How to Make Holiday Eating a Guilt-Free Situation

Even if you’ve made a lifelong commitment to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, holiday eating can pose a challenge. Holiday meals, parties and edible gifts often come with a burden of guilt. Sometimes that guilt is self-imposed–eating high-calorie, high-fat holiday foods might make you feel that you’ve betrayed your weight-loss goals. At other times, it’s friends, family, significant others or co-workers who are prodding at your conscience. By keeping your health goals in mind, taking care of yourself and giving yourself permission to indulge on certain occasions, you can shed the burden of guilt and enjoy holiday eating.

Remember Your Goals

Writing down a few health-related affirmations on an index card and keeping it in your wallet could help you stay focused when you feel pressured into consuming unwanted calories. Phrases like “I feel better when I’m eating nutritious foods and staying fit,”  or “I deserve to lose weight and feel as healthy as I can”  could serve as your mantras when you’re under attack by a well-meaning relative or an envious co-worker.

Before you leave for a party, have a snack containing protein, healthy fat and a complex carbohydrate, like a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, or a bowl of bran flakes with yogurt and almonds. Feeling ravenous when you arrive at an event can make you vunlerable to pressure from your family or peers. Whenever possible, drink water or juice instead of caffeinated drinks or holiday cocktails. Staying hydrated will help you stay on track with your health plan.

Indulge in Your Favorites

As the holiday season begins, make a mental list of your favorite treats, and let yourself enjoy them in moderation. Skip the high-calorie foods that you don’t absolutely love. If you crave your grandmother’s marshmallow fudge, help yourself to a few pieces and savor the experience. Don’t bother with the store-bought sugar cookies or the cheese log if these foods don’t appeal to you all that much. If you eat mindfully, choosing your treats with care and paying attention to the flavors and textures of the foods you eat, you can avoid the distracted, stress-related eating that undermines your nutritional goals and leaves you feeling guilty.

Simplify Meals

Eating holiday dishes in their simplest form can cut extra calories and fat. Gravies, sauces, whipped cream, dressings and butter can be reduced or eliminated, leaving you free to experience your food’s true flavor. Low-calorie relishes and chutneys or fat-free spices can add zest to meats or other holiday dishes. If you feel obligated to take a spoonful of the chicken-fat gravy that’s been served at every Thanksgiving dinner in your family since the American Revolution, have a small amount on the side.

Be Good to Yourself

If you cave into pressure from a nagging family member or overeat due to holiday stress, don’t let regret undermine your goals. A lot of food-related guilt comes from the “all or nothing” myth that once you’ve broken your diet, you might as well give up and go back to your old eating habits. Lifelong weight maintenance requires flexibility and self-acceptance. Eat according to your weight-loss plan whenever possible; if you can’t, eat lightly the next day. Grab the opportunity to get some form of cardiovascular exercise in your spare moments to keep your mood elevated. Set aside time for a facial, a massage or a hot candlelight bath to reward yourself for all the positive changes you’ve made to your health.

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