The holidays are just around the corner and with them comes plenty of food and time spent with loved ones!
But for many people, the holiday season can also bring feelings of overwhelm and guilt over what foods to be eating and how much. In a diet-centric society, there are a lot of conflicting messages out there about how to handle food during the holidays.
Do you need to burn off the calories you ate? Do you have to say yes to every food offered to you? What about the pumpkin pie?
These are all questions I’ve heard before from my nutrition clients when this time of the year rolls around. As a non-diet and food freedom dietitian, I walk my clients through how to use intuitive eating and food freedom principles around the holiday time.
This led me to create this blog post today because I knew that there were more of you with these exact questions! Keep reading to learn my best tips for releasing stress and food guilt around holiday meals.
If you haven’t already, make sure to check out my latest blog post on why diets don't work and what you can do instead!
Letting Go of Stress Around Food and Finding Food Freedom
I encourage you all to take a moment to remember what the holidays are really about. Your mind probably reflects on spending time with your family and friends, doing activities that you love, slowing down, and celebrating however feels best for you.
This should be your priority as you enter the holiday season! Seeking out fulfillment and enjoyment, without any unnecessary added stress. Now take this idea and apply it to the food you eat as well.
An important principle of Intuitive Eating is to release the idea of “good” and “bad” foods. All foods are just food. That’s it!
How are you supposed to enjoy the holidays if you’re constantly stressed about what you are going to eat?
Don’t let food rules and a diet mentality ruin your holiday season. This is a time of the year that is supposed to be about celebration and family traditions. You don’t need to “healthify” your favorite cultural foods or pick out the “sugar-free” cheesecake.
So if you want to eat that pumpkin pie for breakfast, then do it! If you want to have potatoes and pasta, go for it. The holidays only happen once a year and you don’t want to miss out because you were too stressed about food choices.
Letting go of this stress around food will allow you to be more present and in the moment. It gives you permission to eat what and how much you want, without any food guilt.
Tune In to Your Hunger and Fullness Cues
If you are familiar with Intuitive Eating, then you know the importance of honoring your hunger and fullness cues. This means tuning into your body and recognizing when you start to feel hungry and when you feel full.
Just because it is the holiday season doesn’t mean you have to stop honoring what your body is telling you! Learning and respecting your internal cues can help you navigate the holidays are an Intuitive Eater.
Here are a few ways to honor your hunger and fullness cues:
It’s okay to say no to food if you are too full or do not want it. Even if someone else made it!
If you are at a family or friend’s house and can’t finish your plate, ask if you can take some of the food home with you. You can also do this with dessert and second servings.
Honor your cravings! Give yourself full permission to have any type of food if you want it.
Eat a second serving if you are still hungry. It’s okay to go back in for more if you don’t feel full yet.
Let Go of the Numbers
While I highly encourage you to let go of the numbers all year round, this is especially true during the holiday season.
The holidays are not a time when you need to be counting calories or weighing out every ingredient on a food scale. Worrying about the numbers will only add extra stress and restriction that aren’t necessary.
Additionally, as I mentioned briefly above, you don’t need to change every recipe to include lower-calorie or “healthier” ingredients. You can use full-fat butter and regular cane sugar!
This is especially true for cultural foods and traditional meals. Many families have recipes and meals that they make that are important to them. You don’t need to change the recipe or not eat the food just because you view it as having “too many calories” or being “too fattening”.
Well if I do eat a large meal, I need to burn it off with exercise the next day… right?
Actually, wrong! You never need to exercise to make up for any calories you ate. You don’t have to wake up early on Black Friday and run four miles because you had an extra slice of pumpkin pie.
Seriously, despite what the Kardashians tell you, this isn’t how your body or food works. You can eat a second helping of food and you don’t need to work out any harder the next day. Or at all!
Now if you want to exercise in a mindful way that feels good to you, that’s perfectly okay. But make sure your intentions are in the right place.
Take Time to Appreciate the Food
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that an abundance of delicious food is a privilege. Not everyone gets the opportunity to indulge in different food choices during the holidays.
Take the time to appreciate and show gratitude for the food you get to eat. Tell yourself, “I get to eat these foods” instead of “I have to eat these foods”.
One way you can show appreciation for your food is to slow down and savor it. Instead of diving right in and filling yourself up, take it slow and appreciate all of the amazing flavors and aromas of the food.
If it would feel supportive to you, you can take a moment before or after your holiday meals to express gratitude for the food on your plate. A simple idea is to go around the table and have everyone share which dish was their favorite!
Intuitive Eater’s Holiday Bill of Rights
As an Intuitive Eater, here are 7 rights you have during the holiday season. These ideas will help you embrace a healthy relationship with food, your mindset, and your body.
You have the right to savor your meal, without cajoling or judgment, and without discussion of calories eaten or the amount of exercise needed to burn off said calories.
You have the right to enjoy a second serving without apology.
You have the right to honor your fullness, even if that means saying “no thank you” to dessert or a second helping of food.
It is not your responsibility to make someone happy by overeating, even if it took hours to prepare a specialty holiday dish.
You have the right to say, “No thank you,” without explanation when offered more food.
You have the right to stick to your original answer of “no”, even if you are asked multiple times. Just calmly and politely repeat “No, thank you, really.”
You have the right to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast.
I also wanted to share this amazing quote from Evelyn Tribole herself,
“Remember, no one, except for you, knows how you feel, both emotionally and physically. Only you can be the expert of your body, which requires inner attunement, rather than the external, well-meaning, suggestions from family."
Don’t let food guilt and stress keep you from enjoying this holiday season. Now is the time to put your intuitive eating skills to use and ditch the dieting mentality for good.
I hope you are able to slow down, sit back, and enjoy these next few months surrounded by good people and good food. I know I will be!
Are you looking for a way to connect with like-minded people about intuitive eating? Check out my Intuitive Eating Support Group! You can find out more information at this link.