Talking about enjoying your food during the holiday season can bring up a lot of stress for people. Especially if you’ve been working hard to meet certain fitness goals or creating a healthy relationship with food. Fortunately, kicking your food guilt to the curb can actually be helpful in both of theses endeavors.
That’s why we created this list of 5 tips for enjoying your food this holiday season. Because food freedom can bring you so much more than just chocolate cake and pasta. (Although, those two things are definitely worth it!)
Stop Believing There are Good and Bad Foods
The belief that there are “good foods” and “bad foods” has run rampant among society for years. Statistically speaking, snacks, candies, and sweets tend to be labeled as “bad”, making food guilt when eating these foods much more prevalent.
This is a real shame because studies have also shown that those who associate guilt with certain foods, rather than celebration, report unhealthier eating habits overall. On top of that, they perceive themselves as having less behavioral control over healthy eating.
What does this mean?
It means that food guilt brought on by eating sweets, treats, or snacks, does not help you eat healthier. It actually leads you to feel more overwhelmed by the idea of eating healthy.
So ditch the idea that foods are good and bad and instead look at food as fuel! Making this shift allows us to recognize that different foods fuel our bodies in different ways. And when we accept this we can release the guilt we feel after eating those “bad foods.”
Recognize that Food Guilt is NOT a Motivator
Food guilt will not motivate you to eat healthier. Take a look at this study that revealed participants who associated eating chocolate cake with guilt did not have stronger intentions of eating healthy than those who associated it with celebration.
What’s even more interesting, participants with weight-loss goals who had food guilt associated with chocolate cake were LESS successful as losing weight over a three month period than those who associated chocolate cake with celebration.
Why might this be?
Well, some studies have shown that people who associate anxiety and shame after eating certain foods have a greater impulse to binge than those who don’t. This is because food deprivation leads to an increase cravings of those foods.
On top of that, when you stop feeling guilty about eating foods it’s much easier to eat them in moderation because you no longer limit how often you can enjoy your food. If you can have Oreos whenever you want, you’re less likely to eat an entire sleeve in one sitting.
Remember that Days or Weeks Will Not Undo Months or Years
I get it. You’ve been working hard consistently for the past eight months. You’ve done a complete body recomposition with your trainer. You feel strong and sexy and you absolutely do not want to impede or, worse, lose your progress.
One thing we know is that once you’ve been eating a balanced diet of proteins, fats, and carbs, consistently for along period of time you will start to naturally balance your plate that way. Consistent habits die hard.
Another thing I want to discuss is the apple seed theory. Did you know that apple seeds are poisonous? It’s true, they are literally arsenic. Luckily, we aren’t sitting around eating apple seeds like peanuts and cracker jacks, Instead, we maybe consume or two here and there when we are munching on an apple and it’s fine. No tummy aches, no accidental death by apple seeds.
The same is true about our meals. If one, or even four of our 21 meals during a week aren’t *perfect* it’s not going to affect us in the long run. Especially if after your holiday you return to a more balanced diet.
Consistency will always pay off! But celebrating life will always be worth a deviation.
Eating Mindfully Ensures that You Will Enjoy Your Food
A very important part of enjoying your food is taking the time to enjoy your food.
I’m not kidding.
Take time to notice how your food smells.
What’s the texture like in your mouth?
Notice all of the flavors.
And finally, chew your food completely.
This is important to do anytime you’re eating a meal. But, when we are eating foods that trigger food guilt, or that we have labeled as “bad,” we have a tendency to eat them quickly. As if eating them fast minimizes our choice to consume them.
Unfortunately, this often leads us to over eating and can start to reinforce a “scarcity mindset” around these yummy foods that bring us joy.
These special foods are just that, special. So take the time to really enjoy them! You deserve it! And, when you take the time to eat your food, your body will have time to send your brain full cues, making you less likely to over indulge.
We’ve all been there. We had a friends giving last weekend and arrived home early on this been week. We’ve enjoyed some drinks. Eaten out. And snacked on our favorite holiday snickadees all week long.
Then, you wake up on Thanksgiving morning and the smell of cinnamon buns waft through the air. Someone greets your with a mimosa and a coffee and everyone settles into the couch to watch the parade.
After eating a cinnamon roll and some bacon your heart sinks because you know you not only have the meal this afternoon, but pumpkin pie tonight, and leftovers tomorrow. You start mentally calculating the entire week and the anxiety starts to seep in.
First, take a deep breath and re-read number three. However, if a week of indulging tends to leave you feeling sluggish or you’re finding you’re feeling sick after each meal, try planning ahead.
If you know there are certain foods around the holidays that tend to be triggering, take some time ahead of time to ask yourself, why. What about this food pushes you to eat past the point of enjoyment? Understanding why certain foods trigger us can help us feel like we have more control around those foods.
Another tool to make sure you’re not indulging past the point of enjoyment? Plan a couple meals that you are choosing to prioritize protein and fiber.
I don’t know about you, but after three or four days of decadence, I often find myself craving salads, fruits, and veggies. Planning ahead to ensure our bodies are getting nutrient dense foods throughout our vacations can really help us listen to our hunger and full cues throughout the week!
Have you tried any of these before? Will you try any of these in the future? Remember, the goal is not to limit your enjoyment of special holiday foods. The goal is to give you tools to remove food guilt from your holidays so that you can spend time enjoying your food with your family and friends.