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SALT LAKE CITY — The holiday season brings social gatherings, family parties, special events and holidays meals: all of which likely involve an abundance of food.
For some, this can feel overwhelming. It can be difficult to know how to navigate so many food situations.
The food culture we live in makes us all vulnerable to extremes in eating. We are either "on" or "off," "good" or "bad," eating "clean" or not. People are particularly vulnerable to all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking during the holiday season. It’s easy to throw all caution to the wind over the holidays with the promise of a diet in the new year.
As such, here’s the best holiday eating advice you’ll ever get: Don’t plan to start a diet in January.
If you know that a diet, restriction or deprivation is around the corner, you’ll make sure to get all the food right now before it’s gone. You may lack respect for your body because you think food will soon be scarce. Might as well enjoy yourself now before the suffering begins, right?
Instead, give yourself full permission to enjoy a variety of nourishing and satisfying foods during the holidays and beyond. If you know you can have it later, it will be easier to respect your body’s fullness cues.
Food habituation studies support the evidence for giving yourself permission to eat. Essentially, the more often you are exposed to a food, the less your brain fixates on it. Alternately, the less often you are exposed to a food, the more your brain fixates on it.
It’s easy to feel guilty and beat yourself up about haphazard and chaotic eating patterns. Instead, I’d encourage you to explore a few questions:
- Are you allowing yourself a wide variety of foods?
- Are you keeping foods you enjoy eating in your house?
- Are you ignoring hunger cues instead of honoring them by getting yourself something to eat?
Instead of trying to "fix" overeating with more food rules, you may want to assess if your eating patterns are consistent, adequate, flexible and inclusive of a wide variety of foods. As you work to make them so, you’ll find you become much more level headed about food.
So, as you navigate food abundant holidays, I’d encourage you to reassure yourself that you have permission to eat whatever you want, whenever you want it. By doing so, you can eat what tastes good in amounts that also feel good to your body because it’s not going anywhere.
To avoid the all-or-nothing mentality that leads to extremes in eating over the holidays, simply don’t plan to start a diet in January.