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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Eating issues? Holidays can add stress

holiday eating, eating disorder, body image, holidays, eating issues

For adults and kids with eating or body-image issues, holiday gatherings can be stressful.

The holidays should be a joyful time of year—but for adults and kids experiencing body-image or eating issues, it can actually be stressful. Cramped holiday schedules, get-togethers and large to-do lists exacerbate emotions. It’s important to be mindful of that and be prepared.

Here are some tips that can help around the holiday season and throughout the year:

Set realistic expectations. Holiday excitement brings added demands—shopping, baking, feasting, crafting, parties and entertaining can quickly become overwhelming. By setting realistic expectations, we don’t set ourselves up to become stressed or freaked out because we overextended. Understand that holiday pressure frequently originates with consumer-media messages to buy, spend and do.

Stay balanced. With the demands of holiday tasks and activities, we can lose ourselves. Sleep, eating and exercise often get out of balance and compromised. It’s important to stay consistent, provide structure and not neglect healthy living.

Be a good role model. Do not follow fad diets for weight loss; eat intuitively. Choose from a variety of foods that are tasty and satisfying. Eat when hungry; stop when not hungry.

Use positive body language. Are you constantly talking about the weight you want to lose or how much better you think you would feel if you could just shed 10 more pounds? Avoid making comments about weight or size. Remember, your children are listening. If you criticize your own body, your child will feel that it is OK to criticize his/her own body. Speak positively about your body and you will model a healthy self-concept to your children.

Find meaning in the season. It is easy to get swooped up in the hustle and bustle, but it is not a season of ultimate “joy” for everyone. Lots of emotions surface for people at this time of year. Choose activities that are comfortable or at least tolerable for you—and plan ahead. Prepare to take care of yourself emotionally and physically during this time.

Be active. Limit “screen time”—television, computers, video games, text messaging, etc. Instead, build in family time that encourages an active lifestyle. Plan outings that include enjoyable activities: walking, biking, roller blading, ice skating, etc. Invent games while doing chores so that even routine activities become associated with fun and closeness.

Involve your children in menu planning and preparation. Ask about and include some of your children’s preferences when planning the weekly menu. Include children in grocery shopping and meal preparation when possible. These are great teachable moments that build family traditions and foster empowerment—rather than passivity—around food choices.

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Dena Cabrera, PsyD, CEDS

Dena Cabrera, Psy.D., CEDS, is a licensed psychologist and serves as the clinical director for Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders in Wickenburg, where she is involved in program development, staff training and supervision. Cabrera is the co-author of "The Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy." She presents nationally and internationally on mental health issues.

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