With Thanksgiving fast approaching and Christmas just beyond that, ’tis the season that everybody starts freaking out about winter weight gain. And yes, the holiday months—with all the associated parties, food-focused family gatherings and office treats—are a less than optimal time for sticking to a perfectly healthy diet. But do you ever kind of wish everyone would just shush up about it?
This time of year, it seems every TV talk show and women’s magazine will start simultaneously focusing on holiday food and how to avoid it. It creates an atmosphere of food and diet obsession. Folks everywhere seems to be in a constant cycle of over-indulging and then compensating for it with extra dieting or exercise (or at least extra worrying about diet and exercise). I’m not suggesting it’s a good idea to eat holiday food indiscriminately and not worry about it until January, but letting up a little on the food focus this time of year could actually help you avoid doing too much diet damage. As anyone who’s been on a restrictive diet knows, trying to cut back on certain foods can make you want them all the more. Likewise, going to a party and telling yourself that plate of cookies or the cheese-and-cracker tray is off limits can make you hyper-focused on that food (which can lead to giving in and eating more of it than you would have if you’d just had a darn cookie or a few pieces of cheddar when you walked in).
I recently read Portia de Rossi’s memoir about her eating disordered years, and one of the things she eventually realized—and which helped her eventually break her bingeing and starving cycle—was that if she allowed herself to view all foods as okay in moderation, she was less likely to freak out, eat a ton of junk food in one sitting and then punish herself for it after. I’m not trying to equate all holiday dieters with anorexics and bulimics, but there can be a touch of disordered eating in the way many people approach food at this time of year—and perhaps many could benefit from heeding de Rossi’s advice. Instead of treating holiday sweets and treats as something to either indulge in or shun, let yourself enjoy the food (and the people you’re eating it with!) as neither good or bad in and of itself. Instead of saying, okay, I can eat whatever I want at tonight’s party but then I’ll work out extra/cut back drastically tomorrow/not have any sweets at the next party, have a little bit of whatever holiday treats are around whenever you want them. A little goes a long way in satisfying cravings.
Eating intuitively—having what you want, stopping when you’re satiated or full and not focusing on calories so much—this time of year could help us all avoid the neuroticism that creates such a perilous diet environment around the holidays.
What do you think?
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