The Worn Out Caregiver Holiday Survival Guide

Holiday pressures lead many of us to rely on mile long to-do lists, with attendant feelings of inferiority rather than attending to self-care. Don’t you just love the warm fuzzy holiday feelings of peace and joy?!? (Sarcasm intended.)

Many caregivers feel the month of December is all about providing experiences for everyone else, and typical self-care strategies just don’t fit in. This month, many people put themselves on the bottom of the priority list. While this may help your family attend more holiday parties or have more decorations around the house, ignoring self-care has its consequences. For example, attending your regular weekly yoga class may be tough to squeeze in, yet doing so will help you feel less stressed, sleep better, and be more present this holiday. Remember, self-care is not selfish.

In order to promote health and mindfulness, consider these three sanity saving pointers:

Have One Hot Meal Sitting Down Per Day

I remember that, when my children were infants, I rarely sat down. As the primary caregiver, I was constantly attending to their needs. I have memories of changing diapers, feeding them, keeping them from pinching the dog, keeping them out of the cat litter, and otherwise protecting this fragile new human. I was sleep deprived, and constantly ate on the run–with one hand. If I couldn’t eat something with one hand, I didn’t eat it. And I wondered why I felt like a chaotic mess!

I read a recommendation from Geneen Roth that changed a big portion of my self-care. She wrote that we all need to sit down and eat one hot meal on a real plate each day. The food choice wasn’t important; rather, it was the time spent sitting and focusing on the meal that was important. This recommendation spoke to me, because I connected with this being an opportunity to nurture and nourish my mind, body and spirit. And, oh boy, I needed that!

Even during chaotic holiday schedules, be sure to give yourself at least one eating opportunity each day to eat mindfully, focusing on just that. You’ll find that it calms you and reenergizes you– so you can continue to keep your little human from sticking metal into electrical outlets or eating the dog food.

Stay Off Pinterest and Other Ways to Avoid Comparison

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” I think this quote by Theodore Roosevelt needs to be on the Pinterest disclaimer page. Holiday traditions and activities involve limitless options for creativity. This is cool–for those who love hodge podging or baking decadent desserts–yet it can lead the rest of us down the dark dreary place of comparison and perfectionism.

Instead of looking into what everyone else is doing, consider the holiday traditions that give you the most joyful feelings. What do you remember as a kid that you want to pass on? Give yourself permission to pick the ones, if any, that you have the mental bandwidth for this holiday season. Resist the urge to search online for what you should be doing. Focus on what you want to do, and practice being okay with limiting the choices. To do this, you may want to avoid some social media, like Pinterest or Facebook, until the urge to compare goes away.

By the way, I love this recommendation so much that I’m deleting the Pinterest app from my phone as I type this! Wheee, that felt good!

Move Your Body in a Way that Feels Good

Human bodies are meant to move, and I don’t mean on treadmills in the “no pain no gain” fashion. Our bodies are designed for movement to promote health and well-being.  Our body also has ways of letting us know that the movement we’ve chosen is one worth repeating by the pleasure it gives us.  By staying aware of your body’s response, you’ll know what your body needs and wants. You’ll know that you’re moving in the right direction (nice pun, right?!?) when the movement feels good.

As you experience the holiday, notice what your body is craving. Do you want to dance to your favorite holiday songs? Take a nighttime stroll to admire the lights? Do you crave stillness? Attend to your body’s desire to move or not, and you’ll notice more connection to the present–and less chaos with what life throws your way.

Happy holidays friends!

(137) Does set point mean I will always be fat? (with Stefani Reinold)

What does your body want to weigh? Have you heard of set point theory and wonder what it means for you and your body? Will it always look the way it does now? Or will it get smaller or larger? Listen to this latest episode of Love Food with special guest Stefani Reinold MD from the It’s Not About the Food Podcast.

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This episode is brought to you by my courses: PCOS and Food Peace and Dietitians PCOS and Food Peace. You CAN make peace with food even with PCOS and I want to show you how.

This episode’s Dear Food letter:

Dear Food,
I began my intuitive eating journey recently with a non diet dietician who specializes in treating ED and PCOS. According to her you are not the enemy and once I get my PCOS under control and reject diet culture my body will return to my setpoint. I am oversimplifying but you get the point.
My problem is that for as long as I can remember I have always been fat so I don’t know that I trust that knowledge. Could it be that there are people whose set points are in the “morbidly obese” range?
Well I guess I was a normal weight once until about age 5. At 5 I was the tallest girl in class. Taller than all the boys even and yes heavier. I wasn’t overweight just much taller than all the rest but adults would comment when they went to pick me up I was too heavy. I was too tall at my 8th birthday for the ball pit my parents had paid so much to reserve for my birthday. I was so “big”. They meant tall but I thought they meant fat.
I started gaining weight because my main abuser didn’t like fat girls and found them unattractive. Back then you were my friend because you protected me from him and most men and cat calls. Now I see I built my own prison and am left wondering if some people don’t have a healthy set point?
Confused in Cleveland

Show Notes:

Do you have a complicated relationship with food? I want to help! Send your Dear Food letter to 

Click here to leave me a review in iTunes and subscribe. This type of kindness helps the show continue!

