something, we remember how it tastes or how curious how delicious it is, and we buy it. That’s the way humans work. It’s up to us as recovering food addicts to minimize our exposure to those visual cues.

Need more support to get through the holidays and into the New Year? Contact me at jill@lifebetweenmealscoaching.com for information about the 6-week holiday phone and email coaching special.

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3 Ideas for Food Sanity during the Holidays

With so many holiday food events looming in December, now’s a great time to plan your strategy for staying faithful to your chosen food program. Here are three ideas that can help keep us sane.

  1. Stick to your food schedule. One of the smartest things I’ve done for my food recovery is commit to three meals a day and no snacks. While my meal schedule isn’t rigid, it’s consistent. I eat 3 meals with 4-5 hours between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner. Each morning I check my calendar and set my times for the day. So if I’m going to a holiday event between 5 and 7, that will be my dinner. But if the event is between 3 and 5, that’s not going to work for me and I either don’t go or don’t eat while I’m there. Whatever your meal schedule, make sure events work with it and not against it. Being in charge of when we eat is an important part of our journey.
  2. Bring something you can safely eat to any event. A raw vegetable platter is always a welcome addition, whether it’s a potluck or not. Every dieter there will thank you. Want to put in more effort? Roast a pan of mixed vegetables with a cup of vegetable broth, cumin, and basil. They’re delicious warm or at room temperature. Bring them in a pretty dish you can leave as a gift for your host/hostess (most Goodwill stores have a wonderful selection of quirky pieces) or bring them in something disposable that they can discard.
  3. It’s all right to say no to invitations. Last year when I was new to sane eating, I turned down every invite for holiday gatherings that weren’t from family. I didn’t feel safe around tables full of demon foods. Instead, I invited the person who was inviting me to have tea together after the holidays and catch up then. It was much more fun for this introvert to do that and no food was involved. This year, with 14 months of sane eating under my (smaller) belt, I’m going to a few more gatherings but only the ones at a meal time. And I’m taking something I can eat.

One last thought: I didn’t explain to anyone why I wasn’t coming to their party. I just said I had other plans. I did have other plans. I was planning to stay abstinent! 

More holiday tips for the journey are included in the Support for the Journey program. Check it out at http://lifebetweenmealscoaching.com/program/