How Self-curiosity Will Get You Through the Holidays

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How Self-curiosity Will Get You Through the Holidays

This blog post represents the author’s views and should not be interpreted as professional/medical advice or endorsed by NEDA.

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Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, MEd

This holiday season, imagine looking forward to festivities and feeling more at ease with food and your body. A simple mental shift is key to making this a reality: moving from being judgmental to curious about your eating and emotions.

Why you dread holiday eating

If you’re like many dysregulated eaters, you likely feel anxious about the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, fearing you won’t meet your own or others’ expectations. Chances are you’re already judging how you will look, eat, and behave at get togethers and worrying what others will say or think about you. Sadly, these judgments will only erode your sense of well-being before, during, and after the holidays.

You may dread the holidays because you want to present yourself in a certain way and fear disappointing yourself and others by eating, saying or doing the “wrong” thing. Judgment springs from a “should” and “shouldn’t” mentality, which shuts down curiosity and reinforces viewing thoughts, feelings and actions, eating and otherwise, as either good or bad. No wonder the holidays are so stressful.

Why judgment fails as a motivator

People judge themselves harshly because they believe it leads to doing better and that the harder you are on yourself the more likely you are to succeed. However, more often than not, the harder we are on ourselves, the worse we feel and the less motivated we are to improve. Not only do we feel awful, we can’t see a way out of it.

When we feel bad, we become so weighed down by guilt and shame that our plans for betterment disappear and we end up having as disappointing a holiday as we feared. Alternately, to escape distressing feelings, we view the holidays through rose-colored glasses and force ourselves to be upbeat and think everything will be fine. Then, when reality hits, we’re unprepared and berate ourselves for once again not knowing better.

Why curiosity succeeds as a motivator

Curiosity, on the other hand, shifts our thinking and lightens our spirits. We feel more energetic and perhaps even excited when we’re curious because it nudges us toward learning and emotional growth. We also get the joy and satisfaction of recognizing subtle shifts as well as seeing changes in ourselves.

Curiosity helps us see that whatever our experiences—undereating, overeating, being a higher or lower weight than we were last year, fraying relationships, or squabbling families—we’re gaining more knowledge about ourselves and our world. Whether we eat that dessert or forgo it, feel adored or ignored by relatives, finish the food on our plates or not, enjoy friendships or allow them to die, we can choose to turn away from judgment and steadfastly remain curious about what’s happening within and around us.

Curiosity beckons us forward, invites us to deepen our relationship with ourselves, and puts us on a path paved with self-awareness and self-knowledge. By shedding judgment and embracing curiosity, who knows how wonderful the holiday season might be this year?

Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed., is a psychotherapist and international, award-winning 8-book author. Her books and blogs for chronic dieters, emotional, and binge eaters are full of humor and practical wisdom and have been called “therapy on the page.” With 35 years of experience in the field of eating psychology, she teaches people how to eat “normally” and create a joyous, healthy, meaningful life for themselves. Her media experience includes scores of TV, radio, print and podcast interviews. She lives and practices in Sarasota, Florida and her website is