The holidays are often loaded with food guilt from family, friends, and colleagues, but you don't have to feel guilty around food this holiday season! Use these tips to help you enjoy the holidays without food guilt.
This post was originally published November 2016 and has been updated.
The holidays are a time of both joy and stress, but the goal is more joy and less stress, am I right? With the holiday season comes lots of holiday gatherings and parties, which inevitably involve a lot of food, booze, and sugary treats. Many people struggle with food guilt during the holiday season, but don't worry! I'm here to help you navigate the season without having to feel guilty about food.
First, let's be realistic about the holiday season and the exaggerated weight gain portrayed by the media. Studies show that average holiday weight gain is about 1-2 lbs. Hardly enough to freak out about. Your individual weight can fluctuate 4-5 lbs in a single day! So don't buy into the diet industry's BS about avoiding holiday weight gain. Your body knows how to handle excess food, you'll be just fine if you just trust yourself and listen to your body's inner cues.
So relax and enjoy the time with your family and friends, and take the pressure off of yourself by listening to your body and allowing yourself to fully savor this joyful time of year!
Here are my tips for enjoying the holidays without food guilt
Know That You Always Deserve To Eat
No matter what you ate or drank at a party last night or how many cookies you ate that your neighbor brought over, your body always deserves nourishment. So make sure you're eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day, and include a balance of protein, fiber, and fat. Not skipping meals will also keep your blood sugar more stable and help you avoid the restrict-binge cycle that tends to happen when we deprive ourselves only to go crazy on treats later.
Allow Yourself To Eat Your Favorite Holiday Foods
Part of what makes the holiday season so magical is the traditions that connect us with others, and those traditions often revolve around food. Don't deprive yourself of those foods that make the holidays special to you. When we restrict foods that we are truly craving, we often end up eating more by trying to fill the void with anything and everything that we deem 'healthier.' Instead, honor your body's cravings and truly savor the food you've been waiting all year for! When you give yourself unconditional permission to eat what you want, you'll often find that you're satisfied with less. Or even that you don't really love that one food you've been obsessing about and you can set it aside. Also remember that, yes, you can have that special food any time of the year that you wish. That will help take the pressure off of getting it all in right now.
You Are Also Allowed To Say 'No'
Often we can feel obligated to eat a family member's traditional dish, and some relatives can be downright pushy! But you have the right to honor your cravings and your fullness by saying, 'No thank you' if you're not feeling it. It's not your responsibility to make other people happy by eating their food, no matter how hard they might push. A 'maybe later' is always a good answer.
Don't Engage In Diet Talk
Holiday dinner tables can sometimes be the center of diet talk, with relatives declaring themselves 'bad' for eating dessert or pointing out the exercise they'll have to do to burn off this meal later. But you don't have to engage. You can politely excuse yourself from the table, change the subject, or say that the conversation is making you uncomfortable. You can also share your own view of finding peace with food without judgment. Your relatives may just want to relax and join you! You also have the right to fully enjoy a meal, even if somebody else is restricting the foods they are eating.
Notice How Your Body Feels After Eating Without Judgement
Sometimes we overeat at holiday meals. Sometimes we get busy and don't eat enough during the day, only to find ourselves frantically eating 4 Christmas cookies because we're starving and then end up with a sugar coma. Nothing about what you're eating makes you 'bad' or 'good', but some things can make you feel better than others. Be aware of how your body feels without judging yourself, and apply what you learn going forward throughout the season to make sure you're making food decisions to make yourself feel your best, not to appease others.
Hopefully with these tips, you feel a little more at ease going into the holidays. Relax, enjoy, and do what makes you feel the best!
What other strategies do you have for avoiding food guilt during the holidays?