How To Survive The Holidays

Filed Under: Holiday Eating

7 December 2015 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

Food, Family, Friends and Frivolities: The Full Catastrophe!

“Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light.
From now on our troubles will be out of sight.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas make the yuletide gay.
From now on our troubles will be miles away”

— Frank Sinatra —

The holidays and Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year, with the promise of good cheer, peace and togetherness but so often this time of the year ends in irritation, conflict and consumerism.

For some people this season brings up feelings of sadness, loneliness and loss. This busy season comes with a lot of pressure for many people with endless social obligations, busy shopping malls, gift buying and travelling. It becomes a real challenge to take care of ourselves. I am not sure that it is possible to be gay and have our troubles out of sight throughout the holidays but one thing we can do, is aim to let our “heart be light”.

So what can we do to ensure that our heart is light throughout this time? Here are 9 tips you can use for sanity in the holidays.

1. Set an intention for the holiday period

What do you want to get out of the holidays? What is your purpose?
It could be to connect with friends and family in a meaningful way, or to rest and relax or it could be to have fun and be frivolous! Or a combination of all of these.

2. Get clarity on what you want and what you don’t want from your holiday

Perhaps you don’t want to rush around aimlessly from mall to mall shopping. Perhaps you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen cooking. You may only want to spend time with people you choose.
Whatever it is you DON’T want – be very clear about it.

3. Let go of perfection. Let it be. Be realistic.

Many of us fantasise about the ideal holiday and how it “should” be. That ideal often leads to disappointment. Don’t expect family gatherings to go perfectly, travel arrangements to work out to the minute. Don’t expect that everyone will behave the way you’d like them to or that your turkey will turn out perfect! It is quite possible that most things will turn out perfectly but when we are too attached to the outcome it often doesn’t. Letting go of these expectations will ease the suffering.

4. Be there for YOU

Say NO when you need to and yes when you want to …remember saying yes to others often means saying no to you. It’s okay to say no when you are being asked to do more than you are comfortable…just say it kindly! It’s also okay to ask for help if you need it. Do what feels good for you – time alone, time with others, a pyjama day reading or watching DVD’s – give yourself the gift of time.

5. Practice self-care (preferably first thing)

Start the morning in a way that feels good to you. It could be journaling, prayer or meditation, a walk, a swim, a coffee taking time to set your intention for the day. Remember to STOP – stop, take a breath, observe what’s going on in your mind, in your body and in your emotions, and proceed with care for yourself.

6. Play and have fun

Even when there is a long list of to do’s, see if you can approach it with a playfulness. Try do something fun and playful each day of your holiday or when doing ordinary tasks bring an attitude of playfulness to each task.

7. Let go of New Year’s Resolutions

They hardly ever work! Rather commit to some small sustainable changes.
Small, consistent actions over time lead to big changes. This is an opportunity to look back on the year and reflect on what you have learned and think about what your future self will appreciate a year from now.

8. “Let your heart be light”

As the song goes….pain, conflict, family drama – it passes. Don’t cling onto it. When presented with a stressful situation ask yourself will this matter a month from now? As best you can, focus on the good in the moment. Make a conscious effort to lighten up, even if it’s just a bit.

9. Remember the true message of the holidays

Peace…Love…Generosity… Kindness and Gratitude

Food Glorious Food!

Food and eating in the holidays is a challenge even for people who have no issues with food. The average weight gain over the holidays for a person with no food or weight issues is around ½ – 1 ½ kilos, however for people with food and weight issues, it is between 2 – 5 kilos.

The main reason weight gain is higher for people with food challenges is because of food rules and diet mentality.

Typically, during the holidays, if you have a history of dieting there are 2 options:

  • A resolution to be “good” and not to “cheat” or a
  • “what the hell it’s the holidays” attitude “let’s eat and be merry and start again in January”.

Neither of these 2 are ideal, but could there be another way? A middle ground between these two unsustainable extremes?

Let’s start by looking at typical challenges over the holidays:

  • Social events
  • The variety and abundance of foods available
  • Time at leisure
  • Specific holiday type foods
  • People – who trigger you to overeat or expect you to join in
  • Emotions – sadness, loneliness, joy, celebration, anger and irritation
  • Boredom, empty time, relaxation accompanied by eating
  • The busyness that comes with the holidays and exhaustion
  • Obsessing about weight
  • Comparing your body to others on the beach

What can we do to overcome these challenges over the holidays?

