If you tend to struggle with food, weight and body image, holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas can be particularly challenging, because they revolve so much around food and mealtimes.
For the food addict — someone who either over- or undereats for emotional reasons — it can feel like there is no escape. Unlike other addictions, food is not something you can simply quit cold turkey (pun intended), especially this time of year.
Following are some tips for dealing with the food, family and holidays dilemma.
1. Identify your trigger foods and situations.
A “trigger food” is one which, when eaten, makes you feel out of control or compulsive. Figuring out which foods put you in that “I can’t stop” mode is really important. For some, it’s the first taste of sugar that gets them craving more. For others, it’s the carbs (bread, cake and the like) that jumpstart the “bottomless pit feeling.” Surprisingly, trigger foods often are linked to allergies. It’s worth getting a nutritional evaluation just to be sure. For now just try to avoid your trigger foods altogether.
Here’s a quick tip if you find yourself dealing with an irresistible craving for that trigger cookie: eat some protein (especially important for sugar or carb addicts), a piece of fresh fruit or a fresh vegetable, or drink lots of water.
Identifying trigger situations and people can be trickier. This is a skill that develops over time and with practice. Food addicts often use food as a way to suppress or divert difficult feelings. So when you find yourself obsessing about that last slice of pie or can’t stop munching on the chips, see if you can backtrack to what happened just before you started to obsess or feel out of control. This investigation can provide you with important clues about which feelings you might be using food to avoid.
For example: I had a client who binged every time she got angry. At first it was a week or more before she could link a binge to its trigger. Eventually she could recognize within a few hours what event or person had triggered her feelings of anger and consequent binge. When she was finally able to identify her anger more quickly and find constructive ways to give it voice in the moment, she found that the urge to binge disappeared.