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, don’t plan to diet or follow some sort of meal plan after the new year. That’s a sure fire way to trigger the all-or-nothing mindset during the holidays. If you know restriction, deprivation or a diet is around the corner, it can create "last meal syndrome" where you get all of it right now even if it means consistently feeling stuffed and uncomfortable.
2. Along with that, be sure you are eating consistently, regularly and adequately rather than skipping meals or saving up for holiday meals. If you go into a meal starving, it's hard to stay level headed about how much and what you eat. Regular, balanced meals will 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. Taking care of yourself doesn't need to come last!
3. 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. Remember that you can have tasty, flavorful, satisfying meals any day of the year. This doesn’t have to be reserved only for holidays. Even make your favorite holiday dish at other times during the year or at least during the season.
4. LOVE the food you are eating. Get picky – 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.
5. Make memories and find meaning in what you’re celebrating. Food is a fun part of that - and perhaps symbolic - but it’s not THE celebration. That can help put food in perspective, making it less overwhelming or preoccupying.
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6. You may overeat, that happens. Trust that your body knows how to self-moderate; it can handle it without needing self-imposed restriction and rules. Be intentional about listening and learning and respecting what it's needing. That could take practice! Recommit to yourself rather than recommitting to a diet or set of food rules.
I wish you nothing but a healthy, happy and mindful holiday season!
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