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How to prepare for the holidays: Food edition

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

One of the most challenging aspects of the holiday season is the unpredictability.

Schedules are off.

You’re traveling.

Kids are out of school.

You’re sleeping in and staying up late.

This doesn’t just affect your energy levels or your need to coordinate travel dates.

👉The holiday season affects your relationship with food and your body too.

During the holiday season, it's safe to say you can expect the unexpected.

  • Expect unpredictable mealtimes

  • Expect unpredictable food options

  • Expect unpredictable schedules

One of the best ways you can approach this holiday season with confidence is to prepare for and plan whatever is in your control.

And when I say the words "plan" and "control," I'm not talking about going on a diet or restricting your food intake in any way.

I'm talking about setting yourself up for success. Thinking ahead, anticipating certain situations to be more challenging or exhausting, planning ahead for how you'll handle certain bumps in the road. THESE are the types of plans you can make and these are the only things in your control!


To help you think through different scenarios and put thought into ACTION, I've created this free guide for you! Print the worksheets out and answer the questions so you're ready to face any emotion or situation that comes your way this holiday season!


Here's how this looks in action:

1. Bring snacks

Being prepared with snacks can eliminate a lot of food anxiety.

Hunger might strike when:

  • You don’t particularly enjoy your dear Aunt Sally’s jello or tuna casserole.

  • None of your family eats breakfast

  • Everyone else eats dinner at 8pm, but you’re used to eating at 5.

I recently went to a fancy dinner where the portion sizes were smaller than the dollar signs.

THANKFULLY I had a granola bar waiting for me in the hotel room.

Not only do snacks cure hunger, simply knowing that you have your own source of food prevents a scarcity mindset (which can lead to overeating) and allows you to be more flexible throughout the day.

If you're traveling, I highly encourage you to pack a snack bag in your suitcase. Bring foods of different sizes and nutritional content. Some that are more filling, some that are more nutrient-dense.

Knowing that you have your own stash of food to supplement during times when you get hungry or when you don't like the food being served gives you options rather than feeling stuck.


2. Get information in advance

How many people will be there? Do you know if there will be any vegetarian options? What will a typical morning look like?

These are the questions to ask yourself and your friends/family as you approach your time together.

Every household has its own set of norms.

They might only keep a very stashed kitchen or they might not. They might eat 3 meals a day or 6. They might cook or they might order take-out.

You don't need to interrogate people about their lifestyle, but I'd encourage you to ask yourself "What matters to YOU."

Do you need coffee in the morning? Do you need a bedtime snack? Do you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions?

Chances are, when you’re traveling for the holidays, whoever you visit isn’t going to send out a mass text to everyone about all the food they keep in stock.

Make sure to reach out and ask any hosts, guests, or travel buddies if they have x, y, or z. If not, bring your own or offer to buy some while in town.

Find a way to get your nutritional needs met. THAT is in your control.

I went to visit one of my friends (pre-COVID) and she sent me a text beforehand “Head’s up, none of us drink coffee. So bring your own if you want some!”

That was such helpful information!!! I made a plan to bring my own or visit a local coffee shop while in town.

👉AND I made a mental note to myself that this is a great question to ask future hosts before traveling.

My coffee isn’t solely an enjoyable beverage. It’s part of my morning routine. It cues me to slow down, check-in, and start my day with intention. Without my coffee, my world (okay maybe just my mood) is thrown off.

If you’re a vegetarian visiting a meat-heavy household, you need to bring your own protein. Going a week on just fruits and veggies isn’t going to cut it.

If you love something sweet at the end of the night, but you’re visiting a family that demonizes sugar… pop a little chocolate bar in your purse to keep in your room (and then tell this family to work with me so they can learn to stop demonizing foods 😊).

Knowing as much information as possible ahead of time helps mentally prepare you for what's to come.


To help you think through different scenarios and put thought into ACTION, I've created this free guide for you! Print the worksheets out and answer the questions so you're ready to face any emotion or situation that comes your way this holiday season!


3. Check in with your body

Developing a habit of turning inward and connecting to your body, your emotions, and your needs is an important step on the Intuitive Eating journey.

