7 Tips for Holiday Eating


I don’t usually re-run a blog post, but this one is too important and was extremely popular when published last year. Naturally, I didn’t write it. My daughter, Julia Klein, has a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Science and is finishing her master’s degree in Applied Nutrition to become a registered dietitian. She contributed this guest post, just in time for the holidays.

It’s the holiday season, which for some of us means increased anxiety around food. Holiday celebrations are often accompanied by festive foods and drinks. Although they are meant to bring joy, holiday foods can bring up shame and guilt around food, feeling “out of control” around food, and negative feelings about one’s body. The problem isn’t really with the holiday food itself; it is our reaction to the holiday food.

Although holiday foods can bring up negative thoughts and feelings, there are ways we can counter the negativity. The following are tips for nourishing yourself and staying healthy in both body and mind this holiday season:

  • Give yourself permission to eat and drink whatever you want and however much you want.
    • No, this is not a trick. Avoiding your favorite holiday foods or only allowing yourself to have a certain amount actually causes your cravings to increase, which then sets you up to feel out of control around these foods and eat well past comfortable fullness.
    • Remember, all foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle. When you give yourself unconditional permission to eat all foods, you can choose what foods actually sound good and you can eat until you feel satisfied, knowing you can have more any time you want. 
  • Ditch the “last supper” mentality.
    • Just as setting limits on the food you eat can make you feel out of control, so does having the mentality that “the diet starts on January 1st.” The perception that food may be scarce in the future sets off a cascade of biological and psychological events that intensify your drive to eat and result in a “get it all in now” mindset. When your body trusts that you will nourish it consistently and adequately, your drive to override fullness cues and eat more will decrease.
  • Tune into your body cues and stay present.
    • Before eating, take a minute to check in with yourself. What are you in the mood for? How hungry do you feel? Take note of your physical and mental hunger; both are important to honor when making your choices.
    • While eating, notice what your food really tastes like. What’s its texture? Flavor? Temperature? Is it enjoyable?
    • After eating, check in with yourself again. Without judgment, assess how you’re feeling. Are you still hungry? Uncomfortably full? Satisfied? Is there anything you would do differently next time? The purpose of this is not to induce any guilt or shame—you are simply observing how you feel, just like a scientist makes observations to collect data.
  • Avoid the temptation to “save up calories” for the big event.
    • Arriving at an event feeling starving will set you up to eat past comfortable fullness. Instead of depriving yourself before an event, eat satisfying meals and snacks throughout the day. Arriving at a comfortable level of hunger/fullness will allow you to make food choices based on what sounds and feels good to you. 
  • Have a plan for navigating diet and weight conversation.
    • Although your body and your food choices are absolutely no one’s business but your own, some people may think they have the right to comment on them. Below are some examples of responses you can use if unsolicited comments are made:
      • “I’m working on making choices based on what my body wants instead of the messages that diet culture promotes.”
      • “What I eat and how my body looks are not up for discussion.”
      • “Food does not have morality. There is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food.”
      • “I trust my body knows what it wants and how to self-regulate.”
      • “Can we change the conversation away from diet talk so that we can enjoy our food?”
    • Alternatively, you can change the subject and/or excuse yourself from the conversation.
    • Write down some mantras you can repeat to yourself if you feel overwhelmed with diet talk. Some examples are:
      • “I know what’s best for my body.”
      • “Engaging in dieting behaviors does not align with my values.”
      • “Food is just food.” 
      • “I have unconditional permission to eat, despite what diet culture says.”
  • Give yourself grace.
    • It is normal to eat past comfortable fullness sometimes. As humans we don’t eat just because our stomach is growling, we also eat for the experience and pleasure of the food. Sometimes the enjoyment of food will cause us to overshoot a comfortable level of fullness, and that is perfectly fine. Eating past comfortable fullness does not mean you did anything wrong, nor does it mean that you should engage in any compensatory behaviors. Uncomfortable fullness is not pleasant, but it’s a temporary sensation. Your body is well-equipped to handle it. 
    • It’s not uncommon to turn to dieting to feel in control this time of year. But remember, depriving yourself physically or mentally will only increase your drive to eat past fullness.
    • Allow yourself to take space from others when you need it.
    • Treat this as a learning experience. Reflect on what you did and didn’t enjoy. You can use this knowledge when making food choices in the future so you can feel good in body and in mind.    
  • Finally, remember that the holidays are about SO much more than just the food. Shift your focus to being in the moment and connecting with others. 

If you’re interested in nutrition counseling or working on your relationship with food, please contact me at jklein.nutrition@gmail.com.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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