Happy Holidays …  click to hear how I mean this to sound

The Holiday season is here! This time of year is special for so many, with gatherings of family and celebrating the meaning of many wonderful occasions. As humans, an integral part of our gatherings is food. We bond and connect over meals. We partake in each other’s lives by cooking and sharing food with one another. Offices becomes full of home-baked treats and parties are chocked full of special goodies that only are created and shared during the Christmas season. It would be rude to turn down best friend Sally’s peppermint chocolate cheesecake that she worked on all afternoon or Grandma Ruth’s handmade Stollen using the recipe handed down to her from her parents. In the midst of all this, how does one participate in the season while keeping, how shall we say, the waistline in check?

It’s tough, I’m not gonna lie. But it is possible. Let me first say I’m not going to advocate that you dismiss all this wonderful food in the name of health (caveat here for those with serious food sensitivities, Celiac disease, etc … not talking about. You all  know what you need to avoid because it’s mission critical for your health. Ok, let’s carry on…) Health is important, don’t get me wrong, but also important is sharing with one another and respecting one another’s customs and traditions. And food is an important tradition for many. In fact, you probably have many food traditions that you have or plan to pass along to your family. I know I do, and most of those are not sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free piles of mush passed off as “cake” or “cookies.” You all know what I mean. I love you alternative bakers, I really do because I’m one of them, but don’t pretend it’s just as good as the real thing. Because it’s not. There I said it.

Do you know how I survive? Rule #1: Don’t make anything forbidden. The MINUTE something becomes off-limits, you crave it all the more. I never realized this truth until I was pregnant. I swear (both times, in fact) the MINUTE I became pregnant all I wanted was sushi and sandwiches with lunchmeat. Why is that???? It was seriously frustrating. I think I ate California roles and other cooked sushi delights at least once a month for 9 long months. How often have I had sushi since? Maybe twice. No joke. So, don’t make anything forbidden. Give yourself permission to eat and ENJOY. Capitalize enjoy. Underline enjoy. Italicize enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t eat it. Go find something you do. There is huge freedom in that. If something is forbidden you will eat it even if you don’t enjoy it. When it’s now in-play, at any time, the game changes. Do you see what I’m saying?

So what this does is give you permission to enjoy Aunt Ruth’s carb-laden Stollen, and Sally’s full-fat peppo-choco cheesecake. But hey, think about taking a smaller piece. Savor every single morsel. The minute it stops tasting good (usually this is after only a few bites) stop eating. Take the leftover or another small piece home and know you can enjoy more later. What freedom that gives! And usually that insatiable power food has over you dissipates over time.

Another key tip is to check in with yourself. Yeah, give yourself a howdy doody and ask how are you feeling. Crazy, I know. Ask yourself, “Am I actually hungry right now?” If you are, how hungry are you? Ready for a small snack or ready to eat an entire horse? When you are feeling that small tinge of hunger start mentally preparing for what you can eat that will be satisfying and hunger-fulfilling. That means you need to reach this point before you are ready to eat the flesh of a horse. If you have already reached that point, well, you are in trouble. But if you can catch yourself before that intense hunger hits you are way more likely to make healthy and reasonable choices. Check in with yourself frequently and make smart choices.

The last tip I have? Don’t beat yourself up!! We ALL make poor choices at times. Some more than others, yes, but however many less-than-ideal food decisions you make, brush yourself off and move on. Tomorrow is another day. Beating yourself up only sabotages future choices and pulls you further and further down a path you don’t want to go. Forgiving yourself for food mistakes allows you to start the day afresh and make healthy choices going forward.

By using these simple tips this season you are on your way to intuitive eating. Intuitive eating allows you to navigate any food situation without overeating and berating yourself. The guilt and shame dissipates. The poor choices grow less and less. You gradually become confident in your choices, even if they are not 100% virtuous all the time.

As a Dietitian, people always want to know how I eat. Paleo? Low carb? Vegetarian? Ummm, none of the above. I eat what I feel like eating. I avoid my food sensitivities, of course, but apart from that, I do eat carbs (aiming for the healthier ones most often and cutting back on the wheat and other grains), and I do eat meat (opting for grass fed and such as much as possible), I eat fruit & veggies (mostly organic), I eat sugar, I eat legumes, I eat hemp seed, I drink Kombucha …. ie, I eat all sorts of things. Nothing, apart from foods that mess with my immune system or are flat out bad for you because they are not food, is off limits. I’ve seen people look surprised when I take several different types of desserts as a party. Damn right I love me a good cake. Not dairy free you say? I make exceptions from time to time, to my detriment of course. =)

Friends, just listen to your body and stop the insane food rules. You’ll lessen your stress and maybe even loosen that belt at the same time. I realize this whole process looks very different for each person so if you need help, just ask!

Now, apart from just the intuitive eating aspect, there are some simple tips and tricks you can use at parties and get-togethers to help you be successful in avoiding excess calories. Good luck and enjoy!

Danielle’s Holiday Eating Tips

  1.  Don’t skip meals! This often sets you up to eat more later. It NEVER reduces overall calorie intake.
  2.  Along with not skipping meals, have a hearty, healthy, high-protein breakfast. This sets you up to make healthy choices later in the day.
  3. Try starting the day with some heart-pumping exercise.
  4. Always listen to your hunger/fullness cues. Stop eating when full or no longer enjoying the food you are eating.
  5. ENJOY your food. Don’t be riddled by guilt for your decisions.  Just eat and enjoy, giving yourself permission to eat if you are hungry and if you really savor the flavor and texture. If you do “mess up” and eat too much, just move on the next day.
  6. Avoid cocktails if possible; they are high in sugar and calories. Wine in moderation is a better choice.
  7. Avoid random snacking as much as possible. Have water close by to avoid grazing.
  8. Have dessert, but start with half a portion. If you still really want more, give yourself permission to do so. Oftentimes a small portion is entirely satisfying.
  9. Drink lots of water throughout the day, especially between every alcoholic beverage. Dehydration is often mistaken as hunger. Stay hydrated!
  10. Most importantly, have a good time and enjoy your friends, family and good conversation. Don’t obsess about food the whole time!

From my family to yours, Happy Holidays everyone!

Boys at Westlake

About Danielle VenHuizen

Registered Dietitian, Certified LEAP Therapist