How to Practice Moderation During the Holidays: Giving Yourself Permission

holiday eating moderationIt happens every year. Right around mid-November onwards, the bakers start baking and the stores start displaying vast arrays of holiday goodies. Office break rooms start filling up with ginger cookies, sweet breads, candy canes and truffles. In fact, one of the biggest complaints from many of my clients are that there are so many well meaning folks bringing all of these treats into offices, meetings and as gifts, and it’s extremely difficult to resist. Knowing the impact this has on our weight and health, why do we keep doing this?

I’m sure you have already guessed it. Food is tradition. Food is comfort. Food is fun. I’ve had several clients state emphatically that it just wouldn’t be the holidays without certain sweets. Some of my clients are bakers and can’t imagine this time of year without loading up on flour and sugar to start endless rounds of treats that will be delivered as gifts. I myself love to bake and of course Christmas time is the perfect excuse to bake presents and delicious confections for the family.

What is your relation to food this time of year?

The problem that many of us have, myself included, is saying no. No one wants to turn down a generous gift lovingly made, or say no to a holiday favorite that brings back childhood memories of Christmas. But likewise, no one wants to gain weight and start the New Year feeling worse than ever.

I know you already know that moderation is key. We all know that. It’s the “how” of moderation that we need to address. In that vein I submit to you a key component of Intuitive Eating as a possible solution. Giving yourself permission. Yes, permission. In the book Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, they call this “making peace with food.”

Here’s what you need to do: You see a tasty truffle, something you love but haven’t allowed yourself to eat for months. You have decided what the heck, it’s the holidays. Before snatching it up and eating it in one bite, ask yourself a few questions first. Are you hungry? Is there something else that maybe you should eat first to nourish yourself? Is this something that you will really enjoy? Will you make sure to savor every bite? Will you be sure to stop after you have had enough, even if it means not finishing it? If after checking in with yourself in these areas you still want the truffle, go for it! You are far less likely to over-indulge if you have assessed your motivations and fully comprehend your choices. The additional benefit is that you are less likely to feel guilt and shame come the end of evening because you made choices that were thoughtful and considered.

I encourage you to try this technique at home and at your next get-together. It really helps avoid situations of mindless eating and the resulting guilt that comes with overeating.

Now, while this can work great during the holidays, this is an important technique to use always. If you never make any food “off limits” and give yourself permission to eat that food whenever you feel like it’s ok, you eradicate the intense desire that comes with anything forbidden. In fact, you will likely desire it less because it’s not something you couldn’t have if you wanted it. Knowing you could always enjoy it later or tomorrow or next week gets rid of that need for it now.

If Intuitive Eating is an area you struggle with, I strongly recommend reading “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Consider it a Christmas gift to yourself.


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Next post I will include a few recipes to make your holiday baking a bit more healthy but just as delicious. Stay tuned!

Danielle VenHuizen

Registered Dietitian, Certified LEAP Therapist