Preventing Post-Holidays Food Regret

Preventing Post-Holidays Food Regret

Minh-Hai Tran, MS, RD, CSSD

On January 1, 2011, many Americans will wake-up feeling their clothes fit a little uncomfortably snug, and regret overindulging during this holiday season.  When you’re up against endless parties offering an array of enticing high-calorie fare, alcohol, relatives who ‘love you with food’, holiday stress (and sometimes emotional distress), and a “Well, it only comes once a year” attitude, it can be a little more than challenging to eat well intuitively.  Eating well during the holidays often boils down to damage control.

With never-ending cues to eat, there’s nothing riskier than being on autopilot.  The main name of the game is staying conscious.  There really is a happy middle ground between deprivation and over-indulgence.  Here are some tips on how to achieve it:

Be a food snob. It’s a very simple but important concept: if you don’t really enjoy eating it, it’s not worth it.  Those grocery store cupcakes and slightly too-hard, dry cookies will always look better than they taste.  But my friend Pham’s made-from-scratch chestnut stuffing?  Worth every bite.

Be here now. It’s just too easy to eat while completely distracted at holiday parties, and therefore, notice only two sensations: hungry and painfully stuffed.  In order to feel satisfied after a comfortable amount of food, it’s important to be fully present when you’re eating, tasting every bite.  As Tribole and Resch recommend in Intuitive Eating, ask yourself, “How does the food taste?” and “What is my hunger-fullness level?” to help you stay connected to yourself.

Be a smart food shopper. When you walk into your favorite clothing store, you might love many items in the store, but you still have a budget.  So you spend some time looking at everything in the store, and only your top favorite pieces make it to the check-out counter.  That’s similar to shopping the buffet table; your stomach can only comfortably hold a certain amount of food at any moment, so take some time to survey what’s being served before making any food decisions .Too bad there’s not a risk-free refund policy after you’ve eaten.

Be assertive with food-pushers.  For a number of possible reasons, you might make a few people uncomfortable it you’re not eating at any point during the event or holding an empty plate.  (“What’s wrong?  Don’t you like my cooking? Here, have more!”) Try pairing a food compliment with a polite but firm “No thank you, I’m full.”  Some of my clients report purposely leaving a little food on the plate at all times can successfully ward off food-pushers.  If the hostess insists you eat more, offer to take some food home (even if you end up giving it to a homeless person).  If you’re at a sit-down meal, putting a napkin on your plate can help prevent continuous nibbling past fullness and signal to others that you’re done eating.

Prioritize a little “me time”. It’s much more challenging to eat intuitively when you’re under a lot of stress.  Despite increasing demands this time of year, most people can’t afford to slack off on self-care when they need it the most.  Whether its yoga, kickboxing, naps, or curling up with a cup of tea and novel, make a little time everyday for what helps you feel restored and centered.

May you have the happiest holiday season yet and ring in the New Year with no regrets!

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