Last week during my Target shopping I was bombarded by the Easter candy. Are you feeling nervous about Easter, wondering how you’ll make it through the holiday without overdoing it?
Dear one, you’re not alone.
I’d like to share what helps me so that you can take a deep breath, exhale and soften your anxiety about Easter or any holiday.
Holidays are tricky because they bring up sugar nostalgia.
We’re reminded of decades of holiday memories that are wrapped around sugar: chocolate Easter bunnies, jelly beans, cake, punch, honey-baked hams….
In my experience, it’s this sugar nostalgia — a longing for something that feels safe, predictable, reliable (the same holiday rituals) — that makes the holidays so difficult.
This is true whether or not our memory is reliable – whether or not our actual holiday experience was safe or comfortable. It’s an imagined past that we crave, because it feels so much better than the current reality.
It can feel like a deep longing for “home,” for childhood, for innocence, for a time when all felt good and comforting
Life is inherently unpredictable. For me, the fact that everything is always changing and is out of my control feels so terrifying at times that I just want to run and hide. (Or cuddle with my childhood teddy bear. Yes, I still have it!)
If I can look back to a holiday, to when my children were younger, or when I lived in a certain town, or when I was little, or when I was eating sugar as a perfect time, when all was beautiful, well, then…
Of course, our nostalgia isn’t true. We know that life wasn’t perfect back then. But we forget this truth when we look back! It’s selective amnesia.
When I’m lost in sugar nostalgia I focus on what was pleasurable – the taste of sugar – and forget the pain – the bingeing, the upset tummy, the bulimia, the mood swings, the out of control overeating, and more.
When we eat sugar out of sugar nostalgia, we eat the sugar expecting just the pleasure. And we feel a bit surprised when the pain comes with it. Oh yeah, now I remember.
I appreciate that nostalgia is so comfortable, so tempting, a refuge. I appreciate that a holiday without sugar can feel inside out, sad, unmooring, or like something’s missing. And I know that change brings discomfort.
I’ll be the first to say how much I resist, dislike and avoid change. I love the familiar. (I was the child who wanted to go to camp, but as soon as I got there, all I wanted to do was go home!)
The familiar feels cozy, safe, comfortable, like a pair of slippers perfectly molded to my feet.
By contrast, change feels unmooring, groundless, uncomfortable, unstable. It’s a combination of aversion/dislike (I don’t like these uncomfortable feelings!), grief (sadness over what has been lost, what has changed and what is no more), and fear (can I be happy in this new stage?)
So our task is this:
How do we turn from sugar nostalgia and find comfort right now, in this holiday, in this present moment?
There are several things you can do to support yourself. Think of it as coming alongside yourself in love, care and compassion, just as a good friend would. Think of it as being kind to yourself in the face of something difficult.
Here are the tools that help me:
- Trade the false refuge of sugar nostalgia for true refuge. What we really want is love. Inner peace. Freedom. We feel love when we’re present, in this moment, and when we connect with the loved ones around us. We feel peace when we stop fighting against ourselves and accept ourselves as we are – and this includes all our feelings and longings and cravings. We feel free when we allow all our feelings, even our dislike of saying no to sugar!
- Remember, it will ease. The first holiday without sugar is the hardest. Over time, it does get easier, because you have something to refer back to. So talk very, very kindly to yourself that first holiday. Think of how you’d talk to a child who is doing something that feels scary for the first time – like riding a bike. Give yourself the same encouragement and support.
- Give yourself anchors. An anchor is something that helps you feel safe, grounded, and secure when you’re feeling the groundlessness of change. It’s giving ourselves a warm hug of what’s familiar. So think about how your daily routines can be anchors – eating regular meals, eating favorite sugar free meals, being with people you love, having non sugar holiday rituals that you repeat over and over.
- Allow your feelings. Don’t fight your feelings. Allow them. I talk to my feelings and to myself all the time. I say things like, “You’re feeling anxious right now. It’s okay. You can feel anxious.” Allowing is powerful because it softens our inner tension – we don’t fight against our feelings (which arise all on their own anyway! They’re a part of the life that moves through us and are meant to be felt and to flow, not controlled.) It’s this softening/ allowing that creates the flow. Download my free Binge Rescue worksheet. It gives you a script to follow.
- Remember you can have mixed feelings! I wrote about integrative functioning here, a term that comes from Dr. Gordon Neufeld. We can practice integrative functioning with our self talk. Instead of judging ourselves (“You shouldn’t feel scared, so buck up!”) or talking over our feelings with false, positive self talk (“You’re getting better and better in every way!”) try integrative self talk, which is an AND approach. Here’s an example: “I know this feels uncomfortable and I know you don’t like it AND I know you can do this.” This kind of self talk allows you to have all your feelings (I know this feels uncomfortable and you don’t like this) while also encouraging you to honor your intentions (and I know you can handle this.)
- Version 3 of Overcoming Sugar Addiction. The latest and greatest version of Overcoming Sugar Addiction is now up and for sale with a new chapter on finding the deepest freedom, what I learned these past 2 years when I lost my sugar abstinence and went through a very difficult time. Get a Kindle or Nook version when you buy the ebook version from me. (Amazon.com doesn’t yet have the new version.)