My Holiday Message...

Every year around holiday time, there’s an influx of articles about how to stick to your healthy eating goals and resist temptation. You may read about how to say no to second helpings, stop gobbling up fat-laden appetizers or alternate alcoholic drinks with sparkling water to combat calories.
So, this year, let’s try something new. Instead of stress, pressure and guilt associated with family dinners and holiday get-togethers, let’s create a new narrative that will empower you to feel good about yourself and your food choices.

Here are things to tell yourself this year so you can enjoy family, friends and food:

  1. I deserve to enjoy holiday meals without guilt. Yep, it’s just food. You deserve to take pleasure in it. Food is part of traditions and memories, so sample your favorite cookies or mashed potatoes and take time to really enjoy every bite of a reasonable portion. Focus on how your food smells, looks and tastes without distractions. This is called mindful eating, and it’s about fully enjoying what you eat without regret or shame.
  2. What I eat every day matters most. Worry less about what you eat over the holidays and concentrate on what you eat year-round instead. Remember: The holiday season is short-lived. In life, there will always be times when you can’t make your usual healthy choices — and that’s okay.
  3. I have the power to control my portions. Only you can decide how much food to eat, and that decision should be based on listening to your body. Slow down and notice how your stomach feels before you start eating. If you’re still hungry, have another bite. But when you’re almost full, stop eating.
  4. I have the right to eat seconds or to say “no thank you” when I’m full. Remember that you don’t need to make someone else happy by overeating or by denying your hunger. Have faith in your ability to make good choices and trust your appetite.
  5. It’s normal if I overindulge during the holidays. It’s human! Accept that you did and move on. Don’t become trapped in punishing self-talk or restrictive dieting behaviors. Remember – mindful eating! Enjoy some of your favorite foods, but respect your body when it tells you you’re done.
  6. I will eat when I’m hungry, not when I’m feeling emotional. Many of us eat when we’re lonely, bored, sad or stressed, and those emotions can run wild at holiday time. There are more effective remedies for dealing with these feelings than food. The answer is different for everyone, but phoning a friend, exercising or meditation can work for some people. Take time to learn what works best for you.
  7. I don’t need to “healthify” my beloved and traditional holiday recipe. Enjoy your favorites as they should be — it’s just once a year! Really — no one wants sugarless sugar cookies or eggnog made from almond milk and flaxseeds.
  8. I will enjoy quality time with people I love. A very long-term study at Harvard has been examining what makes people happy over the course of their lives. And guess what? It’s not how many cookies they ate. Close relationships are the key to long-term health and happiness.