Intuitive eating · Self-improvement

Staying balanced during holiday season


The most exciting time of the year could actually be pretty stressful. Running around making sure you’ve got everything you need to host a dinner party, buying gifts, last end of year errands, travel arrangements and preparations including all the shopping for it. All those extra chores need to be weaved into your daily routine and carefully balanced with it. And how about all the weight-gain worries with upcoming celebrations and lots of delicious food and drinks?!

Studies suggest that the average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve is anywhere between 1-10 lbs. Common sense would tell us that this happens due to overeating… and overdrinking. The question is – why do we overeat?

Before I delve into a complex and elaborative explanation of intricate psychological and physiological pathways, I’ll give you a simple answer: “cuz it tastes good!” That was the most common response in a mini survey I conducted among some friends and family members… or should I say the most common one among men-participants 😉 They didn’t think for a second! Some women replied that they feel out of control when presented with such abundance of holiday meals. Some tell themselves that they’d eat as much as they want this one time before going on a diet the next day – the “last supper” phenomenon. Some had been dieting for months leading up to the holidays – to fit into an outfit and “look good” and some even diet so that when the holiday eating starts, they’d only gain what they had lost, and not any extra on top of their initial weight.

And what happens when we diet and restrict our eating? – We overeat! Not occasionally cuz it tastes good, but more like gorging on food because our bodies are in a state of deprivation. Eventually both aforementioned psychological and physiologic mechanisms kick in and drive us to eat beyond fullness, we binge to restore the balance in a deprived, even malnourished body and mind.

Dieting and restricting to manipulate the size of the body in general and particularly before a food-involving event is a grand disservice to ourselves – it backfires by disturbing the balance in all of our organism, including our mental state. We dread the time before family dinner. Instead of focusing on sharing joy and happiness, our attention is on how much we should eat, estimating the calories consumed, applying external rules to our eating behaviours, rather than trusting our body to choose what it wants, needs and telling us when is enough.

The problem is – if you’ve been restricting, the natural gauging mechanisms won’t work. The balance has been thrown off and you are more likely than not to overeat. And it is more likely than not to happen over and over – rather than maybe once just “cuz it tastes good”. In the case of the latter your body will regulate itself back to its balance by making you less hungry later. You just need to trust your body, not any diet rules.

If you’ve been restricting, the traditional holiday meals, which obviously we had had before, all of a sudden get a magical appeal, making us feel like we just can’t get enough.

To stay balanced, we need not restrict – eat intuitively, eat a balanced meal – to provide your body with what it needs to stay nourished. Eat plenty of foods from all food groups – veggies and fruits, grains and breads, meats, fish and legumes, even cookies and treats. After practicing intuitive eating for some time, you’ll realize that you naturally choose foods that are nourishing and satisfying to your body and mind.

Make time to sit down for your meal. It’s a hectic time of the year, but mealtime is still important – sit down, even if it means bringing a chair to your fridge! Mindful eating registers with your brain as a satisfying meal, while when chewing on the go – your mind will ask for more pretty soon.

Eat with gusto – even if you are eating more than what’s comfortable – taste and enjoy every bite, savor it to help your brain get satisfied too. This in turn with help to regulate your energy balance and naturally prevent you from overeating at next meal.

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