With (U.S.) Thanksgiving here and Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Pancha Ganapati/ Dies Natalis Solis Invicti/Saturnalia/Festivus (apologies if I missed yours) right around the corner, we’re about to face a lot of eating events. Start panicking now! Wait, we’re not on diets here. Alright everyone, as you were.
If you are a diet survivor, though, you might still suffer some residual anxiety around holiday season eating. If you’ve been learning to eat intuitively, this will help enormously in taking off the pressure of what can sometimes feel like a two-month-long eat-a-thon. I’ll get to that in a minute.
First, some holiday season dieting reminiscences…
Weight Watchers used to spend a lot of time giving us strategies (for those who bothered to attend during this time; so many dieters recognized the futility of trying to restrict food over the holidays) for dealing with all the delicious food we’d be about to encounter. The underlying message always seemed to be, “Don’t eat the delicious food.” It was all about filling up on “healthy” (aka low cal) food (popcorn, pretzels, apples, carrot sticks) before a party or dinner so you didn’t eat the tantalizing food (as though this could stem the tide of diet-hunger and food lust that would hit me at parties). Strategies for turning down dessert at Thanksgiving (HUH?!?!), strategies for not taking seconds even if you want them. Strategies like filling your hands with a glass of water and a napkin so you can become a juggler can’t pick up hors d’oeuvres. Basically, strategies to deny yourself what you really want, when you really want it.
All of these seemed silly even to me at the time. Because even on a diet, I knew I would want to eat, would eat, and would want to seem like other people who were eating without restriction or guilt or worry about their weight (because those people still existed at the time)…and on January 2, start all over again with renewed dieting efforts. So yes, I would eat, but not without a gravy boat of weight gain anxiety to carry me through the season.
And inevitably, I would frequently overeat to the point of unpleasantness. Being on a diet made me damn hungry! I was anxious, overate, felt guilty, restrict again, overeat again…you know where I’m going with this. And so I would end up not enjoying these meals half the time anyway. I’ve read enough and talked to enough people now to know this is not uncommon among dieters. Has this happened to you, too?
It’s not like this for me now. This is the time of year I can really hone my intuitive eating skills, listening to those internal body cues that tell me how I need to eat to feel good. Yes, there are more parties, potlucks and big dinners than normal, and yes, occasionally I’ll feel a bit stuffed, but this truly isn’t the mental crisis it used to be.
So what are actual useful strategies for eating during the holiday season? These are the ones that help me:
None of these tips is about how to avoid food you want to eat. And if you do get too full? Hey, that’s okay too. We’re not aiming for eating perfection. Your body, when it has found a comfortable equilibrium, can handle that once in a while. It might not feel good, but it’s also not the end of the world. You’re still gathering eating experiences to inform how you eat at your next meal so it’s all useful information.
Above all, tolerate no eating guilt! Happy Thanksgiving!
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