How to enjoy a guilt-free
holiday season around food?

Guilt-free eating during holidays

The holidays are just around the corner and this year’s celebrations are undoubtedly going to be much different. The COVID-19 pandemic will likely change holiday traditions for most of us. But you can still enjoy the holidays by embracing the deliciousness of holiday goodies and wonderful meals traditionally served at this time of the year while respecting the government’s guidelines. Yet, for some people, the eating experience can bring its load of stress and guilt. Therefore, for this article, I will give you some tips and tricks to help you make this time of the year guilt-free and brighter.

1. Have a special holiday meal

Even if the celebration will only be with members of your bubble or if you are alone, it is important to take the time to have at least one special holiday meal. This might help you to find comfort as well as have something to look forward to during these challenging times.

You can perhaps still prepare some of your family’s traditional recipes and adjust the portions according to the size of your immediate family. You can also choose to celebrate with a takeout meal from your local restaurant which could also be a great initiative to support a local business which has been hit hard by this pandemic.

To make your meal more enjoyable or less lonely, you can consider eating your meal while connecting with friends and family virtually.

2. Listen to your hunger during the day

To allow yourself to have a copious festive meal, many of you might think that it is best to deprive yourself during the day for you to “earn” that meal. For instance, some of you might decide to skip lunch and/or eliminate carbohydrate foods during the day.

However, this strategy will only make you arrive at dinner feeling ravenous.

And when you are starving, chances are that the foods eaten will feel less satisfying. This is because you will likely eat very fast and instead of savoring it, you might just swallow the food quickly. Therefore, a bigger amount of food might be needed to feel satisfied, leading to over-eating and therefore guilt of having eaten past your fullness signals.

Instead, try to make sure you are well nourished throughout the day by honoring your hunger. Eat your meals as usual and snacks as needed. This way, you will arrive to your festive meal less ravenous and you will be more likely to enjoy the delicious food.

3. Make your meal as satisfying as possible

While planning your special meal, try to ask yourself what kind of meal would be satisfying for your taste buds and your body instead of choosing your meals just because it is a healthy choice.

For instance, let’s say you are craving for a meat pie with potatoes on the side and some sautéed vegetables but you decide to make grilled chicken, steamed vegetables and no carbs only because you think it’s the healthiest decision.

Chances are that your meal of grilled chicken might not be satisfying. As a result, after eating that meal, you might look for more food…not because you are still physically hungry but because you didn’t satisfy your taste buds with the foods that you really wanted to eat. So instead of asking yourself “what should I eat?”, try to focus on “what do I want to eat?”

Remember that we don’t eat food just to get nutrients but also for many other reasons including to find joy and comfort and also to cultivate traditions!

4. Practice self-compassion instead of self-blame and guilt

If you do over-eat, do not beat yourself up. Eating sometimes past our fullness cues is totally normal. There’s no point beating yourself up for something that has already happened.

Indeed, blaming yourself for having over-eaten, will just reinforce the forbidden foods. For instance, you might say to yourself “I ate way too much desserts and now I’m going to gain weight. No more desserts for me for the next few months!” By putting desserts off limits, they become the forbidden fruit which in turn becomes even more appealing. You might soon find yourself eating desserts just because you “shouldn’t” eat them.

Instead, try to be compassionate towards yourself if you feel stuffed after eating. You can try to listen and trust your body after your meal. It will want to balance out the excess foods by delaying your hunger signals for the next meal and/or even change your cravings for the next meals.

5. Say No to the “all or nothing diet” mentality

Often times, another reason to eat more during the holidays is because of the all or nothing mentality. It’s the mindset of limiting eating certain foods only on special occasions like the holidays and then restricting yourself comes January.

This type of mentality can trigger episodes of losing control with food over the holidays. You feel like you have to “take advantage” of this period to eat the foods that will become off limit when you start your diet in January.

Normalizing those foods and allowing yourself to eat them more often throughout the year could definitely help to remove the “power” that food has on you and help you build a healthier relationship with food.

6. Normalize emotional eating

As discussed in my previous article on emotional eating, eating to soothe emotions is perfectly normal. We not only turn to foods for comfort when we feel negative emotions but we also celebrate around food when we feel positive emotions.

And during the holidays this year, we might certainly be feeling mixed emotions. So, if you need to turn to foods to soothe your emotions, please allow yourself to do so without feeling guilty.

If you feel guilty of emotional eating, you will undoubtedly not find the comfort and joy you were looking for. It would be the same as going for a walk after a long stressful day to unwind and feeling guilty of having taken a walk because you have more work to do. Would the walk have helped you to relax? Probably not! So, if you feel like eating would be the solution to soothe your emotions, give yourself permission to do so with intent.

You might be surprised to see that you will be able to better savor the foods. For more tips and tricks on how to deal with emotional eating, feel free to read the previous blog article.

The holidays happen just one time a year. Your food intake during this period certainly does not define your health and lifestyle. And this year has already been very challenging, so try to give yourself more self-compassion when it comes to food!