26 Nov How to Enjoy Your Holiday Feast, Guilt-Free
I think everyone can agree that things look a lot different this year. We’re planning smaller holiday gatherings with just our immediate families.https://psychologyofeating.com/mind-over-food/‘>2 It all starts in your hypothalamus, which processes senses, emotions, and biological functions like hunger. When you feel guilty about what you’re eating, the hypothalamus transmits signals that slow your digestion and cause your body to store more calories as fat versus burning them for energy. In theory, saying to yourself “this will make me fat” becomes kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the flip side, when you enjoy food as you’re eating it, the hypothalamus releases pleasure signals that stimulate digestion so that you thoroughly break down food and more effortlessly burn off the calories.
So, it’s not just what you’re eating, it’s what you’re thinking about what you’re eating.
Not only that, negative thoughts can lead to other compensatory behaviours. In this study, researchers analyzed data from 3,177 people, examining the differences between those who experienced food guilt and those who didn’t.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-practice/201305/avoidance-coping‘>4
You Can’t Just Let Go of Food Guilt, Can You?
If you’re wired to see foods as good or bad, it’s going to take some unraveling, but it’s completely possible. It’s also completely worth it so you’re not white knuckling it through the holidays. Or worse, yet, beating yourself up about it for days. And as you let go of good guilt, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself eating more intuitively. Here’s how to get started:
Step 1: Challenge your food rules.
We all have them. It’s that little voice inside that says, “you shouldn’t have that” or “stop grazing” or “that’s going to go right to your thighs.” This is all based on your stories or beliefs you created through your experiences growing up. Once you’ve acknowledged one of your rules, confront it. You always have a choice to decide if it’s valid or just reflecting old, outdated programming and no longer serves you.
Step 2: Be curious vs judgmental.
How often are you judging yourself? And not just when it comes to what you eat? You might be so used to being in judgment mode that you don’t even realize when you’re doing it to yourself – or someone else. Try, instead, to be curious. Ask yourself why you think a certain food is bad or where these judgements are coming from. You might find that the beliefs you have aren’t even your own. Also, learn to approach these situations from a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. You can read more about how to do that here.
Step 3: Have a plan.
Nine times out of ten, if you walk into a holiday feast hungry, you’re going to choose foods you might not choose otherwise. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan in advance. My go-to strategies for avoiding impulse binging are to: prioritize protein and fat, make breakfast your most calorically dense meal of the day, and always answer hunger with a meal. You might still indulge, but you’ll feel better about your decision if your body and brain are satiated.
Step 4: Know your triggers.
If you know you can’t pass up a bowl of candy when you’re hungry, don’t put out a bowl of candy (or don’t show up hungry). If you cope with stress by eating or drinking, find healthier ways to decompress. Getting clear on what triggers you is a game-changer in situations like this. And it can save you hours — or even days of grief afterwards.
Step 5: Practice self-compassion.
Being kind to yourself is a skill not everyone has. That’s why it’s so important to practice it on a regular basis. Self-compassion requires empathy and the ability to be fully present with yourself and whatever feelings you’re experiencing — without running away, hiding, or diving headfirst into a bag of M&Ms. You never need to be punished for your actions, so resist the urge to “diet harder” by eating bland chicken breast for three days straight or committing to a steady stream of chronic cardio for the next week. You deserve better.
How to Have a Guilt-Free Feast
It doesn’t matter if you’re paleo, keto, vegan, whatever. Letting go of food guilt is the healthiest move you can make. Use these steps to get to the bottom of your food fixation and get ready to enjoy your holiday feast guilt-free.
- Challenge your food rules
- Be curious vs judgmental
- Have a plan
- Know your triggers
- Practice self-compassion
Do you experience food guilt? What strategies work for you?
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