I recently noticed a flyer at my gym promoting their open holiday hours with the slogan, “Burn It Before You Eat It”. Suggesting if you hit the gym on Thanksgiving morning, you can ‘earn’ those holiday calories. I snapped a pic of this poster and got working on my social media rant. Passionate is not a strong enough word for how I feel about the damage of diet culture!
I can feel myself on the edge of a nutrition misinformation, thinspiration, and disorderly eating rabbit hole (stay tuned for future blogs)! No matter how difficult, for now, I will try and stick to my intended topic – ditching holiday food guilt.
Why do we feel so guilty when we indulge?
There were several contributing factors to my personal food guilt before I became aware of my own body image and disorderly eating patterns.
1. Labeling food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ was one. With each exhausting food choice came an internal judgement. Not allowing myself to eat something that I wanted resulted in anxiety and disappointment but eating it led to guilt!
2. I would try ‘making up’ for holiday meals by obsessively exercising or restricting myself in the days leading up to a holiday. As a result, I would overeat to the point of discomfort and then feel disgusted and ashamed. Research shows that restricting invariably leads to binge urges.
3. Most importantly – society, society, society! Our culture has created the illusion that thin equals beautiful, healthy, happy, successful, bla, bla, bla. Like brain washed zombies we strive for this picture of perfection. Enter my old disordered thinking, “I bet perfect skinny peopled don’t eat stuffing, corn bread AND pie!”
Tips For Guilt Free Holiday Meals
1. You don’t have to earn your meals. Food is not a luxury; it is a necessity. How much time you spend at the gym does not need to dictate your next meal. If getting a workout in around the holidays helps you feel in balance, happy and healthy – great! If you feel like you HAVE TO get to the gym and guilt if you don’t, try intuitive exercise over the holidays. Ask your body each day what it needs. Sore and exhausted? Time for some stretching, yoga or a light walk. Feeling energetic but dreading your typical routine? Hit up a new class with the goal of having fun!
2. Ditch the scale! Hide your scale during the holidays. Heck, throw your scale out for the entire year! Weight is not an indicator of health, muscle mass or body fat. Weighing yourself acts as a distraction from your body’s hunger cues as you give or deny yourself permission to eat based on that day’s arbitrary number. Daily fluctuations are normal and are typically due to water weight.
3. Enjoy every bite. Smell, touch, taste each and every bite. Chew slowly and notice how your food feels against your tongue, teeth and roof of our mouth. This mindful approach will prevent mindlessly gobbling up your meal and gives you a chance to listen to your hunger cues.
4. Listen to your hunger cues. Ask yourself how hungry you are on a scale of 1-10; 1 being starving, perhaps nauseous, lightheaded and 10 being so full you are in extreme physical discomfort. Keep yourself between a 3 and 7 throughout the day to reduce your vulnerability to over-eating.
So, in summary, pass the chore of guilt tripping on over to your family members this holiday season – they are probably better at it than you anyway!