Holiday Eating: It's About Enjoyment, Not Guilt
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Cookies, cakes, stuffing, sauces, and ham...It is easy to veer from healthy eating during the holidays. Instead of feeling holiday cheer, many of us end up feeling guilty.
There are ways to eat sensibly at this challenging time of year. But it is also important to enjoy yourself. If you eat a balanced diet most of the time, it is okay to indulge a bit. Food is a big part of socializing. Catch the spirit of joy with family and friends as you eat your favorite foods. Do not feel shame about what you eat.
If you think you might eat too much, set a goal. Be reasonable and focus on what you accomplished. The holidays can be stressful enough. Do not add to your stress with guilt and unrealistic expectations.
Trying to lose weight during the holidays is not realistic. How about simply trying to maintain your weight at this time? Trying to please everyone else is not realistic either. Realize that you cannot do everything and be everywhere. Think about what is most important to you.
Consider the difference between fact and fiction. Gym memberships are going to be advertised through December. They will talk about holiday weight gain and inactivity. Guilt and shame will be used as selling tools. However, the average person gains only 1 to 2 pounds through the winter holidays. The problem is that most people do not shed that weight. It adds up over the course of several years.
This means you can breathe a bit easier. Think about how you would like to lose that pound or two. Or set a goal to maintain your weight during the holidays. You have heard it before: everything in moderation.
Balance Can Be Key
Here are some tips to help you get from Halloween to New Year's Day:
Physical activity is also important. If you exercise, try to keep your normal routine. If you do not, take a walk around the block. Schedule 30 minutes to do some sort of activity. Do this on most days of the week. It is better to do something than nothing. Physical activity will help you maintain your weight. It can also help you feel better overall.
Remember, the holidays are meant to be fun. Do it on your own terms and leave the bad feelings behind.
American Society for Nutrition
Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Public Health Agency of Canada
5 healthy eating tips for the holidays. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/holidays-healthy-eating.html. Accessed October 29, 2021.
Food and eating: An anthropological perspective. Social Issues Research Centre website. Available at:
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Accessed October 29, 2021.
Tips for guilt-free holidays. Lifespan website. Available at: https://www.lifespan.org/lifespan-living/tips-guilt-free-holidays. Accessed October 29, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 10/29/2021
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