As much as we love the holiday season for its spirit and the special time we get with our loved ones, there’s undoubtedly a large focus on food during this time. You’re not alone if this is stressing you out. Maintaining a sense of control around food can feel like an impossible task when the highlight of our day is sitting around the dinner table and our conversations revolve around the dishes in front of us. It’s easy to load up our plates for seconds and maybe even thirds, and it’s not uncommon to feel uncomfortably full after these meals. Apart from the holidays themselves, companies are advertising special treats and flavors, making us feel like a healthy diet is way out of reach.
This holiday season, let’s work on trusting ourselves around all of the delicious foods. We don’t have to restrict ourselves completely by forbidding ourselves from indulging in holiday treats. We also don’t have to ditch our healthy-eating habits entirely. Instead, try to find a balance in the coming months that works for you. Here are five strategies to help you feel more in control this holiday season so you can savor the festivities of the holiday season without compromising your health:
- Practice mindful eating during holiday meals
All of the strategies you are hopefully implementing in your day-to-day lives should still be used during holiday meals! Try to eat slowly to truly enjoy your food. Really focus on your hunger and fullness cues, and more importantly honor them! Many of us will realize we are full yet still go back for seconds of our favorite dishes. Instead, ask your friends and family if you can pack a serving up to eat the next day.
- Allow yourself to eat your favorite holiday foods throughout the season
Instead of avoiding your favorite candies and other desserts, give yourself permission to buy them at the grocery store and keep them in your house. If you aren’t making a constant effort to avoid them, you won’t binge on them the second you allow yourself to have one.
- On days with special dinners, eat regular meals during the day
It’s common for us to eat smaller portioned breakfasts and lunches when we know we have a big dinner later in the day. Some of us will skip meals completely to ensure we are hungry when it’s time for the holiday meal. Eating on an irregular schedule will most likely lead to overeating and feeling out of control. Instead, don’t let yourself get to the point of extreme hunger. You are more likely to make healthier choices and realize when you are full if you have properly nourished yourself throughout the day.
- Remind yourself that your health journey is strictly your own
Our family members often sneak in comments about food, exercise, and health that make us feel worse about food and over-analyze our choices. I’m sure you’ve had a relative talk about how much they’ll have to work out next to burn off the meal they just ate, and everyone’s always discussing how full they are. Additionally, if someone knows you are trying to eat healthier, they might make a comment if you reach for a less nutritious option. Try not to let anyone else’s comments influence your actions. The key is finding a balance between enjoying your favorite foods and making the choices that leave you feeling your best. Try to not let anyone else’s comments influence your actions!
- Incorporate physical activity into your family activities
With traveling to see extended family, a busier work schedule towards the end of the year, and added events, sticking to your workout routine can prove to be difficult. To ensure you are still moving your body, encourage your family to go on walks together or play games outside like pickleball. You don’t need to be in a gym to reap the benefits of moving your body!
As hard as it may seem to stay on track with your health goals during this time of the year, remind yourself that it is possible and that you can do it. Lean into the joyful parts of the season and enjoy the things that make you happy, whether that be spending time with family, your favorite foods, or the cheerful spirit. Make it your priority to feel your best, both physically and mentally. By savoring mindful moments, choosing nourishing foods, and finding joy in movement, let’s all embrace the spirit of the holiday season while also honoring our health.
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This article was written by Ari Harkavy, nutrition intern. Fact checked by Allison Tallman RD.