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Eating for the holidays and feeling good about it

You wake up and get dressed – yoga pants to stretch over the belly you still feel is bigger from the night before. You planned to go for a jog to burn some calories off but it’s too cold to motivate. Instead you spend the morning feeling badly about all the stuff you ate last night that you swore you wouldn’t. And now you feel the regret and it’s too late. You have another party today so you try to amp yourself up to try all over again.

How many of us know this? It’s an easy place to arrive at when the holidays are upon us and there is party after party of good intentions. It’s also easy to want to tune out and worry about it later. I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way – you can tune in and feel good through all of the holiday abundance. Here’s how:

1. Eat regular meals throughout the day

My husband used to only have a small breakfast on Thanksgiving and he never failed to leave dinner overstuffed. The single most important thing to do is to keep your body well-fed throughout the day. This way, you won’t arrive at a party starving needing to get to the chips and dip. If you can do this, you will be far less likely to eat more than you planned. There is a simple reason this works. Our bodies are meant to eat every few hours. When we avoid eating, hunger might go away for a little while but the next time we think about it or are around food, it will come back and stronger than before. The hungrier we get the less voluntary choice we will have about what we eat and how much we eat. Give yourself a chance and go to the party well fed.

2. Only eat (and drink) things that are worth it

It’s almost impossible to do this if you didn’t do #1. To me foods that are worth it possess certain qualities and these apply whether the foods are healthy or a treat: they are delicious beyond flavor and texture. These are the foods that leave you satisfied, so much so that you don’t need to eat to discomfort because they are just that good. And they feel good when you eat them. So experiment with noticing how foods are making you feel as you eat them. You might be surprised at what you find.

3. Exercise because it feels good

Exercising is a part of keeping ourselves healthy and I have yet to meet someone that regretted it once they did it. That doesn’t mean we always exercise for healthy reasons. Do it because you are taking care of yourself and it feels good. Do it because you like to be social and it is a time to be with friends. Do it because you like the fresh air. Do it to get out of the house for some alone time. It is all too easy to fall into a trap of exercising because you were “bad” and you are trying to make yourself feel better or balance out the eating you did at yesterday’s party. This is a vicious cycle of excess (eating more than planned) and compensation (exercising). See it for what it is and change how you use exercise.

4. Acknowledge and honor feelings

Being around family, in social situations, with work colleagues, alone, or any combination can bring up an array of feelings, ranging from celebratory to difficult. This is related to food since many people eat in connection to emotions. If we feel happy we might drink more wine than planned. If we feel stressed we might eat the whole bag of whatever to sooth. The most important step here is awareness so it gives you back your choice to stop eating or to continue - and the rest is up to you.

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