{We hope you enjoy this guest piece by Madison Surdyke as much as we do. Read on to learn her tips & tricks for holiday eating and drinking minus the anxiety and guilt}

Are you already stressing about gaining weight during the holidays? Are you worried about what you’re eating and how much you’re working out and feeling like you need to go on a diet, eat less and work out more? I know that feels like your only option. But I promise, there’s a better way that doesn’t require you sacrificing your happiness, health and mental well-being. I see so many women who struggle, especially during the holidays, with constant stress and anxiety over what, when and how much to eat and exercise: “How many burpees do I need to do to make up for that?”, “I need to eat healthy today because I ate apple pie yesterday”, “I shouldn’t have eaten that”, “I am weak and have no willpower”, “I was out of control this weekend, I’ll just start over Monday”, “I am gross for eating that”.

This begs the question, is eating “perfectly” or having the “perfect” body really even “healthy” if it’s at the expense of your mental health and well-being? The issue isn’t how much you weigh but what you are choosing to make that mean about you. Most people believe that their weight determines their health and their worth. And I get it, everyone’s constantly telling us to eat less, exercise more and lose weight. And that doing so will lead us to health, happiness and confidence. But if that were true then every skinny person would be healthy, happy and confident. And we all know that’s not the case. In fact, if you keep holding onto this belief, you might develop serious health or mental health issues (like anxiety or depression) or miss out on what’s supposed to be the most magical time of the year with your family, friends and the people you love.

So what does every healthy, happy, confident person do? Well, they focus directly on health, happiness and confidence; NOT weight. One is empowering and health-promoting and the other isn’t. Are you going to be the type of person who focuses on weight and remains in a constant battle over what, when and how much to eat or do you want to be the type of person who focuses directly on health, happiness and confidence and can eat in a balanced way WITHOUT guilt or restrictions so you can have the mental space and energy to focus on what you really care about during the holidays like quality time with your family, baking cookies with your kids, etc.

If you want the latter, keep reading to find out what you need to do in order to enjoy the foods you love without guilt and stay mentally healthy during the holidays.

  1. Get really clear on what the holidays mean to you and what it would ideally look like

What’s most important to you this holiday season? How do you want to feel? If it doesn’t bring you joy or bring your closer to your ideal vision of the holidays, don’t do it. Spend your time and energy focusing on the things that truly matter to you and bring you joy, peace and freedom!

  1. Learn about intuitive eating & start practicing

 Intuitive Eating is a way of eating you maintain effortlessly with nourishing, adequate, consistent, flexible food patterns WITHOUT restriction, guilt or having to plan your life around food. It involves getting back in touch with your body’s natural wisdom and rebuilding the trust between your mind and body. It’s about listening to YOUR body to guide your food and exercise choices. It’s about following your internal signals like hunger, fullness and satisfaction and rejecting external cues like diets, food rules and societal trends. When your mind is free from worrying about food all the time, you’ll get to relax and focus on the important parts of the holidays like spending quality time with your family and what you have to be grateful for.

Not sure where to start? Download my Free 3 Step Guide to Food & Body Freedom.

  1. Master your mindset

 Most people think they just need to have more willpower and eat “better” but ACTUALLY, it’s the all or nothing mentality that’s keeping you from being able to end the control that food has over you. I’m here to tell you, if you don’t change this “good” vs “bad” mentality, your physical and mental health will suffer greatly. Most intuitive eating coaches focus solely on trying to change your behaviors but they fail to look beneath at your identity and beliefs that are DRIVING those behaviors. You can try to perfectly honor your hunger and fullness signals but if you don’t work on your thoughts and beliefs, the never ending cycle will continue. This is why you need to transform your beliefs FIRST. And as a result of your new beliefs, you develop new, intuitive, health promoting behaviors. And as a result of your new behaviors, being an intuitive eater becomes an inevitable by product because it’s who you are!

What are your current beliefs about food and your body that are keeping you stuck?

Do you believe…

…there’s a perfect diet, you just haven’t found it yet?

…you will feel happier and more confident once you reach your goal weight?

…if you eat “bad”, then you have to make up for it afterwards?

