Facing Food Triggers During the Holidays • Selene Milano
Welcome to our newest series about body love, shadow and acceptance, hosted by Selene Milano of The Gain. We resonated so deeply with everything Selene had to share on the CURER Series and felt this would be a perfect platform to spread what inspired us about her message of body love and magnetism.
The holidays are basically ground zero for triggers around food and family. What to eat—and of course what not to eat—can bring up a lot of emotional anxiety, because if we’re being honest eating is all anyone talks about. At a time when seeing family is almost always on the agenda, old narratives can come back into focus. Whether you see your family on the regular or have to fly across the country to visit with relatives, we all bring some emotional baggage along with whatever else we’ve packed. If we are holding on to shame, whether it’s about our bodies, our lifestyles or an imaginary timeline that isn’t exactly on track, sometimes getting together with those who have known us the longest and love us the most can feel like an assessment of sorts. But manifestation happens when we stand in our worth to co-create our desires with the universe. Being preoccupied with what other people think or the way our life should look never serves us.
A recurring holiday trigger for me used to be the inundation of food. I felt like there was no way I was going to be able to “keep my diet” and everyone was going to see how fat I got. Food can feel like the centerpiece of the entire season. When you struggle with eating, enjoying food in front of people can feel shameful.
So, I am here to tell you something: You are allowed to eat whatever you want, whenever you want to and you owe it to yourself to enjoy the food you put in your body. Not just the right foods or certain foods but whatever your body is calling in. In fact, if you are eating mindfully you can truly be present in the moment and eat enough to feel satisfied without eating so much that you make yourself sick.
I’ve struggled with emotional eating and binging my whole life—and I still sometimes do—but one of the things that has helped me the most might sound counterintuitive. I really take in the fact that no food is off limits. For those of us that are constantly worried about our bodies, that’s a radical concept. But the truth is, binging is most often the result of deprivation and starvation. I believe in my deepest soul that had I never started dieting and obsessively restricting myself, I would not have gone so far down this path of disordered eating.
Studies continuously show that chronic restriction is one of the most common ways to develop an eating disorder.
This can be applied to so many areas of our lives. Think about it: We’ve all fallen for something that seems desirable simply because we know can’t have it.
I know it is easier said than done. I’ve written a lot about my experience in learning to eat mindfully with my therapist Alexis Conason. In an anti-diet group therapy program she runs, Conason says most people fight their bodies instead of tuning into its natural guidance. “When our body is craving a cupcake, we feed it kale. We deprive ourselves of what our body wants, fighting against our cravings until we finally 'cave' and devour a whole box of cupcakes, hardly tasting them, feeling out of control, and then berate ourselves for being so 'bad' and vow never to eat sweets again.” Sound familiar?
She has her patients do something that sounds pretty off the wall. She asks each person to identify one food that makes them feel the most out of control, the most guilty, the most shameful, then she recommends stocking your fridge with it. Literally buying 6 cartons of ice cream or 6 bags of chips and when those are gone, 6 more.
When she suggested this to me, I thought it was bananas. I didn’t trust myself remotely. I thought if I had every “bad” food in the house at once, I would never leave. I told my husband about it though, and he thought I should try it out—and one night came home from the market with six boxes of brownie mix. I remember my nervous laughter that turned into a cackle when I saw those boxes of brownie mix. I have tried many things to gain control over my eating, but this had to be the craziest. Then after I stopped laughing and thought about it, I suddenly felt liberated.
The sense of freedom turned out to be life-changing. Once I was actually encouraged to eat this forbidden fruit, I was able to take the power back. For so many years, I had imprisoned myself with this idea of restriction and after all that – I still hated my body! What a waste of energy. I remember Lacy telling me, “You think about this so much there is no room in your mind for anything else” That’s when I developed the concept for The Gain, based on the idea that when we stop obsessing over what we want to lose, we open ourselves up to all we have to gain.
Marya Hornbacher who writes about disordered eating says it best, “If this illness feels right now like a cage, please try to hear me: It isn’t locked. It has been open all along. You are free to go.”
When I talk to people about their bodies, so many say they learned from their families that their bodies were not okay. That their eating habits were unacceptable. Many are told that these relatives are doing this out of love and they are just worried about their health. But remember love is never bullying, true love is allowing people to make their own decisions about their life. If food isn’t your trigger, be an ally. Support those that are struggling and create a space where everyone celebrating with you can feel worthy and validated.
One of the most powerful aspects of manifestation is learning to say no and drawing boundaries around things that don’t work for us. This season, instead of cutting out a long list of foods (that you will likely wind up eating anyway) what about saying NO to people and situations that no longer serve you. Let’s stand in our power to make decisions about what we want.
You are in control over what you eat and you are in control over who you exchange energy with. This is the season of compassion and forgiveness so let’s first show that to ourselves. It’s also a time to celebrate, so give yourself the gift of letting go of the guilt and shift the focus to what you want to call in to your life, not what you need to cut out.
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