The holiday season is full of opportunities for celebrating gratitude, family, love, faith and service. Food is often a big part of those celebrations, as it should be! However, it?s during the holiday season that many are tempted to adopt an all-or-nothing attitude toward food, throwing all caution to the wind only to punish themselves come January. Instead of falling prey to extremes in thinking and behavior that only leave you feeling exhausted physically and emotionally, these tips are aimed to help you enjoy the holiday season without feeling the need to pay penance.
1. First and foremost, I would recommend approaching holiday meals like any other meal. While it may include traditional foods, seeing the holiday meal as different usually means you choose to eat differently, losing sight of listening to hunger or fullness levels. Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating give you full permission to eat tasty and satisfying food all year round. I would encourage you not to just eat or continue eating because that?s what you are ?supposed? to do or have always done.
Essentially, you shouldn?t have to take a break from how you eat the first 9-10 months of the year. If your current eating patterns make you excited for a cheat day, a vacation or the holiday season, it?s probably a sign that your eating patterns (or at least your beliefs about food) are too restrictive. Restriction breeds rebellion and encourages the all-or-nothing mentality.
Come January 1st, you won?t feel the need to pay penance or set some short-lived diet goals. Find a flexible rhythm that balances your need for nourishment, pleasure and satisfaction while being sustainable and realistic. The body craves balance and, if you let it, will lead you to it.
2. While it?s easy to feel too busy to do so, be sure to continue eating regular, balanced meals (Carbohydrate, protein, fat, fruit and/or vegetable, with a snack in between if meal times are longer than 3-4 hours apart). It stabilizes blood sugar levels, which helps to reduce cravings. It also influences mood regulation as well as overall hormonal balance. That?s going to come in very handy in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and managing stressful situations and schedules. It will also allow you to stay level-headed about the abundance of food (anytime of the year).
3. While it could happen any time of the year, the holidays make mindless eating more likely. It?s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget to slow down, and food usually takes a back seat when that happens. I would encourage you to plate the food you are eating and allow yourself the time to sit and adequately enjoy it.
It?s always interesting to observe how much we talk about and anticipate food and how little time we actually spend preparing or eating it. Letting yourself actually taste and enjoy food puts you in a position to connect with intuitive signals of hunger, fullness and satisfaction.
4. My favorite quote from the book Intuitive Eating is: ?If you don?t love it, don?t eat it, and if you do love it, savor it? - Evelyn Tribole. LOVE the food you are eating. Get picky ? only eat what is truly satisfying and enjoyable for you. If you find yourself eating a treat or a portion of your meal that doesn?t taste good, leave it behind and move on to something that does. If you love your Grandma?s pumpkin pie and she only makes it once a year on Thanksgiving, allow yourself to eat it without self-inflicted shame or guilt.
Remember, unconditional permission to eat leads to less preoccupation with food and facilitates self-trust and wise decision making over time. Unconditional permission to eat also naturally gives you unconditional permission to stop eating. The fear of overeating usually leads us to restriction which is what actually causes overeating. Don?t get caught in that trap.
5. Don?t neglect your self-care plan - adequate sleep, setting and keeping healthy boundaries (it?s OK to say ?no?!), positive self-talk and enjoyable physical activity to name a few. These are easily abandoned during the holiday season, leading to burnout, fatigue and resentment. I think you?ll find the holidays more meaningful when you have the energy to enjoy them.
I hope I have given you full permission to make your health and well-being a priority during the holidays and beyond.
I wish you nothing but a healthy, happy and mindful holiday season!
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD
I saw this quote recently in a caption for a picture on Instagram from my friends at Moderation Movement. The minute I saw it I wanted to share it with the world. It is so perfectly said, so spot on and such a perfect summary of the issue.
Defining health as a number, a body fat % or a BMI is dangerous, ineffective and unhealthy. Health is defined by healthy behaviors, not by the size, shape or weight of your body. Continuing to believe that we can have an one-size-fits-all approach will not make anyone healthier and will only feed disordered eating and the diet culture. If we are truly worried about health - ours, our friends and family and/or all humanity - we've gotta embrace the fact that it will look different on every body.
I encourage you to focus on YOU and the only body you will ever have. The one body that needs your care, attention and respect regardless of it's size, shape or weight. No matter what it looks like, you can find health and wellbeing by listening to and responding to it's needs.
For the sake of your health, it's vital that you put weight on the backburner. Let your body find it's natural weight as you aim to connect with and take care of it.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD
It?s really easy to think that a positive body image means looking in the mirror and liking what you see. This belief will only limit you, keeping you stuck in the idea that body positivity is related to appearance.
Instead, body positivity has much more to do with how you care for, respect and connect with your body?s needs while cultivating gratitude for what it can do. It?s very likely that your body shape and size will change multiple times throughout your life and if you attach or cling to one certain image, you?ll likely lack acceptance while feeling powerless and frustrated.
It?s easy to feel like letting go of your quest for a different body shape and size means giving up. I think you?ll find the opposite is true. You won?t lose anything by letting go. Instead you?ll gain everything. Most importantly, you?ll find YOU. The you that?s been waiting patiently to start living a full and meaningful life outside of weight or body size preoccupation.
This is especially true if you have disordered eating patterns. You are fighting food because you are fighting your body. If you hope to make peace with food, you?ve gotta make peace with your body.
In the culture we live in, we aren?t naturally inclined toward body positivity. Although we come in all different shapes and sizes (naturally and biologically!), it?s easy to compare yourself to the thin ideal (or muscular ideal these days). It?s quite possible to live your whole life feeling broken and inferior.
You could choose to continue chasing diets and food rules until you finally meet your dream weight or body shape. OR, you could choose to find and embrace your true purpose for living which has nothing to do with the way you look. This will likely result in you taking care of your body in a way that allows you to live to your full potential, instead of living to get smaller. Don?t ever feel like you don?t have a choice. YOU get to decide.
While cultural influences may shape your expectations for what your body should look like, you hold the final judgment. We tend to be our own worst critic, being harder on ourselves than we would ever be to others. While it would be great to completely transform the unrealistic beauty standards that exist in society, a better and more effective goal will be to transform your own expectations of yourself.
I encourage you to take time to reevaluate the expectations you have for your body. I subscribe fully to the data we have on set-point theory. This means your body has a predetermined body shape, size and weight that it feels most comfortable at. Fighting against it will get you nowhere. The great paradox is that dieting, the method we use to lower our set-point, only works to increase it therefore causing weight gain long-term.
The good news is that health can be found at your natural weight, no matter what it is, and has much more to do with how you care for your body than what size it is. The only thing between you and this reality is the idea in your head of how things should be.
You can live from day to day with less body preoccupation. It may not be a realistic goal to love, or even like, your body - at least at first. By deciding to put your time and energy into things you find meaningful, enjoyable and important, you give less time and attention to the size or shape of your body.
I get it, it?s hard to let go. It feels super overwhelming, but I hope something in this blog post has given you a place to start. Maybe it?s aiming for body respect and/or weight-nuetrality rather than loving or even liking your body? Perhaps it?s to focus less on appearance and more on how your body is functioning and feeling? Maybe expressing gratitude for what it can do? What about practicing more self-compassion and positive self-talk?
Maybe more practical tips would include decreasing (ideally quitting) body checking, spending less time in front of the mirror, detoxing your media messages, and/or replacing negative thoughts with neutral ones (if positive thoughts feel too hard). Continual small steps forward is how you shift your mindset.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD
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