The holiday season is full of opportunities for celebrating gratitude, family, love, faith and service. Food is often a big part of those celebrations, as it should be! However, it’s during the holiday season that many are tempted to adopt an all-or-nothing attitude toward food, throwing all caution to the wind only to punish themselves come January. Instead of falling prey to extremes in thinking and behavior that only leave you feeling exhausted physically and emotionally, these tips are aimed to help you enjoy the holiday season without feeling the need to pay penance.
1. First and foremost, I would recommend approaching holiday meals like any other meal. While it may include traditional foods, seeing the holiday meal as different usually means you choose to eat differently, losing sight of listening to hunger or fullness levels. Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating give you full permission to eat tasty and satisfying food all year round. I would encourage you not to just eat because that’s what you are “supposed” to do or have always done.
2. Be sure to continue eating regular, balanced meals. It stabilizes blood sugar levels, which helps to reduce cravings. It also influences mood regulation as well as overall hormonal balance. That’s going to come in very handy in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and managing stressful situations and schedules. It will also allow you to stay level-headed about the abundance of food.
3. While it could happen anytime of the year, the holidays make mindless eating more likely. I would encourage you to plate the food you are eating and allow yourself the time to sit and adequately enjoy it.
4. LOVE the food you are eating. Get picky – only eat what is truly satisfying and enjoyable for you. If you find yourself eating a treat or a portion of your meal that doesn’t taste good, leave it behind and move on to something that does. If you love your Grandma’s pumpkin pie and she only makes it once a year on Thanksgiving, you better have a piece but allow yourself to eat it without self-inflicted shame or guilt.
As a side note, with the abundance of novelty foods available to you this time of year, you may wish to pass on the store-bought chips, cookies, dips and crackers, which are easy to find anytime. But if they appeal to you, go for it! Remember, unconditional permission to eat leads to less preoccupation with food and facilitates self-trust and wise decision making over time.
5. Make traditions with family and friends that have nothing to do with food. Take a walk, play games, or compete in a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Bowl. Find ways to celebrate what the holidays are really about!
6. Don’t neglect your self-care plan - adequate sleep, setting and keeping healthy boundaries (it’s OK to say “no”!), positive self-talk and enjoyable physical activity to name a few. These are easily abandoned during the holiday season, leading to burnout, fatigue and resentment. The holidays are not a time to feel that way!
I wish you nothing but a healthy, happy and mindful holiday season!
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD