Want to minimize your feelings of guilt during the holiday season? Stop binging, stop depriving yourself, by being realistic and practicing common sense. Here are my tips to avoid holiday guilt. 
Now this may be a different sort of article than you would expect. I’m not going to give condescending tips on how to make low calorie drinks or appetizers. If you came here for that #sorrynotsorry, there are tons of other articles out there for you. I see no need to support the trend of vilifying calories. My thoughts on calorie counting here.
Instead, I want to promote mindfulness. I want you to notice all the diet related messaging, and I want you to reject it because it’s distracting, it produces food fear, and it robs us of our precious time.
So, how can you achieve nutrition zen during the holidays? How do you maintain composure when you have Aunt Betty demanding you take seconds? How do you avoid stress when the office is filled with treats? Well practising intuitive eating doesn’t come easy, but replacing the diet mentality with self respect can be extremely freeing and well worth the effort. Here are some simple tips to get started.

  1. Consider how you want to feel: I mentioned this in my most recent article and it deserves a second mention because visualizing the outcome helps you achieve it. Athletes do this. When I used to play ringette, for example, and I went in to score, if I looked right at the goalie, the ring went straight to the middle of her chest! No goal. But, when I practised looking for the empty spaces, I’d aim there instead and score. Consider how you want to feel after your family gathering. Do you want to feel satisfied and comfortable? Or, do you want to be uncomfortably full? Do you want to feel happy? Or, do you want to feel guilty? You are creating a self fulfilling prophecy, so make sure the outcome you’re envisioning the one you want rather than the one you fear.
  2. Browse: Most holiday meals include many side dishes. When presented with variety we instinctually eat more. So instead of filling your plate, pause and have a browse of what’s available. Choose the dishes which are most appealing to you only and pass on the dishes which look “meh”. This will help you feel satisfied both physically and mentally rather than stuffed. Find this to be challenging? Make sure you browse without your plate in hand to eliminate the temptation of filling as you go.
  3. Slow down: Do you ever finish you plate, only to imagine eating it all over again? Your tastebuds are located in your mouth, not your stomach. Slowing down your speed of eating during meals will extend the eating experience, and can help satisfy you without second helpings. If you notice yourself speeding along through your meal, catch yourself, take a breath and redirect your focus to enjoying your food. Try pacing yourself to the slowest eater at the table. Put down your fork and reach for your water glass instead. Aim to chew your food another two times before swallowing. Notice the textures and flavours of your food!
  4. Trust yourself: You were born with the ability to regulate your food intake. Diet culture has done an excellent job of convincing us that we cannot self regulate and instead we need to rely on external cues like portions, calories or points to tell us when we’ve had enough. Pause before you sit down to your meal. Ask yourself how hungry you are on a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being the highest). Notice how being extremely hungry impacts your food choices, thoughts and speed of eating. Notice how eating when you aren’t truly hungry makes it hard to pay attention to your food. During your meal, ask yourself how you feel. Have you eaten until satisfied? Remember that you can get more food later if you are hungry again.
  5. Shut down the diet mentality: Where did you get the idea that carbs are “bad”? Our culture is full of diet messages which demonize certain foods and idolize thinness. Notice how these messages impact your thoughts and attitudes around food. Do they strengthen your relationship with food, or do they add to food fear? Notice how when repeated often enough, these messages are eventually taken as the truth. The diet mentality only fuels cravings and overeating later on. It doesn’t serve anyone. So reject those messages.

So there you have it. My suggested methods on how to avoid holiday guilt. Christmas is a time for celebration, generosity, family and friends. Food is so much more than just nutrients, it’s tradition, love and for many cultures and families, it’s the main reason we get together this time of year. Guilt around food can be avoided if you keep in mind how you want to feel, if you choose to eat only what will satisfy you most, if you eat your food slowly, if you trust that your body can let you know when you’ve had enough and if you trust that you can have more food later if you are hungry and finally, guilt can be avoided by rejecting the messages which diet culture spreads.
Happy Holidays!
Rebecca Vukan RD