Happiness Around the Holidays

The holidays can be a potential minefield when it comes to emotions and eating and expectations.  At least it has been for me. Once I got married and began to run my own household, I learned that I brought a lot of habits, expectations and baggage with me into the holidays.

I wanted to decorate one way, while John wanted to decorate another. Traditions that were important to him seemed strange to me. foods that he associated with a complete holiday were foods I had hardly even heard o. I’m sure we were quite comical going back and forth over what our holiday celebration “should” look like.

Instead of us learning to shape our holiday together, we were both trying to shape it to look like what we wanted. As I’ve shared before, I ate my way through the first several years of our marriage, causing a lot of unfortunate weight gain. Then during my obesity, the holidays were just a festive time of eating.

One thing I learned from speaking with people concerning weight and holidays is that they don’t always eat from happiness and the festive attitude surrounding the bright lights and meaning of Christmas.

In reality, the holidays don’t always bring back happy memories for some people. I’ve got my own issues, as do we all.

I’ve had ladies share with me that the holidays are difficult due to past losses and sad memories. It puts a damper on their holidays and can make it hard or them to be happy and enjoy the holiday. They told me they often turned to food – as did I.

I you’ve ever felt this way around the holidays, you aren’t alone. But I’d encourage you to think extra carefully about your food choices during the holiday season in order to avoid  using the holidays as a reason to overeat and as a way to push those emotions down under food. Because food doesn’t solve anything. 

Even as I was merrily eating and wearing bad Christmas clothes, I knew I wasn’t feeling happy about the holiday season. The holidays didn’t solve my issues with past experiences or fix any relationship problems I might be having. In fact, in some ways, the holidays seemed to make it all seem worse.

When I lost the weight, I didn’t magically lose any emotional connection I had to the holidays, but I did have to learn to disassociate holiday happiness with food – and that wasn’t easy to do, and it’s something I still find happening on occasion.

If you have had losses around the holidays or struggle with not always feeling upbeat, know that you are not alone. I’d encourage you to surround yourself with supportive  family and friends who make your holidays less stressful. I know that is not always easy to do, but taking time for you in terms of being able to say, “I need to take a walk. I’d rather not go there this year or even, I do not want to visit that person right now” may give you permission to do what you need to do.

I found that taking charge of my food also meant saying no to potentially stressful times and visit – I wasn’t always the most popular family member, but I wasn’t completely stressed anymore either.

I know this post hasn’t been funny and fun, but I also know that the reality is that the holidays can be a difficult time, and I wanted you to know that if you are struggling, you are not alone.  Diane 

14 thoughts on “Happiness Around the Holidays

  1. Michelle Hunt says:

    Thanks for posting this Dianne, I really needed to hear this today. I’m starting to feel the holiday blues coming on and I’m going to look at things a little differently this year! I want to be happy so I’m going to take your advice and change a few things.

  2. Diane says:

    Great post !It seems to be a HUGE challenge to celebrate the holidays with a new spouse, and is one of the major stresses in a marriage. It is one of the occasions where all of your family traditions meet all of his family traditions, and a few grand aunts of ideas wind up in a cage match 🙂 It certainly was the case in my marriage as well, with there being not only a blending of family customs , but of two completely different faiths as well. Interestingly enough, food did not enter into the celebration debate but a lot of quick grab , not so healthy meals in the days proceeding because of a lack of time to do anything beyond keeping up with the holiday whirlwind ( Through the years we have learned to say no a lot, unplug when necessary and focus on those things that help us focus on the root meaning of the holidays instead). This year I will not be with my family for the holiday and it feels a little strange and strangely refreshing. It is nice to be able to focus on our very own celebrations and include only those foods that are honestly nourishing to the body in that event.

  3. Karen says:

    Yes, the holidays can be a struggle for many different reasons. For me, the hardest part is not the emotional component but the constant barrage and abundance of food for days and weeks on end. And house guests. Much as I love having them, they are not great for my healthy lifestyle.

  4. Colleen says:

    Important things to think about. You’re right that it’s not funny/fun this time, but really necessary to say and even more necessary to do. At this time of year, I’d say it’s pretty important to guard ourselves so that we don’t get sucked into everyone elses’ idea of how we should be celebrating – not just a couple of days, but the whole month. That’s part of why we get the blues, I think, because of the extension of the holiday “season” throughout a month or more – so many expectations and fears of letting others down and food and busyness and buying. I am sure that God never intended the celebration of the birth of his son and our savior to be met with such stress, blues, debt and overeating…

  5. kwithme says:

    Thanks for talking about this from me as well. I am feeling the stress of trying to make everyone older than I (parents, inlaws, grandparent) happy. I am working on detaching from that stress.

  6. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    This was just what I needed right now. I’m not struggling with the holidays for the same reason, but this year is particularly hard for me because of medical issues. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who maybe be less than cheery.

  7. Jody - Fit at 53 says:

    Diane, thank you for this post. Many people don’t realize how tough the holidays can be for others. Many stories on the news about this & I believe suicide rates go up as well around holidays. I think for some, they hope for the magic of it all & it does not live up to that OR loved ones no longer with us.. lots of reasons that people suffer during the holidays. Yes, seek help if it is too much.

  8. LovesCatsinCA says:

    Hi, Diane. I thank you for writing a very frank, but needed, post. I think a lot of people feel guilty for not feeling cheery during the holidays. I also know that sometimes we know food isn’t the best way to self-comfort, and not something we’d want to do longterm, but sometimes it’s expedient.

    We took my mother in law off life support Wednesday evening. It was a difficult month leading up to that decision, and it’s difficult living with the grief and processing he’s going through now… Trying to be a supportive and listening person even as I just cringe and go “I can’t take much more of this, can I?”, I know I’ve been overdoing it foodwise for the past couple weeks, particularly in terms of chocolate, as a coping mechanism. I’ve been monitoring my weight and making sure I don’t go TOO overboard–but in terms of being emotionally and physically exhausted, trying to NOT self comfort with food takes a lot more energy. So I’m using food in a less than optimal way, but in limited amounts and it seems to be the course of least resistance. I’ve just decided to deal with my feelings as best I can, but I reach a certain point and just move into food–and coping in this way is the best I can do after I reach my saturation point.

    My prayers and thoughts are with all others who have lost someone recently–or are thinking of past losses this time of year. It’s not easy.

  9. fittingbackin says:

    Such a great post! And a great reminder that this season isn’t just about merriment and gift-giving… it’s also a time of year where people reflect over there haves and have nots – I know I have some friends and family struggling this time of year missing loved ones.

  10. 'Drea says:

    Diane,

    Thanks for the reminder about not being alone which is hard to remember when you’re in the thick of things. I also like your idea of surrounding yourself with a supportive crew.

  11. Hanlie says:

    Craig and I are fortunate that none of the holiday festivities take place at our house. We don’t even own one piece of Christmas decoration! So there is no “holiday” food to tempt us. We usually go to my family on Christmas Eve, but this year my sister and her family are away, so we have booked a meal at a restaurant with my parents – meaning there won’t even be any leftovers to tempt us. Christmas day is spent with Craig’s family and my MIL, while a great cook, doesn’t cook for an army when there’s only 6 of us. So, while we indulge for two meals, it’s not a train smash…

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