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Intuitive Eating Throughout the Holidays

The holidays. They’re fast approaching. Take a minute and think about what the holidays mean to you and your relationship with food. Do you get excited for all the family recipes to make their way back into your kitchen, do you become stressed about having to cook for extra people, or do you feel scared that you’ll end up weighing more than you did during the summer? Maybe you feel a combination of these, feeling both joyful expectation and nervous hesitation.

One of the main ways to fully enjoy the holidays without falling into dieting mentality is to learn to avoid food pushing. What’s food pushing you ask? So glad you’re wondering. Food pushing is when you feel obligated to take food that is offered to you, when you don’t actually want it. This obligation can stem from remarks made by others, the offering being one of your favorite foods, or not wanting to be disrespectful by passing on food cooked just for you.

Sometimes people push food with the best intentions. Some cooks love to see people enjoy their food or they feel like they’re doing you a favor by continually offering you food, even after you’ve said you’ve had enough. Others feel like it’s a way to nurture and be a good host. And some, are stuck in a dieting mentality themselves causing them to feel like they need to bring others down with them by squashing eating freedom.

Having a few short phrases or simple responses pre-planned can often help to fight off eating more than you wanted to, or standing up for eating the portions that sound good to you. I hope these tips will help de-stress your holidays and bring you good cheer as you go throughout your holiday season.

Scenario 1: You’re hosting Thanksgiving. Things look different this year, with just a few friends and family around the table due to the state of our world. But you didn’t skimp on the food just because there were less people around the table. You slaved the few days leading up to Thanksgiving, preparing the turkey and all the traditional sides, plus a beautiful pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream.

Towards the end of the meal, you’re passing out dessert. It looks incredible, but you’ve truly had your fill during the main course. You know you have a whole extra pie sitting in the fridge that you probably won’t even get to cut by the end of the night. Taking into account your current fullness and the fact that there will be plenty more pie to come, you decide to pass on the pie. You dish everyone else’s piece, and sit down with some tea to help digest your meal.

Not more than 10 seconds from being at the table, your sister taunts, “Wow, you slaved all day over this pie and you don’t even want to have a piece? What are you, scared it’ll make you gain weight?”

Her comments are obviously not encouraging, especially since your weight has nothing to do with the choice you’ve made not to eat the pie, but rather how your body feels in the moment. It seems like she might actually be the one that is concerned about her weight, and her comment is projecting her own worries onto you. What’s a good response to this?

Here are a few options:

  • “My weight actually has nothing to do with my food choices. I feel full right now and know I can have some later if I want.”

  • “I’m so full right now, I know I’ll enjoy my night and time with our family more if I hold off on the pie tonight. Maybe I’ll even have some for breakfast tomorrow.”

Either answer is precise and honest. It also reinforces that your food choices are dictated by what your body is trying to tell you rather than what others think you should do.

Scenario 2: You’re at your parents’ for the holidays. Mom has prepared an amazing meal for you, buffet style. You take a portion of all the sides offered and can’t wait to indulge in all your childhood favorites. Your mother looks at your plate disdainfully and says, “Oh honey, are you really going to eat all of that?”

How do you respond?

  • “It all looked so good, I wanted to make sure to try a bit of everything. I may not finish it all, but if I do I will enjoy every moment of it.”

  • “I may finish it, I may not. Either way, I’m still the same me and not a better person either way.”

Both answers elicit food freedom. So what if you have a little more than you normally do on a holiday? You are in this for the long haul. One day of eating more than you normally would is not going to train wreck you. Your worth is not defined by how much you eat.

Scenario 3: Your best friend is hosting a game night. She’s the BEST hostess and always decks her WHOLE house out for Christmas. She’s also the queen baker and perfects every Pinterest recipe she tries. #Goals. You’re stoked to try her new creation and enjoy the good company. You take a couple cookies and nibble on them throughout the night. You’re having so much fun playing games, you’re not even thinking about the sweet treats. She comes by and offers you a new batch of cookies that just came out of the oven, hot and melty. She says, “Oh my gosh, you just have to have one of these, I think they’re my best ones yet!” You say no thanks at first. She makes the rounds to the rest of the guests and comes back to you saying, “Are you SURE you don’t want to try one, it’s just a tiny little cookie.”

What do you do?

  • “You know what, those do look good. I’ve already had a couple tonight so I’d love to take some home with me.”

  • Take one, have a bite and throw the rest away.

Your response all depends on how you’re feeling. If you do a quick check in with your body and you’re really wanting some more, have it. However, if you weren’t even thinking about the cookies and enjoying the night without the extra one, might as well save it for later.

The moral of the story folks, is to ENJOY the holidays. Live in the moment, cherish the ones you’re with, and don’t get caught up in all of the shameful thoughts diet culture would like you to. It's okay to skip out on dessert some nights, it's okay to have a piece of pie for breakfast. Through it all, don't forget to check in with yourself and notice how you feel.

May you be blessed and safe this holiday season.

Mikyah, RDN, LD, CD


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