Tips on how to avoid binge-eating and to feel good in your body

First things first: it’s okay. It’s okay to eat; to overeat; to eat some foods that are bad for you; it’s okay when your body changes: when you gain and when you lose weight. During these holidays, family gatherings and meals can cause anxiety to many; it’s either some relative shaming you for reaching for another cookie – or you guilt yourself. 

In this special holiday piece, we talked with Food Freedom Coach and Registered Dietician Emily Vazquez to learn more about hunger and fullness cues, and how to accept our bodies just as it is. 

I came to the realization that under immense pressure, I snack like a woman pregnant with triplets. Afterwards, I always feel ashamed, like I have sinned and like I have no control over myself. These feelings, of course, perpetuate a cycle of more stress-eating. It truly never stops. This binge-eating is one habit that I aspire to drop in 2021.

Emily, who built a special course focusing on food freedom and achieving a healthy menstrual cycle with a suitable diet, suggests starting with finding out what triggers the overeating periods. Not eating well enough during the day, and now it’s time to compensate? Is binge-eating a coping mechanism that helps through depression or even just through boredom? Is it a redirection activity? Finding triggering emotions or situations will not only benefit our mental health but will also help us understand our bodies’ needs. 

I often find that people overeat when they are eating distracted or have lost touch with their hunger and fullness cues – shares Emily.

She encourages a kind of mindful eating, which essentially means eating without external distractions, like endless social media scrolling, Netflix, or any other kind of multi-tasking. Chewing slower might also help with accurately monitoring your fullness or hunger. 

When discussing the holidays, it’s inevitable to gush about the extensive spectrum of home-cooked meals: the traditional meals, the family favourites, the soup that a relative only cooks for this special occasion.

And once the listing of the favourite foods stops, the guilt-trips begin, including a bizarre contest where people compete on who’s going to punish themselves more for eating well for a week: one will buy an annual gym membership, while the other is already preparing for a rage-filled cardio session.

Many people feel that they are gaining weight over the holidays because they may be eating more holiday food. But in reality, holiday food is STILL food. If you feel that you are gaining weight over the holidays, your current diet might be too restrictive in the first place – says Emily.

And she is absolutely right: studies already suggest that seasonal and temporary diets are not beneficial in the long term, and once we stop, it is more likely to gain back the kilos we’ve lost – and even more. 

But it’s not just the inner shaming that needs to be conquered; the external sources can be just as painful. Some relatives might use the family gathering to project their own insecurities on you and to cause you some horrible moments around the table. A mental health expert, asked by Refinery29, shared several tips on how to avert these judgmental calling outs, and how to set healthy boundaries for discussing our or others’ bodies. 

It all comes down to one thing: the love for one’s self. You might think it’s all very evident, but true, unconditional love is a hard one to master. A healthy relationship with our natural shape should begin with identifying and setting aside the beauty expectations that social media drilled into our heads, advises Emily. Other helpful steps she would recommend are the daily positive reaffirmations – but not limited to physical traits! 

Be grateful for that body that sustains you, the body that dances, climbs mountains, or swims in the ocean. Be grateful for the body that changes over time – because they are supposed to. 

This acceptance will lead to a more balanced and ambitious attitude towards exercising too: you will no longer feel the need to punish, but rather, to challenge yourself during your gym sessions. Feel-good foods will feel good, and not as temporary guilty pleasures. 

Body-positivity changes people for the better and is key for young women to master it. The body-positivity movement has been gaining a lot of momentum lately, with plus-size and nonconventional voices leading the fight to cancel social expectations for female and male bodies once and for all. Thanks to them, this topic might actually become obsolete in a few years; when society will no longer shame people for eating and bodies will no longer be a conversation topic on Christmas Eve. 

Written by Tamara Csibra-Kaizler. To check out her most recent articles, click here! Illustrated by Boglárka Varga.

And don’t forget to follow Emily Vazquez on Instagram for more food-related advice.