Ditch the Diet & Enjoy Holiday Eating With 7 Tips
Who hasn’t skipped meals or eaten lighter in anticipation of holiday parties and big family Christmas dinners? And then donned the stretchiest pants possible for post-eating bloat that drives us in misery to recover on the couch? The diet starts January 1st, right?
It’s possible to enjoy holiday meals and gatherings without the guilt of overeating, the fear of upsetting Aunt Mildred by not consuming her terrible pecan pie, and the depression of falling off the diet wagon. Nutritionist, Elyse Resch, author of Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works offers these tips for eating your cake and enjoying it, too, this holiday season.
1. Ditch the Diet
Make sure you don’t come from a dieting mentality as you enter the holidays, because when you come from a place of restriction, you view the holidays as license to let loose and not pay attention to full signals of hunger and fullness, which results in overeating.
2. Honor Your Hunger
Do not avoid hunger thinking you’re doing yourself a favor by not eating now because you plan to eat so much later. Always make sure you eat breakfast and lunch, otherwise your body goes into primal hunger, which leads to overeating.
Appetizers are perfect snacks between meals. Put everything you see that you like on the plate, and sit down to enjoy it, rather than grazing. Make it your conscience snack. When you graze all afternoon, you have no idea how much you consume and you won’t get as much satisfaction out of the meal.
3. Stay Present
Stay mindful about hunger, fullness, tastes and emotions. If it helps, do a little meditation so that you stay present during the experience of the holiday. Too often people push away their feelings and thoughts by eating.
4. Focus on Satisfaction
Satisfaction starts with making peace with food. Ditch the restrictive dieting mentality, and tell yourself you can eat what you want when you’re hungry, so that you can get satisfaction from it.
Eat when you’re moderately hungry – don’t wait until you’re starving and don’t continue eating when you’re full. Check in with your body to find out which foods taste good. Are you eating a dish you don’t really like just because it’s sweet?
Take a time out – take some deep breaths and ask yourself if you’re still hungry.
5. Focus on Emotions
Holidays create stress, whether that stress pertains to food preparation or being around people they’re uncomfortable with. Navigating a party situation can be stressful. Remember to focus on joy and gratitude; on being healthy and alive; on being surrounded by family and friends; and on having wonderful food and festivities.
When you push away feelings with food, you push away the positive along with the negative. For those people who feel particularly intense stress during the holidays, I teach preparation and rehearsal.
Prepare by thinking about an event situation beforehand: who will be there and how do they make you feel? How will you handle the eating situation? Rehearse by running through scenarios: what will it be like if this or that happens and I use food to cope? What will it be like without food? Ask yourself what strategies you have to cope. What will you do if you’re really upset? Think about taking a time out and calling a friend or making a quick little note on paper or in your phone.
When you prepare for something – make a coping plan – situations are easier to navigate.
6. Intuitive Drinking
For some, excessive drinking becomes a problem during the holidays as it affects eating habits. Think about how alcohol affects you. What is your limit? Where’s the point that you disinhibit and lose sight of all feeling and thought? Think about it in advance, and decide how much to drink or if you should refrain from drinking altogether.
7. Just Say, “No”
People start to feel like they have to take care of other people’s feelings by accepting the food that’s offered. You don’t have to prove anything to people – you eat in touch with your own body’s needs.
Come to terms with the fact that it’s your body, your fullness, your taste preference. Set up those boundaries so you know it’s okay to say “No” to comments about food or to food being pushed on you. Nobody has a right to push you too hard; but, you have to be strong enough to say, “Thank you. I appreciate it. But I’m not hungry anymore.” Be assertive.
Don’t set January 1st as your healthy eating benchmark because thinking about future diets inhibits current eating. The holiday season is a special time in terms of being around people you love and taking vacations from work, but it’s not a special eating time. Sure, there are certain foods served during Thanksgiving and Christmas such as pumpkin pie that you don’t normally eat throughout the year, but now is not the only opportunity to have those foods. Remember that.
Every time you eat, you have the opportunity to enjoy satisfying foods in a pleasurable environment. You always have a license to eat what you want.
Elyse Resch M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A., Nutrition Therapist has been in private practice in Beverly Hill as a nutrition therapist for over 28 years, specializing in the treatment of eating disorders, intuitive eating, and preventative nutrition. She is a certified child and obesity expert and was the treatment team nutritionist on the Eating Disorder Unit at Beverly Hills Medical Center.