Holidays can be a dreaded nightmare for people who struggle with their weight.  It often feels like there are endless parties and delicious food everywhere enticing us to indulge while tempting us to ruin our intentions to “be good.”  Being good means not eating what we want or suffering the consequences by feeling guilt and shame for indulging our “weakness. “

The advertising in women’s magazines are major culprits in perpetrating the mixed messages about food.  Around every major holiday, there are hundreds if not thousands of magazine and on-line columns advising women on how to not gain weight. Have you ever tried to follow those well-meaning but often ridiculous suggestions?  Here are a few…

  1. Fill up on water before you go to a party (or out to eat). Really? It’s never worked for me.  I just have to excuse myself from an interesting coversation to pee.  How about you?
  2. Eat before the party so you’re not hungry when you get there. Hum…  That’s rather like drinking wine before going to a wine tasting.  Will you really drink less?
  3. When it comes to desert, limit yourself to the low calorie kind: Jell-o, shortbread cookies, ginger snaps or angel food cake. In-other-words, deprive yourself!  Any time I’ve done this I’ve gone home to scrounge the fridge for something I really craved.
  4. If you must eat desert, eat something small and only one. The implication is that if you start you can’t stop.  It’s just not true.  You can — if you let yourself taste and enjoy what you’re eating in the first place.
  5. If you don’t do any of the above, make sure you exercise the next day to work off the calories. In-other-words, there is something inherently wrong with having what you really want and enjoying your food.  You must pay for your pleasure. 

In all of these “tips for not gaining weight during the holidays”, there is rarely mention of enjoying and tasting your food; just behaviors to reinforce the obsession over what you put in your mouth.

Weird strategies that make sense

  1. Tune into your body’s wisdom before, during and after the party so you can know when it’s hungry and when it’s full and feed it accordingly.  Going to a party famished is a good way to eat too fast and therefore too much.  But going full is no way to enjoy the festivities.
  2. If you’re really hungry before you get to the party, eat something small before you go.  Don’t go to the party famished because it’s a set up to overeat. And when you get to the party, eat and drink what you really want; love what you eat, taste it, smell it and savour it.  It’s OK for food to be sensuous.  Don’t deprive yourself. This way you maximize your ability to trust your body’s natural knowing.  The first few bites are when your taste buds are the most sensitive and the food tastes the best. After that you’re chasing the memory.
  3. If you’re at a buffet, take your food and move away from the table. It’s easier to notice when you’re satisfied when you’re not constantly reminded of what you didn’t eat.
  4. Divert your attention.  There’s more to a holiday party than eating.  When you’re eating, eat.  When you’re done focus on something other than food.  For example, find some good company and engage in a conversation.
  5. If you eat because you’re uncomfortable talking to people, take a walk or notice when you’ve had enough socializing and leave.  If you came to the party with someone, agree on a signal that says you’re ready to go and then make a bee line for the door.  It’s OK to stay only as long as feels good and no longer.

Holidays are meant to be enjoyed, food is part of the celebration and the experience doesn’t have to be dreaded or torture. Food isn’t sinful, good or bad. It’s fuel for our body — and it’s supposed to be pleasurable to eat. What these alternative tips are encouraging you to do is tune in rather than tune out and enjoy what you eat.  I suggest doing this not only during the holidays but every day.  Try it and see what happens.  You might like it and I hope you do.

Happy Holidays!