With the holiday season upon us, dreams of sweet eggnog, warm fires and festive activities swirl through our mind. As the sparkling greeting cards begin to arrive, and the smell of pine settles into our home, thoughts of endless treats and goodies emerge. With so many parties and family gatherings that we attend over the holidays, we often begin to ration our eating.
We save up our calories during the day to prevent ourselves from over eating later on; but then we get hungry. This often leads to two extremes, either eating everything in sight at the party, or only eating a bit there, and then eating more than you normally would when you get home. Either option can lead to over indulgence, and likely feelings of guilt. The mental chatter that occurs when we consider saving up calories for special parties often consumes our time, and these anxieties1 begin to cloud our mind.
What is Mental Chatter?
Mental chatter describes the noise of constant self-talk within your mind. When you rationalize with yourself over having an extra treat after dinner, or when you ask yourself, “what are people going to think?”, you are engaging in this mental process.2 Many times, mental chatter is subconscious, and we don’t even realize we’re participating in it. It often becomes more active when we are in stressful situations, and it is almost always a negative thought process . Unfortunately, this way of thinking often plagues our thoughts and drains the excitement out of our holiday celebrations.
What Happens When We Grow Up?
When I was a young girl, my brother and I would get so excited for those special trips to Grandma’s in December. She was the best baker, and always made a point to whip up some special treats for our many visits. As kids, we were genuinely delighted to see her, and unabashedly eager to taste the delicious goodies. During this time, never once did I feel ashamed for this enthusiasm, but somewhere along the way, I traded my enthusiasm for guilt. During my teen years, I developed a love-hate relationship with those same goodies. The little girl inside me was excited to taste the heavenly sweets, but that thrill was squashed by thoughts of restrictive eating.
These conflicting feelings would often start weeks before a visit with family or prior to a special event. The mental chatter began to sour the enjoyment of my family time. I would tell myself, “if I eat dessert tonight, I’ll have to work it off tomorrow” and “I can’t gain any weight, so I’ll have to skip the sweets.” This mental chatter prevented me from being present, and living in the moment. Holiday parties should be about giving thanks and spending time with loved ones, not about fearing the food on the table.
How to Avoid Mental Chatter
This year I am encouraging all of my Rebels to actively recognize when they are engaging in mental chatter. These thoughts can haunt our minds, and can affect both our decisions and our bodies. In order to prevent this mindset trap, prepare for the party:
1. Keep to Mealtimes – When we try to save up our appetite, our cravings are often amplified. This leads to over indulgence and guilty mental chatter. Even if you have a party at an odd time, make sure to eat when you regularly do. No skimping, no skipping and no excuses.
2. Eat What You Want – When we tell ourselves that we can’t have something, it starts the cycle of mental chatter. Allow yourself to enjoy what you eat, and let go of the guilt associated with it. When you allow yourself to indulge you’re less likely to binge. Just remember to be present and really enjoy the treat.
3. Keep a Backup – With busy holiday agendas, it may be difficult to stick to your regular schedule. Always have snacks with you to bridge the gap between mealtimes. If you’re not being deprived, you’re less likely to feel the need to indulge the next time a meal comes around.
If we constantly engage with our negative mental chatter, it can lead to lower self-esteem3 and unhealthy eating habits. Never be ashamed to eat something, and never feel trapped by your thoughts. Don’t forget the reason you attend parties and gatherings to begin with; you’re there to enjoy yourself, not to criticize yourself.
I encourage each of my Rebels to think back to the way you felt when they first saw presents under the Christmas tree as a young girl. The feeling of pure joy doesn’t need to grow distant as we grow older. Make the fun focused on having people around, and know that good food is just a bonus. Remember that it’s just that simple; eat whatever it is you want. Stop asking, “do I deserve another one?” and start enjoying the holidays again. Believe me when I say, you deserve it!
Live Life. Love Food. Be Free.