1. Give up the rules and diet mentality

Rules and diets don’t work when it comes to eating unless you are part of 4% of the population. You can read more about this here.

2. Give yourself permission to eat what you want

This is one of the core principles of Intuitive Eating and if practiced ultimately leads to peace with food. Restriction, willpower, control and elimination of food groups lead to overeating and binge eating. If what you really want is pasta and you tell yourself to have the green smoothie, you will probably land up eating more because you can never get enough of what you don’t really want. So if it’s mince pies that you want – allow yourself to have them!

3. When hungry, eat and when comfortably satisfied, stop eating

Aim to eat when you are comfortably hungry (if you are starving when you sit down to eat, it tends to lead to overeating). Stop eating at a comfortable point. Aim to finish the meal feeling satisfied and comfortable. Decide beforehand how you want to feel when you have finished eating. Overfull and a bit grumpy or comfortable and satisfied?

4. Apply the BASICS of Mindful Eating

Before eating, remember to breathe and body check, eat with awareness and attention, eat slowly, investigate your hunger and satisfaction, chew your food, savour your meal. Eat without distractions, avoid the TV, Facebook, phones, etc.

5. Practice compassion and let go

When you don’t eat when hungry don’t beat yourself up! When you eat to the point of being uncomfortably full – let it go – it’s okay. It’s never a good idea to beat yourself up because it will just lead to you feeling bad about yourself and will probably create an overeating cycle. Don’t make all these points into another set of rules. Be kind, be light and be compassionate with yourself. Take it breath by breath and meal by meal and bite by bite.

6. Be aware of your triggers

Are your triggers pushy relatives who check out what’s on your plate? Don’t feel obligated to eat everything. Your host just wants to please you and you can show your appreciation verbally and not by overeating. If necessary take an elegant amount and move on or simply say no thanks. Perhaps you are triggered when you are with people you don’t want to spend time with or at certain places and in specific situations.

7. Which of the are triggering you to eat?

Eye, Nose, Ear, Mouth, Stomach, Cellular, Mind or Heart?

8. Waste if necessary

If you don’t love it, leave it!! You can waste on your waist or you can waste it in the bin. Whatever you do, don’t treat your body like a bin!

9. Be mindful of eating because…

It’s there.
Everyone else is eating.
I deserve this treat.
It’s Christmas, New Year’s Eve , New Year’s Day.
I won’t get a chance to eat this again.
I will start again in January.

10. Moderation NOT elimination

Having said that, even moderation in moderation! Read this to learn why cutting out food groups does NOT work!

11. Pay attention to your thoughts

Do not fear overeating or tell yourself you will eat perfectly.

Be careful what you say to yourself. Pay attention to words like:
“That’s enough” ; “I shouldn’t have more”; “that’s too much dessert”.
Often thoughts like those lead to other thoughts that trigger overeating
“Oh what the hell “, “ Who cares”, “Oh well” or “I might as well”.

12. Self Care

Take care of your physical and emotional needs.
When tired, rest or plan to rest.
When hungry, eat.
Have fun and play.
Connect with friends and family
Honour your emotions when feeling sad, lonely or disappointed.
Food does not solve boredom, food only solves hunger and some pleasure
If you do choose to eat because of emotional upset, do it mindfully. Emotional eating does not need to mean emotional overeating.

13. Savour and Enjoy

Savour the food – flavours, textures and aroma.
Savour the atmosphere.
Savour the social connection.

Eat, drink and be mindfully merry this season!

May I
May You
May we all
Be happy, peaceful and at ease
In all that we do this season.


“From our first meeting - two faces on Zoom across the world from each other, there was a sense of familiarity and comfort that was a healing balm for a lifetime of food struggles and dieting. Without realizing how much damage I had done to myself by adhering, for decades, to restrictive food plans and rigid diet programs, Xen had a way of redirecting the harsh and negative self-talk and sending me forth each week with compassion, mindfulness and a new way of seeing myself in the here and now. Gone are the maybe somedays, and if-only, and when-I’m-smaller thinking. Now I am committed to the imperfect and rocky path to listening to my body, accepting my perfect imperfections, and rejecting diet mentality. Those negative voices will revisit me from time to time, I know, but Xen has offered valuable tools for meeting each day as a fresh start - another choice, another chance. Her devotion to this work and her belief in her clients is a remarkable gift; I am so fortunate to have found her. It is never too late to let go of the drama and embrace joy, ease and self-acceptance.”

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