A reminder to ditch the diet mentality, savor the celebration and experience food freedom this holiday (and every day!)
While the holiday season symbolizes warmth, togetherness, and family; it can also evoke feelings of anxiety, especially around food. Preoccupation with weight and calories fosters unhealthy, guilt-ridden feelings about eating that harm relationships with our food and bodies.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Food is an important part of our culture and traditions, especially during times of celebration. Eating is one of the many ways that friends and family come together during the holidays, making it an experience that should be pleasurable and satisfying.
If you find yourself hyper-focusing on your holiday plate ("fear of blowing your diet", counting calories, restricting, etc.) you may feel better by simply letting go. Choose foods that you want to eat and stop stressful thoughts before they begin.
- Fuel up. If you’re going to an all-you-can-eat buffet, is the answer to “save up” all day by restricting? No. The same goes for holidays. Don’t skip meals or snacks as this will leave you over-hungry, deprived, and unable to truly enjoy the food when it finally comes around.
- Eat intuitively. Tune in, how are you feeling before and after eating? Are you ravenous, hungry, satiated, overfull? Do not restrict or stuff yourself to a point of discomfort. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re satiated.
- Shut down diet talk. Create a safe space for yourself and others by eliminating negative food and body talk. Statements about weight and the latest fad diet do not contribute to healthy relationships in any arena – or celebration for that matter! By leaving “fat talk” and the latest so-called weight-loss-wonder out of conversations you give everyone - including yourself - a chance to relax and eat freely, without judgment.
- Practice mindfulness. Are you eating in front of the TV? Computer? Looking at your phone? While driving? Turn off the screens and engage your senses by allowing the digestive process to fully take place. Put your fork down between bites and engage with those around you. The holidays are the perfect time to really savor and appreciate foods, especially your favorites!
- Find joy in movement. Do you enjoy dancing? Walking? Being outside? Yoga? Lifting weights? Make exercise less of a task and more of a self-care routine. Rest is equally important, so don’t be afraid to take a hot bath or read a book instead. Treat your body with kindness while moving and resting intuitively.
- Consider your relationship with food. Cease labeling foods as good or bad, clean or unclean, as all have a place in nourishing your body. All foods fit; no piece(s) of pie or rich casserole will make you "unhealthy". Restriction can lead to binging, shame, and various other poor outcomes. Don’t overthink your meal; instead, focus on being mindful and feeling good.
- Savor the foods that you desire and, remember, they can come again soon! Your favorite dish should not be limited to the holidays as this can sometimes cause anxiety and over-indulgence to a point of discomfort when the food is temporarily available. After all, life is for living not restricting!
However you plan on spending the holidays, take the opportunity to care for yourself rather than putting yourself down with feelings of guilt or shame. Now is a time for family, festivities, peace, and joy - embrace it!
Don’t let food rules steal your joy and connection. 2018 will thank you.
*Contributed to by CVwellbeing Intern Stephanie Zahares