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The Diet Survivor’s Handbook: 60 Lessons in Eating Acceptance and Self-Care

NEW LESSON: FALL 2015

The holiday season can be an especially challenging time for people with Binge Eating Disorder (BED). For some it's a time of family and social gatherings where special foods are widely available. For others it's a time when difficult feelings surface. For everyone, it's a time when we're bombarded by diet talk from the media and from family, friends and colleagues. Since dieting behavior can cause and/or sustain binge eating, it's important to make sure you don't fall into the diet mentality trap. Here are some gentle reminders to help you navigate the holiday season.

Remind yourself that you can have it later

Who says you can't make your sweet potato pie time any time you want? If you believe that you can't have a special holiday food for another whole year, you're likely to have it whether you're really in the mood for it or not.

Instead, promise yourself that you can make turkey and mashed potatoes any time of year, and those special desserts can be baked or bought when you desire. Knowing that these foods can be available reduces the need to eat something at a holiday celebration you don't really want at that moment.

Consider asking for the recipe or a doggie bag when you're at a holiday event. This strategy stops the worry that if you don't eat a special food immediately, such as the appetizing double chocolate caramel brownies that Grandma makes once a year, you won't be able to have it again until next year. When appropriate, you can say to your host, "The brisket looks delicious, but I'm not hungry right now. Would it be O.K. if I took some of the leftovers home for later?" Or, "This cake is fabulous. Can I have your recipe?" People are usually flattered by your desire for their food, and knowing you can eat that food later decreases the need to overeat something you're not hungry for.

Avoid becoming too hungry

It can be tempting to "save up" your hunger for parties and special events. However, when you go without food for a long period of time, you become ravenous. At this stage of physical hunger, you're likely to eat anything and everything is sight, leading to a feeling of being out of control.

Instead, eat in accordance with your physical hunger throughout the day. If you want to ensure that you have a good appetite when you arrive at an event, try to eat enough to take the edge off your hunger before you leave home, without becoming too full. A piece of fruit, some crackers or nuts, or a slice of cheese can help you to respond to your hunger so that you don't walk into the party feeling desperate to eat. Then, you'll truly be able to relax and to feed yourself exactly what will satisfy you!

Stay compassionate with yourself

Just about everyone overeats sometime, especially during the holiday season. If you yell at yourself for your transgression, you're likely to create anxiety, which actually fuels overeating. You're also likely to fall into the trap of telling yourself that you might as well eat whatever you want right now because as of tomorrow – or next week or January 1st – you'll have to restrict your eating. This attitude typically guarantees that you'll eat more food than your body needs, leading to feeling out of control and increasing your sense of guilt.