I know, I know — holidays are for indulging! And I agree! However, we don’t have to wait until New Year’s Day to “start over” once again. According to Ellen Satter, a well-known dietician who works with individuals and families on developing healthy relationships with food, “Normal eating is all about trusting yourself to eat in a way that is right for you. The trouble most people have with holiday eating is they get caught up in what they should and shouldn’t eat. They’re anxious and ambivalent about eating. They might try to resist at holiday parties, but the table is laden with oh-so-appealing “forbidden foods,” and they throw away all control and overdo it.” (wdt.me/CUY5Qx)
So, how do we stop ourselves from doing that? By integrating some tips from intuitive eating principles and the MyPlate 10 Tips Nutrition Education Series, we can practice eating when we are hungry and finding satisfaction and pleasure in what we eat. The goal is not to be perfect and not to get caught up in doing it “right or wrong.” The goal is to do our best and focus on the things that bring us the most pleasure — sometimes that is food, but many times it is the festivities and the time with friends and family.
n Eat when you’re hungry — this seems intuitive, but it takes some thought and practice. Many people have followed diet plans or schedules because of work for so long they no longer actually know when they are hungry. Before you dive into a meal or snack think about how you’re feeling. Is your body showing signs of being hungry or is it just “time to eat”?
n Know when you are full — Likewise, before you finish the entire plate, pause and realize if you are full. (You can always finish the meal or snack later — it doesn’t have to be your last supper!)
n Don’t label food as good or bad — many of us were raised with food labels. Broccoli and all green things equal good. Ice cream and all sweet things equal bad. Give up the labels. Believe it or not, your body will tell you what it wants and needs if you slow down and listen. Like feeling hungry or full, your body will find a balance in eating nourishing foods.
n Find the satisfaction factor — if you are satisfied with the foods you are eating, you will find you probably won’t be eating as much. It is when we force ourselves to eat things we really don’t want that we stand in the kitchen grazing. Often, if we have the cookie or the piece of pie we are craving (and pay attention to the taste, the texture, and use our senses to enjoy it) we will discover satisfaction in our choices and perhaps not even want the entire thing or at least not eat 15 other things as substitution to what we really wanted in the first place.
n Recognize emotions — emotional eating is a real thing. People eat when they are bored, happy, sad, mad, etc. Eating can be a distraction that takes us away from having to deal with negative emotions. The holidays can be full of all kinds of emotions. Instead of turning to food, sit with the emotions and recognize them. Putting a name on them, journaling, or talking to a friend or family member can help us slow down and process.
n Get in some movement — this is another good way to deal with emotions. Time alone doing repetitive motions like walking, running and lifting weights helps the mind process thoughts. Uplifting music can change our mindset. Make being active part of your holiday traditions. You can also have fun walking and talking with family and friends before or after a holiday party or meal.
n Think about all the food groups — as we discussed above, don’t worry about good and bad foods, but do try to have some balance in your day or week. On days you are in charge of meals and snacks, include veggies, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins you love. Planning ahead and having these items in your house will make the choices easier.
n Bake healthier — Use recipes with unsweetened applesauce or masked ripe bananas instead of butter. Try cutting the amount of sugar listed in recipes in half — I bet no one even notices! Use spices to add flavor such as cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg instead of salt. It can be fun to experiment with kids and see how things turn out. If it’s just not the same, by all means make Grandma’s traditional apple pie and find the satisfaction, but you might just find a way to make it even better!
Whatever your traditions are, I hope you enjoy them and have a healthy, happy holiday season; but maybe one tradition you won’t be repeating this year is “starting over on New Year’s Day.”