You may be surprised to see a headline like “7 Tips for Guilt-Free Holiday Eating” from me but I couldn’t resist! I keep seeing articles with similar titles that make me roll my eyes.
The mindful way to guilt-free holiday eating is very different!
How to Have a Guilt-Free Holiday
1. Recognize the futility of “guilt.”
Guilt does not encourage sustainable behavior change. Guilt just steals the enjoyment when you’re eating what you were going to eat anyway, then fuels the eat-repent-repeat cycle.
That’s not to say that you won’t sometimes regret the choices you make; regret can provide useful lessons. To understand the difference, you might enjoy this parable, Regret and Her Horrible Twin Guilt.
2. Question the definition of “good” and “bad” foods.
Food is not inherently good or bad; those are extrinsic and often misguided or arbitrary definitions. The irony is that foods move in and out of “good” and “bad” categories all the time. It’s frustrating to think about all of the trans fats I consumed by switching from “bad” butter to “good” margarine! And think about how nuts, avocado, margarine, eggs, pasta, even carrots, have moved from one category to the other (and sometimes back again!).
Here’s another example of how a “good” food landed on my “bad” list!
3. Eat what you love fearlessly.
No single food or meal determines whether your diet is healthy. A balanced diet is simply the average of all the choices you make.
4. Don’t feel guilty about eating what you love!
Seriously, how did food become so guilt-inducing anyway? Feeling guilty is a choice; be aware when you are allowing negative thoughts and feelings to drive guilt that only backfires in the long run.
5. Use common sense.
When guilt is no longer a factor, common sense prevails! By using the simple principles of balance, variety, and moderation to guide your choices, a little bit of nutrition knowledge goes a long way.
6. Don’t pay penance for eating.
Don’t skip meals, beat yourself up with exercise, or deprive yourself afterward. Planning to compensate paradoxically encourages more eating. Instead, set your intention to feel better when you’re done eating than you did when you started.
7. Love what you eat mindfully.
For optimal enjoyment and satisfaction, make eating a multisensory experience. Savor the aromas, appearance, flavors, and textures of the food. Focus on your body’s signals of hunger and satiety. Consciously focus on the connections, conversations, and celebrations.
Your turn: How has guilt affected your eating?
(This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated.)
Want more tips for mindful holiday eating?