I love the holiday food scene, from the creamy mashed potatoes to the cheesy casseroles to the sticky stuffing…and don’t get me started on the sweets. Nothing brings more joy to my tastebuds than a sizzling slice of pie with a scoop (or five) of vanilla ice cream.
Although holiday food is undeniably delicious, its presence causes anxiety for many people. Diet culture encourages us to pursue an unrealistic body type by cutting out foods deemed “bad”. This mindset is toxic, especially during the holidays when you are surrounded by these forbidden foods 24/7.
In past years, I constantly battled between what I “should” and “shouldn’t” eat. I felt miserable seeing other people enjoying treats that I denied myself, but if I indulged, my guilt weighed me down.
Now, my outlook is completely different. I eat intuitively and do not restrict anything from my diet. However, I know that not everyone has found balance with food. After Thanksgiving, several of my friends and acquaintances were beating themselves up, feeling disgusted because they “ate way too much of X” and “probably gained 20 pounds” and needed to go “work it all off”.
The stress and guilt tied to certain foods can definitely escalate during the holidays. Today, I’m sharing how to fight food guilt so that you can focus solely on celebrating the joys of the season!
DUMP THE FOOD RULES
The food rules we impose on ourselves probably came from something we’ve read, heard, or watched. Over time, it becomes engrained in your head that “dairy and gluten are the devil” or “eating past 7 p.m. is bad” or “carbs make you gain weight”. ETC.
Obeying these rules can give you a sense of control. However, this becomes dangerous when you take it to the extreme and become overly obsessive. Your internal dialogue about whether or not you should eat something might become all-consuming. The joy gets sucked out of food.
Instead of asking yourself if you can have something, ask yourself if you want it. Trash the rules! The shame they cause does not serve you. Allowing yourself full permission to eat whatever you want whenever you want may sound scary, but this mindset shift will subdue your urges to leap at every food that was once off-limits. Sure, you might have one too many cookies at first…but eventually, you will realize that they are not going anywhere. This freedom will relieve stress around food.
DON’T SKIP MEALS TO “SAVE SPACE”
During the holidays, it becomes common to skip breakfast or lunch in order to “make room” or “save calories” for a big dinner. It sounds harmless, but this practice can set you up for a binge later.
You don’t need to eat a 12-inch stack of pancakes for breakfast if a feast awaits you in a few hours, but there is no reason to omit a meal altogether. Your body deserves to be nourished at least three times a day. Plus, eating regularly beforehand will ensure that you are not ravenous come the feast, which will only lead you to overeat (and feel guilty about doing so).
WEAR CLOTHES YOU FEEL CONFIDENT IN
I love high-waisted skinny jeans and crop tops, but they just won’t cut it on Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Knowing that the holidays might result in a slightly fuller belly, pick an outfit that you will feel comfortable in no matter what. If trying to squeeze into a bodycon dress makes your body feel anything less than beautiful, ditch it. Wear something that you can embrace with confidence, whether you end up eating a kale salad or an abundance of buttered bread rolls.
EATING FOR PLEASURE IS OKAY
It sounds very doable to “eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied”. This idea has good intentions, but it completely ignores the fact that we humans have souls, not just stomachs. My stomach might not need a second serving of sweet potato casserole, but my soul sure does.
There are going to be occasions when you eat for experience rather than to ease physical hunger. Your body can manage it if you eat past fullness sometimes. In fact, a full belly can actually aid in improving digestion by prompting the process of moving things down. One day, a second plateful could be totally worth it. Another day, you might decide to honor your physical fullness and pass on an extra helping. Either way is A-OK.
ENJOY THE COMPANY
Hyper-analyzing food prevents you from being fully present and living in the moment. When you are too busy cloaking yourself in judgment, you are unable to wholly enjoy the people around you. Your memories should be centered around your loved ones, not the guilt you felt after dessert.
Engaging in conversation can distract you from your worries about food and remind you to direct your energy towards more important things. The holidays come once a year, and they are probably one of the only times you get to reunite with certain family members and friends. Cherish these moments!
INCORPORATE GENTLE MOVEMENT
Exercise should be a form of self-care, not a form of punishment. An extra slice of cake does not mean an extra 30 minutes on the treadmill. Our bodies are fully equipped to handle a little more food than normal on any given day. You do not need to interfere by working out strenuously.
Now, I am not telling you to forget about exercise. Movement is good for your body. But if you are not enjoying exercise, you are causing yourself more harm than good. Maybe intense HIIT sessions and 7 mile runs are your jam. If that’s the case, go for it! But gentle movement, like walking and yoga, are just as awesome.
Overall, remember that one meal, or even several, will not make or break you.
I am not saying that the holidays are a time to give up on healthy eating, but I think our society has a skewed definition of “healthy” eating. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and the anxiety and stress that many experience around certain foods can be more damaging than the foods themselves.
At the end of the day…eat that slice of pie. Enjoy it. Savor it. And don’t feel one bit guilty about it.
How do you fight food guilt during the holidays?