Allow this article to start with one major piece of advice: If you are someone who struggles with food-related trauma, you are not alone. The holidays can be challenging for many reasons but one thing that might not immediately come to mind is how to navigate eating and food during these stressful times.
People struggle with food due to any number of factors: eating disorders, medical diagnoses, sensory issues, and “picky” eating, among others which can make a time meant for celebration feel constricting and cause a lot of anxiety. Here are some ways to help you navigate the holidays if you suffer from any food trauma.
Tip #1: Understand the Menu
Whether you are going to a small family gathering, a large community event, a Friendsgiving, etc. try to get a rough outline of the types of food that are being served. This might be easier for people whose families do the same thing every year but for those doing a larger event, it can come with a little research and asking around. The reason this helps is that you will be able to mentally prepare yourself for what type of food you can expect to see and therefore can plan your plate in advance. If you struggle with Diabetes and want to know how to have the most balanced plate, it helps to know how many side dishes of potatoes and mac&cheese there are and how many plates of veggies and meats. This also gives you plenty of time to figure out if you need to sub in any of your own foods. This leads to the next tip:
Tip #2: Pack a Lunchbox
It can be a bit of a hill to climb in people’s brains to bring their own food from home. But social faux pas aside, this can be an easy way to mitigate some of the negativity and unexpectedness surrounding holiday food. Pack a lunchbox with a meal for yourself (including snacks and drinks) so that you know, no matter what food is being served, you will have safe foods that you enjoy!
Tip #3: Have Support
This one rings true, especially for those attending family functions where their family might not be the most supportive people. It is so important to know that you have at least one person who can provide you with some words of comfort. This could be a family or friend that is attending the event or it could be one of your friends that you text or call if things get too chaotic. Make sure you ask this support person ahead of time if they are comfortable taking on this level of support.
Tip #4: Take Care of Yourself
This tip may seem silly because if you are reading this article you are more than likely trying to take care of yourself and your needs. However, this tip is all about providing yourself with understanding and compassion.
The holidays are tough. Food trauma is a real thing. If you are someone who struggles with the subjects above, know that you are not alone and that you are more than capable of still enjoying the celebration while navigating these tough topics. Make sure that you are, above all else, taking care of yourself. Whether that is talking with a friend, opting out of certain events, packing food from home, talking to a mental health professional, practicing some self-care, and so forth.