For some, the holiday frenzy has already started. For others, it all begins this week. The five-plus weeks of holiday indulgence from holiday parties, family dinners, and the continuous smorgasbord of sweets in the office has officially hit. Stress, social eating, and schedule overload can be the perfect storm for overeating.
Most of us start the season with good intentions, thinking to ourselves that this year will be different. But as we see another plate of those Oreo truffles being passed around, our willpower collapses and the temptation can no longer be resisted. I know, I’ve tried doing that before in the past, too.
The good news is – you don’t have to resist! As a registered dietitian, I give you full permission to have that Oreo truffle, pumpkin pie, or Grandma’s fudge without the guilt or remorse. Finding a balance between restrictions and overeating, such as allowing yourself a treat once in a while, may actually be what you need to keep the weight off this holiday season and throughout the New Year.
Just like any time of year, restrictions don’t end up working very well for us, especially our waistline. If we restrict ourselves of anything, we’re more likely to be tempted by it. As a result, we’ll often end up binging on the thing we wanted most, not to mention a lot of other foods we wouldn’t normally eat (Anybody else watching This is Us out there and just watched the latest episode, too?! Perfect illustration of this.). Rather than feeling satisfied, this leaves us feeling guilty, sick, and perhaps even upset. This vicious cycle of restricting, binging, and feeling guilty continues until we finally realize that forming a healthier relationship with food is the only way to break the cycle.
This time of year is the perfect time to practice changing your relationship with food and creating a healthy balance. Here are some tips on how to get started:
Eat with intention and attention.
Food rules are abundant around the holidays and we often can get in the trap of making ourselves abide by several of these rules. Rather than focusing on external food rules, set your intentions on how you want to feel after you get done eating and eat with full attention on your food and body. Doing this helps you more fully enjoy the eating experience and leaves you satisfied rather than stuffed.
Eat when you’re physically hungry.
Instead of eating because everybody else is eating or because you’re bored at the work party, listen to your body and decide whether you’re actually physically hungry before you dig in. Eating when you’re truly hungry will help you fully enjoy what you’re eating.
Savor each bite.
Choose foods that taste good to maximize your enjoyment. One of my favorite sayings is, “If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. But if you love it, savor it.” This is especially true during the holidays when there are treats and appetizers at every turn. Mindfully eating helps you avoid having the “throw in the towel” mindset and guides you to have foods you truly want and leave behind the rest.
Know you can have it later.
Avoid telling yourself “I can only have this once a year.” Instead, tell yourself, “I can have more later.” Research has shown that those who know they can have the meal or food another time often eat less than those who think it’s the only time they’ll be able to have it. Similar to the Law of Diminishing Returns, that first bite of pie always tastes the best. Each bite after that is progressively less satisfying as you become less and less hungry. Remind yourself it’ll taste better if you set it aside for another time.
Say no to “food pushers.”
We know who they are and you may be one yourself—the family member who pressures you to eat more or urges you to try a new holiday dish when you’re already full. Brainstorm and rehearse ahead of time how to handle these situations to make it easier to say no. Politely saying, “This is delicious, but I’m full,” or a simple, “No, thank you,” on repeat will likely do the trick.
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving! See you on the flip side!