Now, I want you to be REALLY honest with yourself…are these beliefs really serving you? Are they empowering or disempowering? To me, there’s no such thing as “right” or “wrong”. There’s only empowering or disempowering and you get to CHOOSE. So instead of focusing on #bodygoals or finding the “perfect” diet, what might be more empowering? What if you focused on how you can honor your body NOW? All of the thoughts, feelings and experiences we think will be available to us once we achieve our dream body are available to us RIGHT NOW and we get to CHOOSE that. When you operate from this place, the holidays are a HELL of a lot more enjoyable and can actually even be relaxing!!

  1. Consider hiring a coach who can support you during this stressful time 

I’ve totally been where you are and looking back, I wish I could have had someone who had already been through this who could show me where to get started. But I didn’t, and had to figure it out all on my own. I made a LOT of mistakes and it took a longggggg time. And the holidays were a NIGHTMARE. Which is exactly what I don’t want to happen to you. I don’t want you to have to go through this alone. I truly believe I went through this so that I could help other women overcome it MUCH easier and faster than I did. How much easier will this be if you have someone to help you and give you the right steps? That’s what I want to do for you. Please don’t do what I did and do this alone. It’s not worth it. If you’re looking for a proven system to eat in a balanced way without restriction or guilt so you can not only feel completely confident in your food choices and body, but also have the mental space and energy for the things that are most important to you, get on the waitlist for The Subtle Art of Food Freedom now!

  1. Exercise to feel good, not punish yourself

 When you operate with the intention to feel good, you can act from a place of truly wanting to take care of your body. But when those thoughts and feelings are hateful, guilty or shameful you act from a place of punishment and deprivation. And when you act from this place, it’s nearly impossible to make truly loving, caring decisions for your body. Making decisions with true intention of caring for yourself is a completely different experience. This doesn’t mean you’re “letting yourself go”. It’s not a matter of what you are doing, but who you are being. For example, going to the gym because you know it will feel good and it will give you energy IS honoring your body. But, dragging yourself to the gym because you have to punish yourself for the cookies you ate last night IS NOT honoring your body. Same action. Completely different experience.

  1. Embody the future version of you who’s already made peace with food and his/her body and is mentally and physically healthy

What are his/her thoughts? Beliefs? Habits?

How does he/she feel?

How does he/she talk to herself? What does she say?

How does he/she care for herself?

What does he/she read? Listen to? Watch?

What is he/she NOT stressed about?

How can you start embodying that version of you right now?

  1. Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion is all about acting from a place of love and treating yourself the way you would someone you love, rather than from a place of guilt, shame or punishment. It’s nearly impossible to honor your physical and mental health when you’re operating from this place of guilt and shame. Making decisions with true intention of caring for yourself is a completely different experience and that is what self-compassion is all about.

Benefits of self-compassion:

Associated with grater psychological flexibility which plays a large role in overall psychological well-being (which affects physical well-being and overall health)

Associated with greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction

Correlated with less anxiety, depression, shame, and fear of failure

Associated with lower levels of body surveillance, body shame, depression, and negative eating attitudes (which makes it easier to become an intuitive eaterand eat in a balanced way without restriction or guilt)

  1. Visualize 

When there’s a holiday party or situation you are stressing about, take a few minutes beforehand to visualize it playing out perfectly and calmly. No guilt, no anxiety. Just freedom and ease. Close your eyes and really picture it? How does it feel? Imagine navigating that situation with confidence and ease (and even having fun!). Then when that situation comes up, act out your visualization. Embody the future version of you who’s already made peace with food and his/her body. It’s just an experiment. Just TRY it. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to feel like it’s not working. But that is completely normal. The difference is that because we are going to view this as an experiment, mistakes and imperfections are OKAY. They are actually GREAT. What if making mistakes is actually a really good thing because it means you are learning the exact lessons you need in order to move forward? So let go now of aiming for the holidays to be perfect because they aren’t going to be. What’s more important to you? Eating “perfectly” or enjoy the holidays with your family? You get to CHOOSE where you focus your attention.

About the author:

Madison Surdyke is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach on a mission to help women to be able to eat in a balanced way without guilt or restriction so they can feel totally free and confident in their food choices and body and have the mental space to focus on what really matters to them. If you want to learn more, download her free 3 step guide to food & body freedom here.