It’s that time of year. Everyone suddenly gets “I don’t know what to eat” syndrome. With all the articles, magazines and people sharing tips on how to avoid holiday weight gain, of COURSE that leads to food fear. Today I share my 10 holiday eating mistakes I see as a result of diet culture and food fear and share tips on how to avoid them.

  1. Skipping meals: This idea is persuasive but skipping meals to save calories for later just doesn’t work. You won’t save as many calories as you think and when finally eat at hunger level 10/10 you’re definitely going to overeat. Plus you have justification for it! “I haven’t eaten all day!” Just don’t do it.
  2. The “Oh well” mentality: It’s a crazy time of year, congested malls, family get togethers, emotions can run high. This contributes to the “oh well” mentality. We become so exhausted from behaving ourselves, and making decisions that we start to default to easy and automatic decisions. Ordering takeout, having the treats from the office break room etc. However, if healthy eating is the easy choice (like grabbing leftovers from the freezer for a meal instead of takeout) it will be the choice you make. So before things get too hairy, cook extra meals and freeze them and stock your pantry at home and work with nutritious snacks.
  3. The “Last Supper” mentality: This is different than the “oh well” mentality because the “last supper” is intentional. You know you will overeat because you plan on redeeming yourself in January. Eating because you think it’s your last chance is a very different motivation source than eating because you truly enjoy the food and decided you want seconds to be satisfied. Deprivation or even planning to deprive yourself in the future triggers cravings and overeating. So give it up.
  4. Thinking the whole month is full of large meals and fun food: This wash out mentality can help us to justify the “last supper” mentality the whole month. Yes, you do have more rich meals and more fun foods this month however it’s less than you think. How many holiday parties do you have planned, how many family dinners? Is it 5 or maybe even 10? That’s only 1/6 or maybe 1/3 of the month. Plan to ensure the rest of the month is full of nutritious meals which satisfy the body and soul.
  5. Mindless eating: You are nibbling on treats and fun foods all day long because you’re socializing around the snack table. Maybe you eat your meal while in front of a screen. Distractions rob us of the rich experience eating can offer and increases the likelihood of us polishing off the plate. Socialize away from the snacks, turn off the movie for 20 minutes.
  6. Skipping your favourite fun food to be a dieting martyr: That’s stoic. You’re likely at the beginning stage of a diet full of piss and vinegar. Diets don’t last, especially if you are suffering. Depriving yourself of foods you enjoy – that is suffering.
  7. Becoming the food police: Maybe you are so frustrated with your own out of control eating habits, that you deflect these frustrations onto your kids, spouse and friends. These comments such as “are you sure you want that” or maybe “I think you’ve had enough” is the food police. It doesn’t help them foster a good relationship with food, rather it instills guilt and shame. Only you know what feels best for your body and only they know what’s best for theirs. More often than not, this spurs on overeating in the other person because of an “I’ll show you mentality”.
  8. Not considering how you want to feel: How do you want to feel at the end of a holiday meal? Stuffed, sick, deprived or satisfied, content and peaceful? Consider how your eating choices make you feel right now.
  9. Eating a little of everything: Holiday meals offer many, many side dishes. Did you know the more variety we’re presented with, the more we will eat? One strategy to use is to review the food spread, before you grab a plate so you can choose what would make you most satisfied. Plan to skip the foods which appear “meh”. More isn’t always better, again, remember how you want to feel after the meal.
  10. Not considering the reason why you are eating: Think about why you reach for candy canes around Christmas but not in July. Holidays are associated with certain foods just like the movies are associated with popcorn. Just because there is a strong association with a certain food at the holidays doesn’t mean you want it for it’s own sake. It’s different than craving a certain treat, instead it’s an expectation for that food. Read my article on this here.

How do you eat to feel good around the holidays? What do you notice impacts your eating choices? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!
Rebecca Vukan RD