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How to avoid holiday food guilt

The holidays seem to bring up a lot of talk and feelings surrounding something called food guilt. According to some psychologists, a little bit is normal but constant guilt can be harmful. Food guilt is when a person has shame, restrictions, deprivations, and bad feelings about the food they eat or want to eat. Over time, it can lead to problems like eating and emotional disorders. Overall it creates an unhealthy relationship with food and sometimes exercise.

The thing to remember this holiday season is that if you are living an overall healthy lifestyle and eating healthy about 80 percent of the time, moving your body, getting enough sleep, and managing your stress then a small treat for the holidays on several occasions won’t derail you in a big way. It’s a lot easier said than done, and it’s a topic that comes up a lot this time of year. But how can we shift that negativity? Here are my three steps for success.

Step 1

Stop thinking of food and exercise as a counterbalance. It’s misguided, and not going to work. You can’t undo the calories you consume through exercise.

Thought: How much exercise does it take to burn off that holiday party meal?

Reality: It just doesn’t work that way. If you stick to a CONSISTENT healthy lifestyle, then most healthy people can have a few treats and enjoy the holiday without any unwanted weight gain.

Step 2

Focus on addition instead of subtraction. What can you add to impact your health each and every day? Instead of feeling guilt about what you perceive as “bad” actions, focus on the good things you can do.

Here are some examples:

  • Eat a piece of fruit with lunch each day.
  • Walk for 10 minutes each morning.
  • Meditate before bed each evening.
  • Swap a takeout meal for a healthy salad.
  • Drink a bottle of water instead of soda.

Step 3

When guilt starts to set in, tell it to take a hike. Nothing will get your tinsel in a tangle like beating yourself up about enjoying the holiday season. Feelings of guilt will only weigh you down, leave you feeling bad, and in some cases cause more unhealthy behaviors.

Reality: The only thing that feeling guilty will do is extract the enjoyment out of whatever it is you’re doing.

Instead try this:

  • Make the decision and let it go. Acknowledge that you are going to enjoy the cookie you really want and do it without regret and then move on. Focus on enjoying the family, friends, and holiday cheer.
  • Be logical. One pound is about 3,500 calories and the piece of pie or extra cookie is not going to add up to even nearly a pound. Appreciate the fact that you can enjoy a little extra (many others can’t) and that it most likely won’t impact your wellness in a big way.
  • Progress not perfection. Don’t fall into an all or nothing category and get caught up in giving up for the day. If you enjoy a treat, get back on track immediately with positive thoughts and healthful actions.

Overall it’s important to remember that healthy is BEAUTIFUL, healthy is STRONG, and healthy is being at PEACE with yourself and your body. So give yourself the gift of love this holiday season and remember to work with your body and not be at war with it. After all, your body is the only one you will have. So love it, be kind to it, and enjoy this holiday season.