Feeling out of control with Christmas cookies? Try these 5 changes to feel in charge now.

December 16th, 2019 by Sara Upson

Growing up my siblings (I have two brothers) and I each got to pick a Christmas cookie or treat to bake.  I can’t remember what I chose but recall making sugar cookies, pecan pralines, gingerbread cookies, and popcorn wreaths.  

Baking creates memories, traditions, and connections that tie associations to certain foods.   What a gift it is we have these associations.

Many people though fear baking Christmas cookies- that they’ll get out of control, that they’re not being healthy, that they’re teaching their children a bad example- but it couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Christmas cookies are a wonderful celebration of the season and something to be enjoyed both during the baking and the eating.  This time is about creating memories and helping to create a healthy relationship with food. 

If you’re struggling with thoughts around Christmas cookies (or any other holiday food, or really any food) here are some tips to help you feel more confident and in charge.

1.  You don’t need a holiday to have special food.

Nothing makes a food feel more desirable than when it’s only allowed at special or certain times.  This creates scarcity, which automatically leads deprivation and drives eating more food (reactive eating).  

You’re more likely to feel out of control if a food is restricted (for any reason).  If there’s a belief that the food is special, only available at a certain time, that you can only ever have it at a certain time, then you’re more likely to feel out of control, reactively eat, or eat for external reasons.

Restriction creates a vicious cycle that keeps you stuck.  Sadly, when you feel out of control with food, it often reinforces restriction- that the solution is to have these foods less and keep them away so you won’t eat them- which just creates more deprivation and scarcity and leads to eating more.  It’s really a vicious cycle.

Remembering that you don’t need a holiday to have special food helps reduce scarcity and deprivation.  The truth is- you don’t need a holiday to have special food.  You can make cookies or any other food at any time.  This takes away scarcity and deprivation, which allows you to tune into your body and respond from internal cues, preference, and permission.

2.  There’s more where that came from.

You can always have more.  Just as you don’t need a holiday to have special food- there’s always more food where whatever you’re having came from.  You can always, make more, get the recipe, go back, have it again, etc.

I know sometimes getting the exact same thing isn’t possible, and that there is privilege in being able to afford more and want to acknowledge that.

It’s your thoughts that create deprivation, not the food.  Generally, the thoughts that you can’t have more or that a food is special comes from the belief that you can’t have more or that it’s limited and scarce.  While there may be situations where this happens, generally you can always get more, get the recipe or find something similar.   There’s more where that came from- just your thoughts keep telling you no, stop, have less, etc.

Remind yourself- you can have more.  Next time you’re feeling the thoughts of scarcity or deprivation- remind yourself- I can have more or there’s more where that came from.  It’s the thought of future deprivation that drives the eating- not the food.

3.  Planning your future diet creates scarcity.

The thought of future deprivation is a powerful trigger for reactive eating and binge eating.   A lot of people (especially this time of the year) are already planning their new years resolution and/or future diet.  This is a set up to feel miserable with food over the holidays.

When you know that you have a diet (aka future deprivation) coming then you’re going to eat a lot more food right now.  You won’t listen to your body.  You won’t stop when comfortable or when you feel satisfied. You’ll eat until you can’t eat anymore.  

Knowing that food won’t be available in the near future reinforces that you better as much as you can right now.  Future dieting creates what the authors of intuitive eating call the last supper effect- where you know that you’re going to diet soon so you eat all the foods right now.  Instead of eating in a manner that’s responsive to your body, you eat much as you can because you know you won’t have it in the future.  

The thought of future deprivation drives reactive eating now and leads to feeling miserable, uncomfortable, and out of control.  When your future diet is coming in the new year then it creates a month or sometimes even months of eating leading up to the new diet. Eating during that time makes you feel miserable, over full, and stuffed.  In your mind it reinforces the need for a future diet, which just creates more deprivation and leads to more reactive eating. It’s a miserable way to go through the season and I promise there’s a much better way- permission!

4.  Permission is the key to enjoying food and honoring your body.

Permission is allowing yourself to eat what you want when you want.  It honors your body’s cravings for foods and trusts that your body will balance nutrition over time  (and it does- but it does take awhile).

When you’re struggling with permission it leads to the restrictive eating cycle and reactive eating (the opposite of permission).  You feel worried about getting out of control and you don’t give yourself permission to have what you want.   When you’re in this cycle and want a cookie you find cookie substitutes, alternatives, and eat anything else to replace the cookie but won’t let yourself have the cookie.  After some time, you still want the cookie, have more cookies, feel like you’ve blown it and then feel  overfull, guilty, ashamed and out of control.

When you have permission it creates the satisfied eating cycle, which leads to body trust.  In this cycle when you desire a cookie, you eats the cookie.  Maybe more than one, maybe a lot of cookies, maybe just a bite of cookie.  But the cookie is just a cookie and they’re done it’s satisfying.  And you move on.

Instead of creating the restrictive eating cycle it creates a satisfied eating cycle

The satisfied eating cycle is responsive, enjoyable, and builds body trust (compared to the restrictive eating cycle which creates deprivation, is guilt ridden, unsatisfying, and leads to more trust around food and body.

The secret to enjoying food more and trusting your body more is to eat what you want and give yourself permission to build this trust.  There’s a lot of nuance in how this works and figuring it out for yourself.  Some resources I recommend are: intuitive eating/ workbook/ become a dcd.

5.  It’s okay to enjoy the cookies (or any other food)

A lot of people resist permission out of fear-they say that if they gave themselves permission to eat what they wanted when they wanted they would eat cookies all the time, never stop, and fear weight gain.

Eating balances out over time.  Here’s the thing to know- you might eat that way in the beginning and it’s part of the process in building permission and it is scary- but it doesn’t end there.  You have to keep going- eating does balance out.

You don’t have to do anything special to have a cookie.  The secret is to change how you think about cookies, how to change your relationship with food, and shift your perspective.  Doing this improves health, well-being, satisfaction, and body trust.

The secret here is really permission.  It’s okay to have what you want.   To enjoy food.   When you do this- the restriction stops, the guilt stops, the fear goes away, you begin to enjoy food more, you have clarity to think about other things, cookies are just cookies, there’s no anxiety- amazing things happen. I think you’ll be surprised to see what happens.

If you could have what you wanted- what would you eat?

Now how can you go about getting that?

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