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[Part 3: FOOD & BODY IMAGE] Mental Health Tips to Keep You Sane During the Holidays

It's the last of the holiday tips in the blog series, friends. This one is especially pointed toward Thanksgiving. I feel like Thanksgiving is about 2 things: being grateful and FOOD. (These tips can also be applied to Christmas AND year-round, though.) You know the feeling: When you get your plate and it feels like you put more food on it than everyone else.

Or you go for seconds and someone makes a comment, even if it's a neutral one.

Maybe it's you swearing off mashed potatoes while you're in line because you know they've got a lot of butter in them.

Or after you've eaten, you get that feeling of being so stuffed or uncomfortably full and you beat yourself up about it. Check out some of the common habits revolving around food and body image below and what could be helpful instead!

Comparing your plate to everyone else's

Ask yourself this: “what does comparing plates do for me?” Does the comparison make you feel good? Do you get satisfaction out of it? Probably not. Notice that if you compare plates, you're either thinking “I got too much” or “I have less than other people do." It makes it seem as if the only solution is to mimic your plate after everyone else's. Sounds like a lot of work for little return, right?

If you're worried about getting too much food on your plate, remember that no one who genuinely loves you is going to care. Also remember that you don't have to eat it all if you don't want to. However much you eat or don't eat doesn't say anything about your value as a person. If your goal is to have less food than other people, I encourage you to think about the significance of food amounts and what you feel it represents. Be honest with yourself if you're engaging in restriction or other disordered eating patterns.

Responding to food or body comments

The assertive route: if you feel comfortable practicing assertiveness, you can say something like, “I don't appreciate comments about what I eat or what my body looks like. Let's talk about something else." The passive route: if you like to be more passive or lighthearted, you can say something like, “yep! Pie is my favorite and I enjoy it every time!” or “You're the one missing out on this good food!” The sarcastic route: you can always go with “good thing I don't care what you think!” (LOL)

Labeling foods as "bad" or "unhealthy"

Food is food. It's all created with different ingredients and everything simply just has different nutritional values. But just like a kid and the forbidden lollipop: if you tell yourself you can't have something, you're going to want it more. If you skip those mashed potatoes because you've labeled them negatively, it's all you're going to think about…while forcing yourself to eat the half-cooked sweet potatoes your Aunt Barb brought because you think they're “healthier”. If you know you'll feel physically crappy after eating a lot of a certain food because of an intolerance or digestive issue, try getting a small bit of it if you still want some (of course, get a portion you know your body can handle!). There's no harm in bending the "rules" for enjoying holiday food!

Feeling guilty for overeating

Do the same thing you do when you eat a bunch of pizza with your family, or when you take advantage of the bottomless mimosas at brunch with friends. Enjoy the food and the experience of those you love around you, and move on from it. I know it's easier said than done, but you don't ever need to feel guilty or sorry for living in the moment and eating multiple helpings of your grandma's stuffing that you only get to eat once or twice a year. Yes, food fuels us with nutrients and energy. But food is ALSO for enjoyment. Don't forget that.


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Greta Strickland, MS Licensed Professional Counselor

Greta has managed her own private practice in Blue Springs, MO since 2015 providing therapy to women who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and all of life's beautiful but complex stressors.

When she's not working, you can find Greta watching Big Brother with her husband, singing made up songs to her daughter, and sneaking "people food" to their golden retriever.


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