Perhaps you start a daily meditation practice or you pause for a moment of silence before you eat meals. >> Not sure where to start? Here are 5 simple mindfulness practices you can try today! <<

Find what works for you and start now. Start incorporating these mindfulness practices into your life today, BEFORE arriving at your next holiday party.

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Interoceptive awareness - a fancy term for being able to recognize what's happening inside our body - is a skill that can be developed and a muscle that can be strengthened with practice over time. SO start practicing now.

Just because you're traveling or at a holiday party doesn't mean you lose access to your body cues. But they might be harder to notice while in a crowded room, on an airplane, or when you're out of your routine, but they're still there.

And the more practicing you've done ahead of time around learning to connect with these cues, the better.

Okay, but what about once you're actually AT the party or surrounded by family?

Try to take a minute before walking into the host's house or before entering the dining room for dinner to check on your hunger level.

Knowing your hunger level before entering a highly stimulating environment will help guide you in knowing whether you need to make a beeline for the snack table when you arrive or not.

And if you notice you're not hungry, but still find yourself at the snack table anyways, that could be a sign that you're using food to cope with an emotion (perhaps social anxiety, loneliness, feeling awkward or uncomfortable, etc).

There's no shame in using food to soothe your emotions. But it's worth noting before and during your time with family whether you're actually hungry or whether you're eating for another reason. Nonjudgmental awareness is key!

Once you're at the holiday party/family visit, it's important to continue to check in with your body throughout your time there.

How are you doing emotionally? Are you tired or anxious? Have you eaten and how is the food sitting in your body? Do you need more of anything?

If you need a quiet spot to gather your thoughts or recenter yourself, I personally love bathrooms! Or you could go for a walk or step outside.

Staying connected to your body doesn't have to fly out the window just because your routine is shaken up during the holiday season. We carry our bodies with us wherever we go. You can check-in and communicate with it any time!


4. Find a new focus

In the previous tip, I suggested you be present with your body. And now I'm suggesting that you distract your mind.

This is especially helpful if your mind has a tendency to get hooked on specific thoughts.

  • Maybe you spot the dessert table and can't stop thinking about it.

  • Or maybe a family member comments on your weight and you keep replaying the conversation over and over in your head.

  • Or maybe you're just spinning out in your own insecurity, bathing in self-criticism.

If you notice yourself getting swept up in thoughts, fears, or insecurities, try to find a healthy distraction.

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Is there a family member in a room away from the food you could hang out with?

Could you go on a walk and call a friend to check in and wish them a happy holiday?

Maybe there’s a football game on in the living room and you can join the party there. Or people sitting by a fire.

Suggest people sit down and play a game together.

Most often there are opportunities to engage in activity or conversation. If there's not, you can initiate it!

If you're choosing to distract yourself from food, make sure you’re not leading from a place of deprivation or restriction. If you are hungry or genuinely in the mood for a certain food, please eat it.

But if you're stuck in obsessive thoughts, then I'd encourage you to refocus your attention so you can re-center and then make a conscious choice about whether to eat or not.


5. Tap into your heart

Remember the reason for the season. REMEMBER YOUR VALUES. Remember what really matters to you in life.

If it would serve you to write these down, do it.

  • Make a list of your values that have nothing to do with your appearance, your popularity, your size, your food choices.

  • Make a list of what you want to focus on this holiday season other than your weight and calorie consumption.

  • Make a list of affirmations that encourage you and remind you who you are so you can refer back to these if you get thrown off.

At the end of the day, the food you eat is meant to bring nourishment and pleasure to your life. LET IT.

This isn't a time for restriction, calorie counting, or guilt. (There's actually no time for that, btw)

This is a time to feel connected to yourself, your family, friends, and loved ones.

If you hear people around you discussing diets, calories, or shaming foods... walk away, say a prayer, hug a friend, smile because you're alive, offer gratitude for what you have, and MOVE ON.


To help you think through different scenarios and put thought into ACTION, I've created this free guide for you! Print the worksheets out and answer the questions so you're ready to face any emotion or situation that comes your way this holiday season!


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