Enjoy holiday foods without stressing out

By Jenni Wolf

How we’ve all managed to make it through this year to December, I am not sure. But I do know I am looking forward to celebrating the holidays and the festive things they bring, including food!

However, I know that’s not always the case for everyone.

The holiday season can cause a lot of stress when it comes to food and eating. Read on for some tips to help you enjoy holiday foods and celebrations without stressing out.

Eat regular meals—and snacks in between, too. Honoring your hunger throughout the day versus “saving up” for one big meal allows you to arrive at the meal hungry, but not so hungry that you are prone to overeating. When you show up to a meal ravenous, it is much harder to connect to authentic hunger and fullness cues and to stop before you feel too uncomfortable.

Know that it is normal to eat past fullness sometimes. That is part of being human and having a normal relationship with food. If you choose to have another scoop of mashed potatoes and overshoot your fullness, practice non-judgement and self-compassion.

Ask yourself why you chose to enjoy more? Chances are you like the taste, are enjoying your company, were still hungry, or may not have access to that food very often—all fine reasons to eat. If you’re unsure why you chose more or if it feels automatic, try practicing a mindfulness technique such as taking a pause or naming one thing you enjoy about the food on your plate.

Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Challenge the diet culture belief that you have to earn food or limit your intake. When you place conditions around food, that’s a form of restriction that often results in overeating, binging and feeling guilty about eating.

For example, if you believe eating a few Christmas cookies is “bad” or something you should try to avoid doing, then it won’t feel OK if you do that. But what if you reminded yourself that Christmas cookies can be a tasty, fun way to honor your hunger, to celebrate a holiday, or to find joy in a moment, not to mention provide you some carbs, protein and fat—all things you need? Chances are you would feel more permission to have them and less guilty enjoying them.

Last, remember that food is often a large part of holiday celebrations, but it is not the only thing. Putting food in context prevents it from having power and allows you to better connect with your values. Ask yourself what is it you want to remember about this time?

Is it how many holiday cookies you ate? Chance are it’s not. Chances are it is the memories and experiences with family, near or far, in-person or virtual, that are worth remembering.

Jenni Wolf, MS, RD, LD is a member of the Como neighborhood and a practicing Registered Dietitian in the community who is passionate about helping others nourish a positive and balanced relationship with food.

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