A Serving of Tips for Happy, Healthy Holiday Eating

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” We all know the song, and for some of us, it is a great time of the year. However, if you are someone who struggles with eating, it can be a stressful and challenging season. Family gatherings, office parties, and food everywhere can make for an anxiety-producing couple of months. However, with some thinking and planning ahead, you can manage your anxiety, and even enjoy the holidays.

Below are some tips to help you through this season. Whether food is a difficult or simple part of your life, practicing these tips can be good for everyone. Food should be nourishing and fun, not stressful and anxiety-producing – particularly during the holiday season!

Being in Control at Holiday Meals

  • Only you have ultimate control over what you eat. Especially this time of year, friends and family may try to get you to eat things you normally would not eat or to eat more of something than you are comfortable eating. It is critical during this season to pay attention to your internal cues and personal decisions rather than the external pressures to eat.
  • Find out what will be served ahead of time and create a game plan. Decide what foods you really enjoy eating and which foods you can ignore, and then stick to that decision! Pick food for flavor and satisfaction. Sometimes, we eat food just because it is called a “dessert” when we don’t really even care for it.
  •  Pay attention to your portion sizes and allow yourself to have more if you enjoyed something and are still hungry. Food is meant to be enjoyed!
  • On the flip side, if you don’t really enjoy something, don’t feel obligated to finish it. Go back and choose something you do enjoy.
  •  If you really enjoy something but are satisfied and feel full, take some with you to have the next day.
  • For those of you with concerns about weight gain, everybody frets about gaining weight between “Christmas and New Years.” Truth be told, when you really gain weight is all of that time between “New Years and Christmas.” The single week between Christmas and New Years is not where the problem lies.
  • If you have anorexia nervosa and are fearful of holiday foods, try a memory test. Choose a small portion of a holiday food that you used to enjoy before developing your eating disorder. Take a small bite and allow yourself to remember the positive memories that are associated with that food—where you ate it, friends or relatives that you ate it with, a happy holiday time in the past. Just for that one bite, don’t think about the frightening aspects of the food, but allow it to be a conduit for positive memories.
  • Lastly – to the extent that you can can, allow yourself some guilt-free enjoyment of your favorite holiday treats, and savor the tastes and textures of the wonderful foods of the holiday season!

By: Laurie Conteh, RD

The UNC exchanges blog addresses issues for individuals with a range of eating-related concerns. For some individuals, for example those currently practicing family-based treatment for anorexia, issues arising regarding holiday meals may differ. We will be posting a special post on this topic soon.