The onslaught has begun… I’m not talking about the holiday shopping frenzy, the incessant holiday music (Winter Wonderland is particularly annoying here in Phoenix), or even the delicious food everywhere (for that I’m grateful). I’m talking about the onslaught of “How to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain” stories and restrictive holiday eating tips. Perhaps you recognize their formula:
Cheery opening + Fear mongering + Clever strategies =
“Newsworthy” story to attract fearful/hopeful eyeballs
Same old advice dusted off year after year
I’ve seen, read, and been interviewed for dozens of these stories.
An online search for “prevent holiday weight gain” turned up 50 million entries. If you read one article every minute, it would take you 96 years to read them all – except that the number of articles would continue to explode while you were reading them!
These holiday eating tips pop up on a rotating basis: New Year’s, Super Bowl Parties, Getting Ready for Swim Suit Season, etc., and most follow a similar formula. They start with a cheery opening about the upcoming holiday or season, then move into fear-based warnings about all the “high calorie food” and the consequences of consuming it. Once you are concerned, fearful, and even ashamed about the body you live in year-round, the article shifts to clever holiday eating tips and strategies.
These articles must sell and earn clicks because they are often the teasers for the news (is this really NEWs?) and displayed prominently on the cover of magazines, ironically next to “Simple Sinfully Sumptuous Sugar Cookies.”
The holiday eating tips typically go something like this (I couldn’t resist reading between the lines):
How to Prevent “Dreaded Holiday Weight Gain”
It’s that time of year-holiday parties, family dinners, and fudge in the break room. (Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!) The average American gains seven pounds during the holidays. (When you see this stop reading; repeating this unsubstantiated statistic is a sure marker of lazy journalism.)
To get a jump start on your New Year’s Resolutions (Never fear! There will be another article using the same formula on January 1st for all those who didn’t follow this holiday advice), follow these five simple rules (Did you ever notice that we often use odd numbers? Clever, isn’t it?):
- Eat before you go to a party so you won’t be tempted by all the goodies. (Really??? Do you also recommend maxing out your credit cards before you go Christmas shopping?)
- Wear tight clothing to the party to prevent yourself from overeating. (Feeling uncomfortable and self-conscious is a small price to pay to prevent yourself from enjoying your favorite food.)
- Drink seltzer water with a squeeze of lime in place of eggnog with rum. (This is like recommending crunching on carrots when you really want potato chips.)
- Hold a glass and a plate so it’s impossible to eat. (You’ll look ridiculous trying to nibble off a rolling meatball or sneaking slurps from the side of your cheesecake.)
- Schedule a session with your personal trainer the next morning to burn off any extra calories that slipped by your radar. (The punishment must fit the crime.)
If It Doesn’t Work, Stop Doing It!
That kind of holiday eating advice leads to conflicted, calorie-focused party goers. This often backfires, leading to secret eating and guilt after the party!
I follow a different formula:
Loving food more, not less = Balanced eating year round
Let’s rewrite the holiday eating tips story using this formula instead.
How to Enjoy Holiday Food More
It’s that time of year: holiday parties, family dinners, and fudge in the break room. There are so many opportunities to enjoy the foods you love, how will you decide when, what, and how much to eat? Here are five strategies to try while there are plenty of opportunities to experiment:
1. Trust your body wisdom.
Tune into your signals of hunger and satiety to guide your eating before, during, and after the party. Being either famished or already full when you arrive sets you up for being uncomfortably full when you leave.
2. Treat yourself to pleasures besides food.
Make the holidays a multisensory experience! Enjoy the decorations and lights, children’s excited laughter, holiday aromas, beautiful place settings, and other holiday sights, sounds, and aromas. And, dress yourself in clothing that is beautiful, flattering, and comfortable so you feel and project your best.
3. Eat (and drink) what you really love.
And skip anything that isn’t fabulous! Don’t make so-so substitutions that leave you craving your favorites.
4. Love what you eat.
Sensuously savor one small bite at a time, appreciating the appearance, aromas, flavors, and textures of your favorite foods as you eat them.
5. Practice extreme self-care.
Choose activities that are the most meaningful to you, stay active, and schedule down-time to relax and enjoy the full pleasure of the holidays.
And last but not least, stop reading those tired old “How to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain” and “Holiday Eating Tips” articles and invest your time and energy in really celebrating the season, food and all!
This article was updated from a previous version.
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