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Navigating Holiday Eating

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We make over 200 food decisions daily. No one wants to feel consumed by the thoughts surrounding food choices, especially when you can be enjoying quality time with friends and family instead.

 Holiday season can bring a special type of stress around navigating eating and staying on track with your health goals. Instead of over-thinking what you are putting on your plate, who is going to comment about it and what, and how “guilty” you are going to feel afterwards, let’s make a holiday game plan to ease your mind!

1. Focus on Protein

Protein helps to promote stable blood sugar, curbs your hunger, prevents overeating, and leaves you feeling satisfied longer. Protein is a precursor to feel good neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which can help with mood, stress resilience, cravings and sleep. Make sure to add protein to your plate. Start your dinner with a protein rich appetizer like shrimp cocktail, holiday kebabs, roasted turkey, deviled eggs.

2. Pick your Non-Negotiables

Instead of choosing everything offered at the meal, plan ahead to what sides might serve you best. After choosing the protein, choose a couple sides that you enjoy and look forward to the most. This will help you avoid overeating and can help ease your mind when it comes to the mealtime decisions.

3. Do not Skip Meals to Overcompensate

Instead of “saving your calories” for the main event, have a protein rich breakfast before you leave the house. Eating something before you attend a holiday event can help prevent overeating and keep portions to a reasonable size.

4. Be Kind to Yourself

Eating healthy food does not make you a ‘good’ person and eating ‘unhealthy’ food does not make you a ‘bad’ person. Remind yourself that you have permission to choose whatever you would like to eat for the rest of your life. It is always your decision to decide what is best for YOU.  Without food rules you are more likely to feel satisfied, avoid overeating, digest and absorb your food better and focus on more important things like making memories!

5. Try these Mindful Pause Exercises to help calm your body and assess your current thoughts and hunger level:

Pause and take 3 deep diaphragmatic breaths.

Bring awareness to the current moment. Become present in your body and orient yourself to the time and place. Slowly look around at your surroundings, taking them in without judgement or evaluation. Name 3 things you can see, 2 colors in the room and 1 thing you can hear. Use your inner strengths of honesty, courage and compassion to assess your current hunger level and if it is coming from your head or your stomach.

Before consuming food due to emotional eating:

– Pay attention to what foods you choose

– What is the texture, weight, color?

– What does it smell like?

– Ask yourself: “Why am I about to eat at this moment?”


Mindless Eating: The 200 Daily Food Decisions We Overlook

Environment and Behavior, 39:1 (January 2007), 106-23