The holidays are a time of warmth and re-connection with family members and old friends. Yet for many of us, lurking behind a table set with all the trimmings is the nagging feeling of holiday food guilt. We have all heard and maybe used the phrase “holiday weight” to describe the month and a half long food coma feeling we inflict upon ourselves between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. It’s this odd mixture of obligation eating, indulgent eating, and guilt eating – and we do it every year! I don’t typically eat a heavy meal with cheese-based appetizers, several types of potato casseroles, and pie (at least two types, if I’m being honest) on a normal day. But being home with all of my extended family is special, and I usually feel pretty prepared to go into mashed potato battle as I don my stretchiest pants. However, sometimes the merriment is surpassed by our attention given to the “good” and “bad” qualifiers we’ve given our food and our eating behaviors. This can distract us from the true purpose of the holidays and keep us from allowing ourselves the ability to really enjoy our time with loved ones.
Food is more than the sum of its nutrient parts. Yes, it keeps us alive but it can also allow us to thrive physically, emotionally, and socially. It’s a bridge that can gap those awkward ideological, cultural, and generational differences we may have with many of our family members. When we go into the holiday season “trying to be good” about food but not focusing on if we’re “trying to be good” to ourselves, we can easily fall into a food cycle of despair: food avoidance, which can lead to a social barrier, which can ultimately lead to a sense of guilt. Guilt over whether we’ve eaten the right food, or over disappointing our family members for not fully enjoying whatever the meal provided.
Now, I’m not saying that the holidays should also be a time where you throw all you know about your body and the foods it does and does not like out the window! I’m just saying that focusing on a strict diet (for non-medical reasons) during the holidays is very likely to distract you from the joy and cheer of the season. What are the best ways to get through the holidays?
Eat lots of good food (farm fresh where you can!), don’t fill up on processed junk, and feel good while you do it all!