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7 Tips for Guilt-Free Holiday Eating – the Mindful Way!

By Michelle May, M.D.
cocoa with small marshmallows

Be guilt-free when you’re eating what you love!

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?

Rewrite those Ridiculous Holiday Eating Tips

A Foodies Guide to Holiday Eating

Handling Holiday Head Hunger



About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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