“One bite won’t hurt you!”
“You have to try this; I made it just for you!”
“Oh, lighten up! It’s the holidays!”
Comments like these are a familiar sound this time of year for those who want to avoid overdoing it on holiday sweets. And while it is true that one taste of something decadent is unlikely to upturn the whole healthy bandwagon, that doesn’t really matter. You have the right to eat – or not eat – whatever you want regardless of the time of year or by whom the food was made. So if you are anticipating being pressured to indulge, get to know The Feeders.
You probably know a feeder. You may even be one! Feeders are the people who try to feed us – whether by encouraging, cajoling, or downright pressuring us to eat what they have brought to you. Feeders are around us all year long, but they especially love the holidays. There are three types of feeders in my book, and each has their own motivation and can be handled with different responses. Do you see someone you know – or yourself – in these descriptions?
The Nurturing Feeder.
The Nurturing Feeder loves you. She knows your favorites, probably because she was there when you discovered them. This person wants you to feel their love and connect with you by reuniting you with happy memories. In the past, these favorite comfort foods may have indeed made you happy, so during this time it is not hard to understand why they are being presented to you. Feeding you is a gesture of love, and accepting the food is accepting the love. But the key word here is “nurture.” If the Nurturing Feeder wants to share affection and love with you, you can validate that without eating food that is unhealthy for you. Make sure they know how much you appreciate their special effort, and that you always remember this food being part of happy holidays. Keep the emphasis on feelings, not food, and make eye contact when giving thanks. This feeder wants connection; when you are connected in a meaningful way, the food take a minor role. Give this wonderful person a big hug, and transition away from it by saying, “I just want a taste, and I’m going to save it for later when I am hungry!” Then, change the subject to something else.
The People Pleasing Feeder.
The People Pleasing Feeder is a fantastic chef, and he knows it. People begin asking before Halloween if he is going to make his usual spread of delights, and he is thrilled to begin taking orders. The People Pleaser loves it when you enjoy what he’s made, because it validates that he’s good at something he enjoys doing. Who doesn’t like to hear praise and compliments? So, the People Pleaser may go around the office asking if you have tried the treat of the day, or even express disappointment if you decline a taste and encourage you to have some. Don’t worry. There are plenty of others in line, and you can nurture the People Pleaser without eating the fruits of his labor. Express interest in his recipe, ask about the cooking technique used in preparing it, stall and say that you will have some later, and trust that everyone else who has tasted it is telling the truth when they say it is delicious. You don’t have to prove it. The People Pleaser wants to know that you are impressed. You can be impressed without being stuffed.
The Controlling Feeder.
So far, our feeder friends have had good intentions. The Controlling Feeder, however, wants to take you down. If you have made significant changes in your life this year, it’s possible that some people feel left out or jealous of your progress. This person may be angry that you are not their partner in crime with a license to eat. You may hear words like, “food snob,” or “food police,” but don’t take them personally. These comments are not a reflection of you. Use humor to direct attention away from a tense exchange, and remember that ultimately your choices are a minor blip on the radar of other people. Sometimes controlling feeders will try to bring you around by fixing a plate for you. Move it around so it looks like you ate some. It worked when you were five and it still works today.
Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions? If you are a feeder, don’t worry! We all have times when we need validation from others – it is part of being human – and making food for people is absolutely an expression of love. Remember that love comes in many languages, and portion sizes. When someone feels comfortable enough with you to know that you will support their health goals, that is an expression of love, too.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so don’t let this stuff stress you out too much. In a few weeks we will all go back to normal, and what you ate or didn’t eat at the holiday party will be ancient history. Shower your feeder friends with so much love and validation that they forget they even made you something to eat in the first place!
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– HEATHER FUSELIER, CHWC, CFP, TTS
Health Advisor | Email Heather