Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, holiday work parties, family gatherings… whatever you celebrate (or get dragged into), chances are you’re going to be faced with a lot of seasonal and celebrational foods. For this reason, the holidays are often thought of as a dieter’s nightmare, but for intuitive eaters, the holidays are a wonderful opportunity.
There are no foods off limit to you, and you have no reason to experience even the tiniest shred of guilt. Still, you might find yourself with more leftovers than you bargained for, and be wondering how to negotiate having them around.
Your number one question should be, “Do I want to eat this food?” If the answer is no, then there is absolutely no reason to eat it. Even if someone made or bought the food especially for you, with love, you are under no obligation to eat it. Take the love and leave the food. Compost it, find someone else to eat it, or put it in a public place for others to take. (And please, do not refrain from sharing because you think the food is not healthy or tasty enough. Let others make that choice for themselves.)
If you do want to eat some of the food, your next questions are how much and when? If there’s more than you can eat before it goes bad, again, consider giving some away. If you’re worried about food getting wasted, please support organizations that work to solve this problem, but know that finishing your leftovers will do nothing to combat the issue, despite what your parents may have led you to believe.
Before each time you sit down to eat, it’s extremely important to give yourself full permission to enjoy as much of this food as you want. If there’s one thing we know for sure from intuitive eating, it’s that attempting to apply external control or rules to your eating always backfires. Even the tiniest thought of “Maybe I shouldn’t eat too much of this” will disconnect you from your intuition.
Instead, counter your fears about eating this food with some realism. Are you worried that you’ll eat too much and end up feeling awful? Overeating can actually be a great learning opportunity. Every time you overeat, you gain some data on exactly how much you’d have to eat to feel unwell, and you get a chance to investigate what would trigger you to eat past the point of comfort.
When you trust your body and listen openly to what it has to tell you, it will let you know exactly how much of a food it wants.
If you are worried that you might miss the messages your body is sending, you might try eating these tricky foods more mindfully. Set aside some time to eat the food in question without distractions. Let yourself really savor the food with all of your senses. See what happens.
You might be surprised what you notice when you really pay attention. You might find that there are foods that you have an emotional connection to, but don’t really enjoy the taste of. You might find that there are foods that you thought made you feel icky, but once you eat them mindfully, you realize that it was just your anxiety about the food that was giving you a sour stomach.
So investigate! Be curious! Give yourself full permission to enjoy or not enjoy. Let go of guilt. Trust your body and cultivate your own inner wisdom. You deserve to eat in a way that feels nourishing to your heart, mind, and body.
Looking for tips on how to eat mindfully at social gatherings? Check out my Online Mindful Eating Course.