Over the holidays, many people fall into the pattern of overeating, feeling guilty, and then trying to repent by setting strict resolutions come New Year’s Day. Why do we believe the only way to make up for indulging in “bad” foods this time of year is to set unrealistic expectations for later? This attitude of defeat will likely set you up for failure. Instead, allow yourself to enjoy your favorite foods and traditions (within reason). Use my healthy holiday eating guidelines to help you practice reasonable allowance this season.
When it comes to healthy holiday eating, here are some good rules of thumb:
1. Save the celebration for the most important times.
Let yourself indulge in the traditions you’re most attached to, like your aunt’s famous persimmon cookies on Christmas Day. But try to pass on lesser occasions that aren’t as rewarding in terms of the experience they provide. Don’t indulge just because someone brings cookies to work, for instance.
2. Prioritize items worth indulging in.
During the celebration, gear your reasonable allowance toward the holiday foods that are most rewarding to you. When you make your plate, select the foods that you look forward to the most and find the most delicious. Don’t deny yourself the experience of a favorite item, and don’t waste your reasonable allowance on an item you don’t find particularly compelling. If it’s an important occasion, remember that balance is not about nutrition. It’s about the experience.
3. Avoid overeating and undereating.
Don’t eat more or less than what makes you feel comfortable. When you are hungry, don’t “save up” for later so that you can “pig out.” Eat a portion that allows you to sample all the items you want to try without getting “stuffed.” Then go back for the ones you really want more of if you are not feeling uncomfortably full.
4. Don’t feel guilty about declining.
It is not uncommon for people to feel overwhelmed by the number of parties they attend in a given season. When you’re at a party where you’re not planning on eating, say, “I am so sorry to pass, but I attended another Christmas party already and I am still full.” Even if the party was yesterday or the day before, you are not being dishonest. You have filled your reasonable allowance. Don’t feel obligated to consume holiday foods that don’t interest you.
5. Set boundaries and stick to them.
Boundaries are important when it comes to healthy holiday eating. For example, you might limit yourself to eating one cookie and one piece of candy at each holiday celebration you attend. Don’t feel guilty about indulging a little. But on the other hand, don’t overdo it and eat every type of pie, cake, cookie, and candy available.
6. The celebration happens once.
If you celebrate a single occasion at multiple events, choose one event to indulge at, and eat a healthy meal at home before attending other events that do not offer the same benefit. Eating ahead of time will allow you to participate without fending off hunger in the presence of food you don’t want to eat.
Keep in mind that these guidelines for healthy holiday eating are merely suggestions. Use your best judgement to decide when it’s okay to indulge. Enjoy yourself and have a very merry holiday season!
To learn more about the benefits of reasonable allowance versus restrictive eating, read my previous post: Restrictive Eating: Problems with Low-Calorie Fad Diets. If you’re interested in exploring the latest topics in health and nutrition from a scientific perspective, sign up for my monthly newsletter.
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