(136) Can I stay vegan and recover from Binge Eating? (with Jennifer Rollin)

You appreciate that not eating enough can trigger your binges. Does that include your vegetarianism or veganism too? This week’s letter writer has connected the desire to eat with friends and later binge eating. Have you? Listen to the latest Love Food Podcast episode with special guest Jennifer Rollin where we discuss eating disorder recovery and veganism and vegetarianism.

Subscribe and leave a review here in just seconds.

This episode is brought to you by my courses: PCOS and Food Peace and Dietitians PCOS and Food Peace. You CAN make peace with food even with PCOS and I want to show you how.

This episode’s Dear Food letter:

Dear Food,

My complicated relationship with you began when I was 13. I had become obsessed with body image and thought all my problems would be solved if I could just be smaller. So I began strict dieting, and was eating less than XYZ calories a day. On this journey my brain became obsessed with food much more than body image. I became anorexic. I wanted to be able to stop restricting but I didn’t know how. I was scared and worried I would lose control.

My recovery began when i started seeing a dietitian, who gave me the book “intuitive eating”. If it weren’t for that book, I don’t know where I would be today. I began to eat more normally and gradually gained the weight back, although my mind was still very fixated on food for another year. Once I finally started caring about more things in life than food (about 3 years later) I developed binge eating disorder.

Now for a little more than two years I have been struggling to make peace with my body and have spent many nights crying wondering if I will ever be able to eat normally again. I know that binge eating happens when there is a restriction, which makes me afraid that my veganism is getting in the way of me being able to have a healthy relationship with food.

I went vegan a few months into my strict dieting phase at 13, after watching a documentary promoting it, but that was mainly for ethical reasons as well as health. Now I know that I’m not doing it for my health or anything body related, but my veganism is a very important part of my belief system, and I don’t feel like I could/want to give it up. It’s been five years since my initial eating disorder, parallel with the amount of time I’ve been Vegan. It doesn’t really feel like I’m restricting myself, since I’m so used to doing it and there are plenty of vegan alternatives that I enjoy. However every now and then I’ll be in a situation where everyone else is eating meat/cheese and part of me just wishes to indulge for that moment. I worry that when those feelings are left ignored it triggers a binge.


At a crossroads

Show Notes:

Do you have a complicated relationship with food? I want to help! Send your Dear Food letter to 

Click here to leave me a review in iTunes and subscribe. This type of kindness helps the show continue!

(135) Bingeing was my biggest fear, now its my constant reality (with Nicole Cruz)

Has your relationship with food been through the ringer? Listen as this letter writer describes her initial restricted relationship with food yet now bingeing is a daily part of her life. Have you experienced this too? While there is shame in this for many it is a predictable and vital part of nutritional rehabilitation on your Food Peace journey. It doesn’t mean you are weak it means you are a successful human staying alive. Listen now for more and learn from guest Nicole Cruz.

Subscribe and leave a review here in just seconds.

This episode is brought to you by my courses: PCOS and Food Peace and Dietitians PCOS and Food Peace. You CAN make peace with food even with PCOS and I want to show you how.

This episode’s Dear Food letter:

Dear Food,

The high school version of me would have been the last person on this Earth to ever believe that my relationship with you would end up causing me so much heartache and pain.

I was fine until college. Backtracking to childhood, I always loved you. I was a foodie, never overthought and wasn’t obsessed with the idea of what I would eat next. Food was wonderful, especially “treats” or “junk-food” type items that I didn’t get to eat often. I know there were times when my eyes were bigger than my stomach, but maybe this is a thing that many young kids also experience?

High school was normal. I was active playing a sport that I loved, busy with school, and spending time with family and friends. Senior year, I found myself with more freedom than ever. A lot of it was spent watching tv or cooking and eating with friends.

Then came college. After a particularly sad and confusing breakup with a boy and betrayal by a friend, my college friend group disintegrated. In retrospect, I think I may have retreated into TV and snacks, and there was no one to tell me to do differently. Then, during Thanksgiving break, I realized that I had been too free with you, food, and my “cute little body” was quickly becoming something I was ashamed of and disgusted by.

