Holiday Eating the Healthy and Guilt-Free Way

Josephine Raum, MS, RD, Cooper Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery

It starts right before Halloween and continues through New Year’s Day. It is the guilt associated with holiday eating. When the holidays roll around, the term “survival” tends to be used for people trying to actively lose weight. However, holidays are a time to celebrate and viewing these celebrations as an obstacle course is a bit of a downer and can lead to other unhealthy eating habits.

Despite the endless list of fad diets available, food is a part of everyone’s daily life. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and it is possible to enjoy your holiday favorites without derailing your health goals or weight-loss efforts. When you deny yourself a little indulgence on special occasions you may also be setting yourself up for a binge later on. To stay on track this holiday season, try mindful eating rather than just imposing strict limitations. Mindful eating is about focusing on how you eat instead of what you eat. Mindful eating can help you to feel less deprived without overdoing it.

Part of overeating occurs when you eat too fast and your body doesn’t have a chance to recognize its fullness. This can lead to overeating and feelings of being “stuffed.” With mindful eating, you should chew patiently. Focus on the food and enjoy it by trying to slow down. Aim for 25 to 30 chews for each mouthful. If it’s your Aunt Sally’s favorite pie that only comes around once a year, savor the flavor and don’t wolf it down.

You may also trying putting the utensils down between bites. This is another technique to slowing down your pace. Holiday meals don’t have to be a race. Recognize if the person across from you is eating fast, this may cause you to quicken your pace as well. Take sips of water between bites and enjoy conversation.

Wait to add more food before taking the next bite; make sure the food you were just chewing has all been swallowed. Don’t aim for 110 percent full. We don’t need to be stuffed to the brim to show we enjoyed all the delicious foods. Connect your mind and body and practice stopping around 80 percent full. You may find that 20 minutes later you feel completely satisfied but not bursting at the seams and going into a food coma.

Before you get to that holiday party or big meal, make a plan. Decide in advance what you really want to eat and don’t fill up on fillers. If you know that several of your favorite dishes are going to be served, avoid eating those foods that aren’t as meaningful. Skip the dinner rolls or crackers and cheese if what you really want is the green bean casserole and sausage stuffing. Not only do you save some calories, but you feel more satisfied because you anticipated and enjoyed the choices you made instead of eating everything in sight.

Do not go to a party starving. Have a small healthy snack to take the edge off before you go out. After a light snack it is much easier to have restraint while choosing which food to fill up on. Once you are at the party, you can be choosier as to what you feel like indulging in for that evening.

And finally, remember that weight loss and healthy habits are more like a marathon and not a sprint. One or two days of special foods aren’t going to wreck long-term goals if you keep it in perspective. Developing a healthy relationship with food will help you be more successful in the long-run rather than viewing it as the enemy to be avoided.

Josephine Raum, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian with the Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Cooper University Health Care. For more information about this topic, please click here.

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