For many people, the holidays bring a mixed bag of emotions, including unmet expectations on how you’re “supposed” to feel, family and financial stress, loneliness, shame, and food and weight worries. And often, the higher the stress, the more the food and weight worries. Why? For some, obsessing about calories, points, fat grams, and/or weight feels safer and more familiar than feeling uncomfortable emotions (like shame, sadness, anger, loneliness) or facing real concerns that may seem overwhelming. Usually, people aren’t even aware that zeroing in on trying to control their food intake or weight may be an attempt to distract or cope with stress or unmet needs. (Pretty complicated stuff, which is why I’m grateful for therapists who specialize in eating concerns and body image, and so often collaborate with them in my work as a nutritionist.)
Given that so many people are stressed about food or terrified of gaining weight, it would be easy for me to pump out a half-hearted “eat this, not that” type of blog, or offer you a bulleted list of tips like “bring your own healthy dish” or “fill up your plate with half veggies” or “don’t stand by the buffet table” (predictable and probably not super helpful). Sure, I’ve tried taking a stab at non-diet holiday eating tips here before. But this year, I want to suggest something totally different. Something I plan on practicing myself. A tip I can really get behind. Drumroll….
This holiday season, I suggest you try not worrying about food. I’m serious. Give yourself permission to let go of the food worries, and relax and enjoy instead.
You might be thinking, “WTF? You mean I should just not care about my health or nutrition, and gain uncontrollable amounts of weight?”
I understand the concern, but please allow me to clarify. I am NOT saying, “Go binge. Stuff down as much food as you can because come January 2013, the food party’s over.”
Rather, imagine feeling calm, relaxed and confident during holiday gatherings involving food. If that’s hard to imagine, try turning down the volume of food worries by even ~25%, maybe 50%; balanced nutrition isn’t an all-or-nothing deal. Remember that constantly stressing about food and weight isn’t healthy for your body or mind – and may actually lead to more overeating. The American paradox is that there’s more food guilt and worry and dieting in this country…yet also less health. Not a coincidence. So let yourself relax and enjoy. It all starts with this intention.
Relaxation and pleasure are forgotten components of a healthy relationship with food. Both promote smooth digestion and metabolism, health and well-being. Bingeing or stuffing the food down is not relaxing or even very pleasurable. Instead, slow down. Prioritize your self-care. Take breaks and try not to overschedule yourself. Listen to your body. Make room for the foods you truly love to eat. Sit down, relax, and try to taste every bite. For more tips on staying healthy and sane during the holidays, check out my colleague Jessica Setnick’s strategies for Surviving the Holidays: Body, Mind & Spirit.
May you have a very happy and enjoyable holiday season!
Nutrition & the City is a monthly column featuring nutrition & lifestyle tips to help you eat well and feel great — without dieting or food guilt.
Minh-Hai Tran, MS, RD, CSSD is a Seattle nutritionist who loves helping others discover the joy of eating well, while enjoying a healthy relationship with food at her nutrition practice Mindful Nutrition. She is certified in the non-diet approach, Intuitive Eating, and is board certified in sports nutrition. Prior to moving to the Northwest from Dallas, she worked as a consultant, writer and speaker in the vitamin and supplement industry. Minh-Hai has contributed to health articles in The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and more. She also co-founded Zing bars, a line of gluten-free energy bars. Aside from her work, Minh-Hai finds time to enjoy traveling, karaoke, yoga, happy hour, and watching The Real Housewives of any city in moderation.
* This post is from a Girl Power Hour featured blogger. It is not written, edited or endorsed by Girl Power Hour. The authors are solely responsible for content.
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