How to Take Back Your Power from Food This Holiday

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I once knew a woman who, every Friday, had a pizza-and-game night tradition with her large family. As the youngest of five kids, she looked forward to spending this quality time with her older brothers, sisters, and busy parents. As she grew up and had her own family, at least one Friday a month, her husband and children would drive 30 minutes to continue the Friday tradition. Now, it included her siblings and their children, along with her mother. Each get-together was incredibly special and important to this woman. And she enjoyed pizza!

Fast forward a few years when, in midlife, she was in the throes of depression, anxiety, and anorexia nervosa. Although she valued time with her family, she now avoided these Friday get-togethers like the plague. As months went by, and after she used up all the excuses, she cried in my office. Not going to these Friday family gatherings caused her to miss so much.She acknowledged missing a sibling’s engagement, keeping her children from their cousins, and disconnecting from her mother. After sifting through these regrets, the main problem came to the surface: she didn’t want to go because of the pizza.

She acknowledged missing a sibling’s engagement, keeping her children from their cousins, and disconnecting from her mother. After sifting through these regrets, the main problem came to the surface: she didn’t want to go because of the pizza. She feared eating pizza in what felt like every cell of her body, and that reason, alone, kept her and her family home. She was scared that once she took a bite of her favorite pizza again, she would never be able to stop.

This woman feared eating pizza so much that she avoided key family connections, and severed one of her main sources of support. This choice made her more malnourished, and it kept her from a key source of mental health recovery. Not only did her body need the pizza, her soul ached for it. And the eating disorder was not going to allow her to have pizza.

I don’t care what anyone says about pizza, it does not deserve this power.

No food deserves this power over you.

Ellyn Satter RD, LCSW, says, “When we take the joy out of eating, nutrition suffers.”

When the eating disorder dictates a life without enjoying a certain food, the eating disorder gets stronger. The person is in less control and is less able to be a participant in life.

Are you ready to take your power back? Ready to disobey the eating disorder lies?

Food rules, restrictions, and diets are the great distractors and disconnectors. An eating disorder voice convinces many that following these regulations will bring about peace and comfort. This lie flows through anyone with an eating disorder, and we know that, instead, it promotes eating disorder behaviors, worsens nutrition status, and diverts from life goals.

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“Happy Holiday” greetings conjure up pictures of Christmas hams, hot chocolate, and abundant desserts. Holidays have special and exciting food choices, usually offered around just-as-rarely-seen family members. The month of December may be warm and fuzzy to many, yet it can fuel a slippery slope toward eating disorder relapse for far too many.

Food is the necessary fuel to keep us alive. Food not only takes away hunger and gives us energy, it triggers the release of hormones for us to feel pleasure. There’s intention to this. If something feels good, we will keep doing it. This is how we, as a species, have sustained ourselves. So, instead of the eating disorder script including guilt for pleasurable eating, consider an alternative  feeling food pleasure means you’re being a successful human. You’re alive!

Challenge yourself to take back your power this holiday. Attend family functions that may have a few scary foods. Discuss food challenges with your eating-disorder dietitian or therapist. The eating disorder may try to convince you this challenge will feel out of control or that you’re letting yourself go. That’s a lie. Reclaiming your power is a way of  nurturing your precious soul and reconnecting you to those who can strengthen you.

You deserve the power – not the eating disorder.

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