It’s frankly impossible to get through the holidays without either saying yourself or hearing someone else say something shameful about indulging in food.
“I had three cookies! I’m so bad!”
“Wine and cheese tonight, extra treadmill time tomorrow!”
“I’m being good… no seconds for me!”
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say we need to let all of this go, ideally forever, but especially at the holidays. Here’s why I believe this and how we can begin to shed these attitudes and enjoy our celebrations (and their treats!) to the fullest.
1. Remember: food is more than just nutrition
I consulted a fellow dietitian friend on this topic and she offered this pearl of wisdom: “Food is more than nutrition. It’s also about sharing – sharing experiences and sharing celebration.” Every bite of food we take does not need to strictly be for the purpose of health. And I’d argue eating for enjoyment and pleasure is a healthy practice, especially at a time of year with so many beautiful and delicious food traditions.
2. Release yourself from restriction
This is a super scary concept for some, but food restriction is at the root of why we can experience so much guilt, shame and addiction around food. When we set up rules around what we can and cannot have, it only creates more fixation around food that we struggle to shake. Visions of sugar plums will not quit dancing in our heads until we have satisfied the craving. This is how we are wired! We are not addicted, weak-willed monsters I PROMISE. Breaking down those barriers allows us to eventually feel safe around foods that once terrified us. There is no longer a “forbidden fruit” mentality and we allow our bodies to get back to the self-regulation they do so well on their own. With that being said, here’s a fun goal:
3. ENJOY what you eat!
I want you to eat the foods you love this holiday. I loved this inspirational tidbit from one of my coworkers: “There are some Christmas foods that I look forward to all year and I will be sad if I don’t eat them. Like cookies. If I go through a whole holiday season without eating cookies, then I feel like I did it wrong. Same thing with eggnog. And, if we’re being very honest with ourselves, Cranberry Bliss Bars.”
I’ll say it again, eat the foods you want and savor the heck out of them. Be mindful about why you love this food so much and what it means to have it as a part of your holiday traditions (or maybe you discover you don’t care about it as much as you thought!). You may overeat, but try seeing this as an opportunity to learn about your hunger and fullness and how to better honor those physical cues in the future. In other words…
4. Give up the guilt
Guilt over what or how much we eat does nothing for us except steal our joy – something we should all get to experience, especially this time of year. Shaming yourself for eating the cookies you had fun baking, that lovingly prepared meal made by your mom or an amazing bottle of wine gifted to you by your friend absolutely detracts from your pleasure and memory-making. When you find yourself in the midst of this unhelpful thought pattern, try to stop and replace it with a grateful thought (“I enjoyed that creative time in my kitchen so much”, “Mom must really love us to feed us so well”, “What an amazing friend to give such a thoughtful, delicious gift!”). You will hold onto these good memories for years to come and they’ll only serve to multiply your holiday joy.
5. Bring back peace to your relationship with food
Every year’s end we ponder how to we might increase the peace in this world and make it better. I think a great place to begin is with ourselves at the table. Allowing food guilt and stress to overcome what ought to be a season of thanks and love does nothing to improve the quality of our lives or relationships, so getting to the root of it and getting rid of it for good is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.
If you have questions about how to relinquish food guilt this holiday season, want explore the aisles for some new things to add to your holiday table or would like to switch up your diet and add enjoyment to your eating experience, come see me! I am available every Wednesday and would love to shop with you. To set up a time, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 859-278-1813 ext. 232.