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!

Permission this Thanksgiving



Ready for a school day throw back that makes sense present day?

Before you’re permitted to head out for your Thanksgiving festivities, you must sign and date this permission slip. No exceptions. If you forget, you will have to help me clean the blackboard erasers (memories!).

________________ has permission to enjoy and find pleasure during Thanksgiving planning, preparation, and food consumption. I, the undersigned, recognize many of these foods are not commonly available nor do I usually eat around the other event participants. In the event of a potential emergency and I am unable to eat according to my personal body hunger/fullness cues, the individual action in response to the emergency will be held blameless. I hereby give myself permission to not dwell on this nor allow myself to feel guilt. I will trust that my body will work out this kink by sending less hunger cues in the next few days or so as long as I do not mess with this system.

Your Signature


Holiday Survive + Thrive: Don’t Skip Meals


The holiday season is upon us, and I want you to feel emotionally and physically well. Hectic schedules and travel are enough to send stress levels to the moon. Throw in pumpkin pie, cookies, and mashed potatoes, and now we’re off to Pluto!

Here’s a secret to help you remain sane this holiday: don’t skip meals. Before you start calculating calories or carbs, consider these reasons.

Skipping meals promotes bingeing

Although it may seem productive to skip breakfast to “allow” for more food consumption later, research has long been suggesting just the opposite.

Every binge starts with not eating enough earlier in the day. Skipping a meal amounts to “prolonged food deprivation”, in which the human brain fixates on food. This makes the celebratory meal even more enticing, and will make it tough to stop eating at a comfortable fullness and satiety level.

If you follow a typical day’s intake of 3 meals and a couple of snacks on the day of the holiday meal, you can then just experience the holiday meal as a normal meal, instead of a binge.

Skipping meals promotes irritability

From the Oxford Dictionary:

han·gry [ˈhaNGɡrē]


bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger: “I get very hangry if I miss a meal”

Have you been hangry? Have you seen the Snickers Candy Bar commercials, where the tag line is: “You’re not YOU when you’re hungry”? Can you relate?

We know that going too long without eating lowers blood sugar. And often, a sign of low blood sugar is irritability. I’ve heard from many people that holiday family time can be trying enough on its own; you definitely don’t want to add your own irritability on top of it!

To keep the peace, at least within yourself, keep to regular meal and snack times.

Allow the focus of the holidays to remain on what’s important

We give food too much power.

Turkey, stuffing, cookies, cakes and other holiday delights taste great and are fun. Avoiding one or more meals to feel justified to eat that one special meal only backfires. Instead of giving permission, it promotes bingeing and moodiness. Even more, meal-skipping keeps our minds focused on eating instead of the reason for the season. Food ends up being a distraction instead of the great connector to holiday traditions, culture, family, and friends.

Holiday Survive + Thrive: Setting Boundaries


Is it holiday season already? I just put away our Halloween decorations, and we’re already knee deep in holiday drama. I’m not talking about the Cup-gate controversy, but rather, the emotional toll that holiday experiences have on those struggling with eating and weight concerns.

Over the next few months, I’ll be blogging about how to experience the holidays in a way that protects your eating recovery and sanity. Before we even get to dishing about food, let’s discuss how to set up your holidays to prevent eating difficulties and protect yourself when times get challenging.

Setting up healthy boundaries can be tough for anyone, but by learning how to make the boundaries stick, you can put your eating at ease. Consider these boundary options and get the ball rolling now. Preplanning will make them easier to keep.

You have permission to pick and choose which holiday events to attend

Do you feel overwhelmed from the pressure to attend two Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners? Do you wish you could spend a holiday at home instead of at someone else’s place? At this time of the year, a time that is associated with merriment and food, you may find yourself fixated on your eating and/or body image. Sometimes binge-eating, over-exercising, and other disordered eating behaviors are ways that your psyche communicates unmet needs or minimized feelings. Stop and pay attention.  There’s a message that you need to hear.  The following link may help you recognize when you’re getting stuck in this type of eating disorder behavior rut: click here.

Eating disorder behaviors are a white flag of surrender, gently nudging you to set a boundary. For example, your desire to stay home with close family or friends is just as important as distant Aunt Edna wanting you to be at her home. Your needs are just as important as anyone else’s. Even more, not meeting your needs may be behind your disordered eating and negative body image.

It is okay to say No to holiday invitations. Choosing to meet your needs by setting an event boundary is not self-ish- it’s self-care.

You have permission to decide the timetable at the events

Do you find hanging out with certain family members or friends feels okay, or even enjoyable – for a little while? You may notice that the first few hours are fun and feel safe.

When do things get chaotic? When do the family arguments escalate? Looking back at past holiday events, consider how long it took for things to go from fun to unbearable.  Do you remember what caused you to want to leave – and how long after you got there it happened? This is your time boundary.

This year, stay 10 minutes less than that time boundary. It’s okay to shorten how long you visit with family and friends.

You have permission to choose what you put on your plate

Do you attend two Thanksgiving dinners, yet feel the pressure to eat full meals at both? This year, decide to let your body decide how much to eat. While setting this boundary, expect that some people may try to get you to eat more or make you feel guilty for not eating more as if the amount you eat is an insult to the host.

For example, if you attend two Thanksgiving dinners, plan to attend one for the main meal and the second for dessert. The hosts will appreciate prior notice of your plans, and it will help you honor your boundaries. While eating the main course and you’re offered seconds, it’s okay to say, “Thank you, but I’m looking forward to dessert at Grandma’s house in a bit.” If they keep pushing, try “Thank you, and I appreciate you taking the time to prepare this incredible meal, but instead of eating more now, can I wrap some up to take home?”

What if they still keep pushing? Evelyn Tribole, RD, author of Intuitive Eating, suggests being a “broken record”. Keep repeating your set boundary – and don’t back down.

What if, instead of pushing more food, you hear concerns about eating too much? Health trolls, often well meaning, may think that they know the best food choices for you. I encourage you to try the “broken record” here too. Just say, “Thank you for your concern, but I really want another helping.” YOU are the expert of your body. Letting others decide what’s best for you crosses an important boundary.

You have permission to choose to respond, if at all, to body commentary and diet talk

I have a sign hanging in my home that let’s people know that body disparagement and diet talk are not tolerated there. We also do not tolerate racial slurs. These areas are firm boundaries that we, as a family, have decided to have zero tolerance for in our home and around our children.

There are other areas that we choose to tolerate or not. This may depend on who is speaking or if I’ve had my morning coffee yet. I encourage you to decide, before the holidays, which topics on eating and weight you’ll tolerate, and set this as your boundary. You may choose to further break this down, based on who is making the statements, where it’s being made and the situation in which the statement was made.

It’s okay to not want to hear how others experience your body shape. It’s also okay, at times, for you to let it go and just ignore it. Maybe other times you’d like to respond.  You get to decide.

Do you need help with how to respond to body comments or diet-talk? Check out Ragen Chastain’s Dances with Fat blog and, especially, this particular post where she deals with inappropriate comments.