Is your holiday mindset: lots of food equals a good time; skimping on food equals a bad time?Holidays are not exclusively about food – there are religious, ethnic, and patriotic underpinnings to many of them – but, especially during the winter holiday season, we tend wrap a lot of our holiday thoughts around food.It’s important to honor both food and the traditions associated with food, but to help manage your weight during the holiday season it’s also important to be aware of your holiday eating mindset and the triggers that may cause you to overeat.Here are nine reasons many of us adopt a holiday mindset that essentially endorses indulgent eating and the “I’ll diet after the holidays” frame of mind:1. All too often holiday celebrations become intertwined with the need or obligation to cook and/or eat not just because of hunger but also for other reasons as well. Loneliness, family discontent, remembrances of times in the past, a sense of overwhelm, and stress can all trigger over indulgence. What are your triggers?2. Food has religious and cultural meaning. For many groups, special foods are essential to a particular holiday. For instance, Thanksgiving originally was a harvest celebration; fried foods for Hanukkah bring to mind the small amount of oil continued to burn for eight days and eight nights; Kwanzaa is derived from a Swahili term meaning first fruits of the harvest. If a particular food is dictated by the religious and cultural aspects of the holiday, we eat it. Do you really need to? Can you honor the significance with a smaller amount?
3. Food is associated with tradition. Perhaps you associate Mom’s cookies with the holidays and it just wouldn’t be right not to have them. The same is true for other family specialties for Thanksgiving or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa of the New Year celebration. Maybe you don’t even like the food or maybe it disagrees with you, but you eat it because that’s what you always do on that particular holiday. Can you give yourself permission to stop?4. Do you eat to be polite or because you’re afraid you’ll offend someone? Do you think you’ll be labeled Scrooge, Grinch, a party pooper, or offend your mother-in-law if you don’t eat everything in sight? To put it in perspective: you’re the one who has to snap your jeans. Do what’s best for you – politely.5. Food acts like a cloak of comfort – a supplies a nurturing feeling that many of us look for and welcome around the holidays. However, nowhere is it written that food has to be eaten in tremendous quantity – or that a celebratory meal must include stuffing, two types of potatoes, five desserts, or six types of candy. That idea is self-imposed. Think about what comforts you and consider choosing something other than food.6. It’s often cold and dark during the winter holiday season in many parts of the world. Warm comforting food, frequently more dense and fatty than lighter summer fare, seems more appealing when it’s somewhat inhospitable outside. Are there ways to lighten the caloric load of your cold-weather food?7. Food is everywhere. It’s there for the taking – and most of the time, holiday food is free and freely available at parties, on receptionist’s desks, and as sample tastes while you shop. It can be very difficult to pass up. Can you change your route to avoid passing the desk or table with the best supply of treats?
8. Holiday foods are usually sugary, fatty, pretty, and very enticing treats. They easily trigger the “I must have that” kind of response. Sugary and fatty (salty, too) food makes you crave more. Try asking yourself: Do I really need it or even really want it — and if I do eat it, how will I feel later on?9. Food is physiologically necessary. It provides sustenance and energy. The right kind of food supports your immune system, helps with clear thinking, boosts your mood, and gives you the oomph to be more productive. Everyone needs food. The problem is that we eat too much of it, especially during the holidays. Controlling the quantity and the portion size of what you eat requires a mindful approach. Mindless eating is easy. Mindful eating requires focus but becomes a habit when done intentionally and consistently and will help you navigate your way through holiday eating temptations.
I’m a doctoral level nurse, a wellness coach, eating strategist, author, educator, and a Mom. I’m a food lover, cook, frequent restaurant visitor, and I understand the challenge of the battle of the bulge and tight jeans. I teach people how to eat out and eat well at family gatherings, at work, on vacation, at parties, and in restaurants. For more information about how to eat out and eat well anytime, anywhere, and at any age, visit my blog, EatOutEatWell .com. For tips and strategies for handling holiday eating, check out my book, The Sensible Holiday Eating Guide: How To Enjoy Your Favorite Foods Without Gaining Weight, web: amazon .com/dp/B009VOFIK8.