From Triggers to Tools in 10 Weeks #6 – Rituals and Family Culture

© Monkey Business –

Welcome back to our series about common holiday triggers. Click here for previous posts or subscribe to receive them by email.

The trigger: Rituals and family culture

Being together during the holidays can magnify any food-related aspects of your family’s culture. There may be talk of dieting or fasting ahead of a big holiday meal or to fit into a special New Year’s dress. Or the constant exchanges of holiday foods and recipes.

Even though you’re an adult now, around the holiday table and kitchen you may still get familiar messages from childhood, whether they’re spoken or unspoken. A simple glance might speak volumes, “Look how nice you look now that your weight is down,” or “You’d be such a pretty girl if only….” or “Do you really need a second helping of that?” or “Is that all you’re having?” or “Why can’t you ever just eat like everyone else?”

While some of these messages may be your own mind reading at work, others may be deeply seated associations you’ve learned after countless experiences eating together as a family.

The tool: Create new rituals

In a 2015 post, I encouraged you to create new holiday rituals by getting outdoors, sending gratitude greetings, doing something new together as a family, taking a break from electronics, and letting go of thoughts or possessions you no longer want. You can read the original post for more holiday ritual ideas.

Also think about ways to create new food rituals for yourself. You may not be able to change long-standing family culture, but you can make sure there are safe and healthy alternatives there when you need them. For example:

  • Bring the types of food you need, with enough to share
  • Have supportive people on standby who you can text or call
  • Practice saying no to foods you don’t want to eat, and script a few possible replies to the questions or statements you usually hear
  • Challenge yourself to try one or two new foods
  • Prepare conversation topics to shift attention away from what you are or aren’t eating (hint: asking people about themselves is often a sure-fire way to get them talking; as a bonus, if you put effort into listening and asking questions, this can be a powerful way to bring your relationship to a new level!)

Remember also to focus on things other than food, like your gratitude of celebrating another season and having people around you.

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