Stress, Food and the Holidays: Tips for Staying in Control

Food and the Holidays

The holidays are around the corner!!!

For some of us, the mere thought of the holidays is scary. It’s not because of all the traffic and extra shopping, but because we struggle with food. When holiday celebrations have a bunch of rich and tasty dishes, they can pose quite a challenge to our mental health.

You know how it goes. You sit down to a plate that’s overflowing with delicious, nostalgic food from your childhood. The temptation is unbearable! On one hand, you’re looking for willpower. On the other hand, you’re frantically trying to make an excuse for eating with statements like:

  • “I deserve it!”
  • “It’s not healthy to deprive myself over the holidays.”
  • “Right now I don’t really care about calories.”

Sometimes you end up indulging. It becomes a problem when regret sinks in.

Changing the Name of the Game

I propose that the holidays don’t have to be like this. The emotional chaos can take all the joy out of your holiday season. You shouldn’t have to feel deprived, but you also shouldn’t have to feel ashamed about something like food.

You CAN feel in-control over the holidays. You CAN feel confident in your decision-making! I encourage you to try the strategies below for truly enjoying your holiday celebrations. When January gets here, you’ll be empowered to work at your health goals.

Don’t Fret the Holidays – Stay in Control of Food

#1 Plan Carefully for Food at Celebrations

Set a goal for the holidays. If you’re currently trying to lose weight, you might prefer putting this goal on hold for a short period. In this case, reset your goal and strive to maintain your weight instead. No matter what you try, make sure your primary focus is on how you feel vs. what the scale says.

Next, identify events and specific foods you know will tempt you. If your grandmother bakes the BEST pumpkin pie every year, prepare yourself for it. What’s your plan? Either make an alternative dish or decide ahead of time that you will eat a small amount. For example, take a couple savory bites or skip the second serving.

Other ways to plan for celebrations:

  • Bring your own food or eat before going out.
  • Take tiny portions from each dish.
  • Take a break at any event to regroup. Go to the bathroom or pop outside for a moment. Remind yourself that you have a goal you want to stick with.
  • Eat slowly and enjoy every bite. If you truly like the taste, the experience will still be pleasurable and you’ll probably eat less.
  • Choose wisely. Take small amounts of “must have” foods and avoid any foods you’re not super excited about having.
#2 Have a Strategy for Dealing with Family and Friends

Being around loved ones can soothe the soul. However, family and friends may sometimes try to…

  • Convince you to eat food you don’t really want
  • Make you feel guilty about passing up their prized dish
  • Tease you about your “new” attitude toward food

To plan for moments like this, give a heads-up. Let them know beforehand that your health goals matter to you. Can they support you in this? If you put a positive spin on how eating well has helped you, others will find it harder to downplay what you are doing.

Once at the event, try to stay under the radar. There’s no need to announce your “diet.” Others might not even notice what you are eating. At the same time, try to be understanding of those who do. Not everyone has the same mindset about health. They may take it personally, but you don’t have to.

#3 Work on Your Mindset

Think about your relationship with food during the holidays. Why do we focus so much on it? Happiness comes from health and confidence. It comes from being around people we love. It does NOT come from food. However, it can certainly be a source of pleasure and togetherness.

As the holiday season begins, reflect on your feelings toward food. If you tend to overeat, dig deep to ask yourself why. It might help if you journal your thoughts or speak with a therapist.

Final Words of Advice

The practice of mindful eating will serve you well in handling the holidays. Overeating comes from mindless eating. Allow yourself small to moderate amounts of foods you love while enjoying every bite. Eat slowly and focus on flavors and textures. Be present and appreciate each moment. With practice, mindful eating will slow you down and help you eat a comfortable amount. You should feel free to enjoy what’s on your plate without the added guilt.

Jill Cruz, NutritionistAbout the Author:
Jill Cruz, MS, CNS, has a Master of Science in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, CT. She is a Board Certified Nutrition Specialist that specializes in weight-loss, metabolic syndrome, fitness nutrition and health optimization. Jill combines her science-based background with tons of practical nutrition, fitness and lifestyle guidance, and a special emphasis on mindset, accountability and building a pile of healthy habits.

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