Intuitive Eating For the Holidays

Intuitive eating is an evidence-based approach to eating which combats the pitfalls of diet culture, and gets people in tune with the physiological needs of their body. Diet culture has been rampant in the US, with literature on weight loss dating as far back as 1912 (The Fun of Getting Thin; How to be Happy and Reduce the Waist Line by Samuel Blythe). That’s over 100 years of immense growth for the diet industry, all while obesity and metabolic disease rates continue to rise in the US. With countless diets (slim fast, Atkins, juice cleanses, raw foods diet, Paleo, South Beach Diet, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, the Zone Diet, etc.) and the mantra of “everything in moderation,” Americans are left misinformed, unbalanced, and jumping from periods of underfed to excessive consumption when their willpower bank runs dry.

Intuitive eating aims to silence the noise and center individuals on their own body and its physiologic needs. Learning to eat when you are hungry – and to say no to eating when you’re not – is the start of intuitive eating. When you learn to listen to your body instead of dieting “rules” or external hunger cues, you move from a dysfunctional relationship with food, characterized by restriction and cravings, to a fulfilling relationship with food that is characterized by satisfaction and control.

During the holiday season, a common concern of many health-conscious individuals is staying on track with their goals and progress. With so many goodies and holiday traditions that involve sugar, spice, and everything nice, how can someone stay on track? Here are three things to keep in mind as you enjoy this holiday season with your friends and family.

1. Remove the guilt.

If you haven’t already reached this milestone with intuitive eating, it’s time to spend some time considering your headspace. Eating is about so much more than just consuming nutrients. It has forever been a cornerstone of culture, a gathering of souls, an activity of communion, gratitude, and fellowship. While your relationship with food may have created some emotional baggage between self-esteem, body image, and food choices, it’s time to let that go as you practice intuitive eating. If your family tradition involves drinking hot chocolate with your family – have the hot chocolate, let go of the guilt. You can still partake in your favorite holiday activities, and you also have the power to say no to the things that you intuitively know aren’t worth it for you anymore. Whatever you choose, guilt doesn’t need to be part of it. When you slip back into consumption of guilt, you slip back into old patterns of fear and shame that come along with them. This deters you from you getting “back on track” and puts you back into old cycles of restriction to pay for your “bad” foods, and inevitable overconsumption when your willpower runs dry. You don’t need to say yes to every single thing this holiday season, just fall back on the principles you’ve learned and stay in tune with your body as you enjoy this holiday season.

2. You’re a grown up, you can have these things whenever you want.

If you’re anxious thinking about all the holiday foods that will be within reach in the coming weeks, remind yourself that you’re an adult. You are the one in charge. A Christmas cookie is just a sugar cookie in the shape of a reindeer. If this isn’t something you struggle to say no to any other time of year – ask yourself if it’s the food you’re craving or the sweet memories you’ve made over the years with these treats serving as the colorful backdrop. Remember, food is the cornerstone of cultural gatherings, and it’s normal to have memories and feelings bubble to the surface when these foods reappear. You can remove the power these foods have over you by separating the item from the nostalgia. And, really, you have the power to consume any of these foods, any time of year. Enjoy making new memories this holiday season, and continue to tune in to how your body and mind feel as you feed them during this time.

3. Any recipe can be altered!

The holidays are times filled with traditions and memories centered around food, but the recipes to make these things can always be altered to better fit into your current lifestyle. People in the health and wellness space are far more aware of problematic foods (grains, soy, dairy, etc.), and peoples’ emotional connections to food in general. Pinterest and Instagram are brimming with food bloggers that have adapted popular recipes using natural, nutrient-dense ingredients. While fad diets are not sustainable over the long term, they have become buzz words that are helpful key words if you’re searching for a certain type of recipe. For instance, if you want a peppermint mocha latte but know the sugars and artificial ingredients aren’t worth it for you anymore, searching “Whole30” with the term “peppermint mocha” will bring up recipes without any artificial ingredients, dairy, or added sweeteners (not even honey or syrup), as these things are all excluded on the Whole30 diet. If you’re going to be in the kitchen with family and friends this holiday season, make memories trying new ways to make your old favorites! Talk with your RD about more resources and modifications that will allow you to enjoy this holiday season.

Diet culture has created a dysfunctional relationship with food for many people, but recentering and learning what your body needs through the evidence-based practice of intuitive eating removes the power from the food and brings people to a well-nourished state when done with the guidance of a registered dietitian. During this holiday season, continue building on the skills you’ve learned through intuitive eating to enjoy time with friends and family by letting go of guilt, reminding yourself that it’s about the memories – not the food, and finding better alternatives to recreate your holiday favorites. Your registered dietitian is your greatest resource for food-related health questions, and will help you make the most of your time and health this holiday season.

Comment below and let me know which of these tips resonates with you the most….

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