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Tackling Food Guilt During the Holidays

Food Guilt During the Holiday Season

We are surrounded by constant messages and advertisements selling weight loss drinks, protein, fitness programs, and more. The society we live in is consumed with eating the “right foods” all the time. So, it makes sense that food guilt often follows after eating something perceived as “unhealthy”.

One study found that a negative thought process surrounding food or body weight may lead to food restraint. This can lead to binge eating and the potential for subsequent food quilt.

Food guilt may arise as a result of society's unrealistic expectations. Society views weight loss is a measure of health, yet other strategies have been found to yield better outcomes in the long run.

Practicing Mindfulness this Holiday Season:

Mindfulness and intuitive eating practices have been shown to lead to improved physical and mental health. Mindfulness means paying attention on purpose. Specifically, you are staying aware of physical and emotional feelings that occur when eating. Examples of physical feelings you may notice include hunger or fullness. Emotional feelings include, but are not limited to, happiness or guilt. This awareness is meant to be non-judgmental and just a way for you to tune into yourself. The goal is that you become aware of your environment. You observe the taste, smell, touch, and look of the food. By doing this, you slow down the eating process, giving you more time to enjoy your food as well as recognize fullness cues.

One study examined how a 50 minute mindful eating training affected adult and adolescent eating behaviors. The training improved self control over food choices in adult participants. It was observed that mindful eating lessened over eating and emotional eating.

Tips for Mindful Eating while Enjoying the Holidays:

  1. Eat without distractions. This allows you to taste and experience your food as well as tune into your body's hunger and satiety cues.

  2. Ask yourself “why are you eating?” Are you eating because you are hungry? Are you eating because there is nothing else to do?

  3. Notice how the food looks, feels, smells, and tastes.

  4. Slow down when you eat. It takes about 15 minutes for us to feel full. Slowing down how fast you eat allows you to notice your fullness cues.

  5. Implement gentle nutrition. This means incorporating foods that meet your physical and sensory needs. In other words, eat foods that make your body feel good and that are enjoyable to eat.

Give yourself permission to eat and enjoy the food. The holiday season does not last very long. This is your time to give thanks, enjoy time with your family and be in the moment. You deserve to enjoy the holidays free from food guilt.

Subtle Nutrition Tips for the Holiday Season

In case you are wondering how you could make the holiday meals more nutritious, below are some suggestions.

  1. Desserts are usually an important part in holiday celebrations.

  • In replace of butter, try using unsweetened apple sauce, avocados, mashed bananas or Greek yogurt.

  • In replace of sugar, try using natural honey, maple syrup, or ripe mashed bananas

  • OR make a healthy dessert! Chia seed pudding, black bean brownies or simply fruit with a little whipped cream on it are some options.

  1. Choose tea, low fat milk, water, flavored water or water with lemon over soda and juice.

  2. Portion your food: Eat a little bit of everything.

For additional suggestions, check out the USDA’s MyPlate Holiday Makeover infographic!

Bottom Line:

Yes, this is a time where people are usually eating a bit more. The portions may be bigger, the food may be less nutritious, but that's okay. You’re allowed to step out of your normal routine and enjoy celebrating without being held back by food. You deserve to enjoy these moments rather and not be concerned with “sticking to a diet”. Make memories that you’ll look back at and smile. Give yourself permission to enjoy these moments fully!

Written by Helayne Speroni on behalf of Supriya Lal

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