5 Tips to Help You Through the Holiday Food Guilt
What if you could still eat those delicious treats that come along with the holiday season and still continue towards your health as fitness goals? This can be such a stressful time of year, but navigating food should not be one of them! As a woman recovering from an eating disorder, I dreaded the holidays because of their temptation and subsequent roller coaster of emotions. I put together a list of some helpful tips I learned along my journey in hopes to help anyone else who might be feeling the same way.
Take Morality Out of Food
Our diet culture, which is a billion dollar industry, creates a narrative that only certain types of food are healthy or unhealthy, good or bad, which is how many diets or weight loss programs are formed. Food is not inherently good or bad. When we label our food we give it moral value leading us to experience guilt, shame, and disappointment. The only “bad” foods that exist are ones that may cause an allergic reaction or ones that you simply just don’t enjoy. Another phrase to steer away from is “cheat meal”. This association can harbor those same feelings of guilt, shame and disappointment. With this mentality the perception becomes “This food is bad, I cannot eat it.” which inherently becomes “If I eat this, I am bad.”
Take away: Remember, food is not bad and you are not bad for eating it. Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion as a friend.
Do Not Overly Restrict
In the world of psychology there is what’s called the scarcity principle. The basis of this principle is that the less of an item is available the more attractive it becomes. In relation to food and dieting, when you cut a specific food group out of your diet with the expectation that you “can’t have it”, that food becomes scarce and suddenly you can’t stop thinking about it. If you’ve ever dieted, you know exactly what I’m talking about! Let’s face it, you will eventually end up eating this “forbidden food” and instead of eating a serving or two, you end up binging on it with the mindset of “tomorrow I will get back on track and won’t eat it again”. Once you stop telling yourself you can’t have something, your desire to eat it will begin to decrease. When you do actually have a craving you will more likely be satisfied with a serving instead of over indulging.
Take away: Enjoy your cravings as they come instead of an all-or-nothing approach. Sometimes we eat for nourishment and sometimes we eat because it tastes good or we’re in good company. Either way, it is okay!
You Do Not Need to Earn Your Food.
Say it again, you do not have to earn your food. Along with diet restriction, we tend to determine what we can eat by bargaining that we will either eat less the next day or that we will have an extra workout to make up for it. There were times I would spend 4+ hours at the gym trying to out work what I ate and it was miserable. When you do this you end up creating a negative relationship with food, exercise, and yourself. You are allowed to enjoy your food, whether it’s pizza or a salad, it is not a prize to be won or a privilege that is earned.
Take away: You deserve to enjoy food with no strings attached.
Ask For Help.
If you feel out of control and you don’t know where to start, ask for help. Registered dietitians are a great resource, they are the experts when it comes to diet, nutrition and lifestyle. Whatever your goal may be, a dietitian can help you get there in a healthy and sustainable way. We have a registered dietitian on staff who would love to answer any of your questions!
Therapy is another great resource to help you challenge diet culture and disordered eating patterns. Sometimes our bingeing and restricting behaviors can stem from our past trauma. A licensed therapist can help you work through these obstacles and help find better ways to cope with emotions without using food.
Take away: Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Health and Fitness is a Journey, Not a Destination.
Your diet will not be perfect all of the time. Your workout routine will not be perfect all of the time. You are human and that’s okay. Creating a healthy and sustainable lifestyle means that there is room for dessert, a rest day, or whatever life throws at you. It means that you have the flexibility to still be healthy and happy, while also enjoying your favorite foods.
Take away: Everyday may not look the same but trending in the direction of our goal over time is what ultimately matters.
Enjoy your holidays and remember, what you eat does not define your worth. Life is too short, so just eat the damn cake!