I hate morning talk show segments on holiday eating. OK, not the ones with amazing chefs demonstrating how to cook delicious, indulgent holiday recipes. I’m talking about the ones that are meant to keep you skinny through the holidays. The ones that make you fear all of your favorite family holiday recipes with “guess the calorie count” games. The ones that give you low-fat alternatives that they swear are just as delicious as the originals. The ones that pretend that one meal will make or break your health and that if you go to that party hungry, it’s all over for you.
I hate them because they suck the fun and life out of joining together with your friends and family to break bread. I hate them because they make an enemy out of your great Aunt Mary’s sweet potato pie. But most of all, I hate them because I don’t think their strategies even work. As a dietitian, there’s a few things that I’ve learned over the years. First of all, labeling foods as “bad,” “fattening” and “unhealthy” is not an effective way to eat less of those foods. In fact, food labels and restrictions tend to give a magnetic pull to certain foods that set you up for feelings of deprivation. These feelings put you at risk for overeating and even bingeing. Secondly, one meal (or day of eating) will not make or break your health. Not even close. And finally, entering a family eating situation with any goal other than to be grateful, enjoy the food and cherish your relationships is a good way to not get invited back next year.
So, with that in mind, I’ve made my very own holiday eating rules.
- Don’t make any foods off limits. There’s no need to introduce a food fight on a holiday. Enjoy all of your favorites without guilt.
- Eat the real thing. You wont be fooled by substitutes and it will take much more of a less preferred food to feel satisfied.
- Sit down and savor. Avoid mindless eating, grabbing handfuls off of the counter and secret eating that leaves you unfulfilled. Instead, give yourself full permission to eat, sit down and savor every bite. When we eat mindfully, we need much less food to feel satisfied.
- Eat your favorite foods first. When we save the best for last, it’s more difficult to stop when you’re full. So, make sure to indulge in your favorites first when your taste buds fresh and your pants are still comfortable.
- Eat enough to feel satisfied.
- Stop when you’re comfortably full. Remind yourself that there’s always leftovers and you can have them as soon as you’re hungry again.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season full of life, love and delicious food!