I’d never had anything but a small body and lived in a family of small people. I decided I would pay more attention to what and how much I was eating. I figured this would help get myself under control. And from the moment I became aware of your presence and your power in my life, things really have never been the same since.

Fast forward through five months of increasingly difficult and dreadful exercise regimens and an increasingly restricted intake of food, I left school early to move home and enter outpatient treatment.

My junior year, I finally transferred into XYZ College. I was ecstatic, but the restriction started almost right away. This time, though, my body was far more resistant to restriction, and it was increasingly difficult to not give in and binge. I returned home after only 3 months, and didn’t return to school until the next summer.

Now, my 4th year of college is almost over. That means I’ve been binging for a year now. It’s hard to believe that I ever was able to restrict at all, because binging is such an everyday part of my life now. Over these past years, I have had consistent therapy, and have also met with dietitians, but it seems like nothing is able to help me. In fact, the binging seems like it’s getting worse and worse – in the past two months alone, I have gained X pounds.

I think I’ve lost hope in ever being normal with food or body image. I feel so abnormal and wrong. In recovery, binging was always my biggest fear, and now it’s my constant reality. I have all the tools and resources I should need to help myself and change, but I’m still doing this.

How did we get this far?!


Secretly Broken

Show Notes:

Do you have a complicated relationship with food? I want to help! Send your Dear Food letter to 

Click here to leave me a review in iTunes and subscribe. This type of kindness helps the show continue!

Feeling out of control around Halloween candy? Consider the science of eating behavior.

Did you binge on the Halloween candy? Before you curse your will power or lack of self-control, consider the science of eating behavior. Using this evidence-based approach may help you experience more Food Peace™ in the upcoming holidays.

Don’t blame yourself for the candy binge⎯It’s really Food Habituation

Do you categorize foods as good versus bad? Labeling food this way can set anyone up to feel out of control about what to eat.

Food is not an exact science. Rather than considering food as good versus bad, think of food lying on a continuum. This means there is more gray than exact black and white rules.

Folks who categorize foods as good or bad will, more often than not, experience binges on those “bad” foods.

Research explains this through the science of food habituation. This type of research demonstrates that the more we’re exposed to a food, the more our brains could care less about it.

On the flip side, the more unique and rare the food, the more our brains fixate on it. This promotes intense cravings, and drives us to want to eat the novel food.

Healing Hint:

Instead of blaming yourself for the post-Halloween candy binge, consider the science behind the experience.

Are you around this food often?

And, if so, do you allow yourself to eat it?

If the answer to both questions is “no”, point your finger at your lack of food exposure instead of your lack of will power or self-control.

Do you have a complicated relationship with food? I want to help.

Listen to the Love Food Podcast now here or through your favorite pod catcher app.

Don’t blame the food after the candy bingeIt’s really Food Deprivation

The more we abstain from a food, the more our brains like to fixate on it.

How often are we actually around Candy Corn or Tootsie Rolls? No wonder it’s so tough to stop eating them. And, when we avoid the fun food long enough, we often feel guilt-free and give ourselves permission to “indulge”.

Why does “just one bite” often lead to a binge experience?

This is the basic law of food deprivation.

When we’re around an avoided food, our brains light up with interest — sometimes even as far as obsession. When we finally allow ourselves a bite, it’s often hard to stop.

Some clinicians connect the one bit to binge experience as food addiction. I’ve been keeping up with this research too, yet so far, it’s flawed. Until the researchers take into account food deprivation and habituation, the research means nothing — unless people become robots without free will.

Healing Hint: Rather than blaming yourself for the candy binge, consider the science behind the experience. Have you been dieting? Have you been limiting the variety in your food choices? Have you been disrespecting hunger? If your answer is “yes” to these questions, then point the finger at food deprivation.

Practice unconditional permission to eat

Allowing candy to remain around can help us navigate through different types of food. Is this too scary? You’re not alone.

There’s a way to heal this. It’s called unconditional permission to eat. When a person has true permission to choose any food, in any amount, eating according to physical hunger and fullness cues ⎯ this should be the norm. This won’t work if “permission” is tangled up with one of these familiar sabotaging statements:

  • I will just have one.
  • I will save up my calories to have candy tonight.
  • I will exercise off calories to have candy tonight.

When we view food choices with permission, we begin to experience healthy ways of relating to food. This concept is from the book, Intuitive Eating, by Tribole and Resch. Life changing work is done within the framework of eating intuitively. I encourage you to read it.

To feel safer during Halloween and other holidays, be curious as to why the binge is happening, or happened.

When you hear your self-talk blaming your lack of will-power or self-control, consider the science instead.

Blame diets, food rules, and body hate. Learning to experience food with self-compassion and trust will help you eat to promote health and peace.

Want to find a way to treat your PCOS without dieting?

I want to show you how!