Enjoy Guilt-Free Holiday Eating
Last reviewed by Faculty of Harvard Medical School on October 17, 2011
By Emily Garber, R.D.
Life during the holiday season can be filled with endless temptations: dazzling buffets, rich hot cocoa, Christmas cookies...and seemingly endless leftovers. Not everyone finds the feasting easy to enjoy. If you're like many people whose efforts to eat healthier this year have paid off in feeling better and dropping some excess pounds, making wise food choices at the buffet table can be challenging and frustrating.
When faced with so many enticing flavors, do you say to yourself, "It's a holiday after all shouldn't I be able to let loose and enjoy myself?" Or, are you inclined to rein yourself in and say, "Do I really want to blow it just because I'm at a party?"
But you don't have to walk away from the table stuffed with feelings of guilt or deprivation. Figure out which type of social eater you are by picking the statement below that sounds most like you. Then try the tailor-made party tips that follow.
Eager: When invited to a party, you jump at the excuse to "break your diet" and go all-out, eating the variety of delicious foods that are served, thinking, "I can indulge...it's a special occasion!"
Antisocial: The thought of going to another party makes your insides crawl "not more smiling people" the only attraction is the free food, so you might as well treat yourself and eat a lot to make the most of that one benefit of being there.
Pleaser: Even though you want to eat healthfully, relationships and feeling part of the group are more important to you than making healthy choices at the party so you end up eating whatever you're offered to avoid offending anyone.
Embarrassed: Whenever you're at a party it feels like all eyes are on you watching what and how much you eat you would rather take what everyone else is than stand out as being "on a diet" and risk getting comments on it.
Balanced: You eat well most of the time and usually pass on getting seconds or dessert...but hey, after all, this is a special occasion and one day of indulgence can't be much of a set-back!
Eager: You're right that you should be able to live a little and enjoy the party! Though you may want to consider these ideas when deciding how much is enough:
Antisocial: Sounds like you'd rather not be at the party to begin with. But if you're there and do want to eat healthfully, you can try the suggestions for Eager along with these:
Pleaser: You don't like to make a scene or offend anyone by turning down food they put time into making, even when you'd rather not eat it, because you don't feel comfortable making your own needs a priority. The good news is that you can do what's right for you while also helping others feel happy.
Embarrassed: It can be hard to make the right decisions when you're concerned about other people's comments on what you eat.
Balanced: Your day-to-day efforts to make the right choices have been paying off you're feeling healthier and you can easily enjoy things on special occasions since you're on track to reach your health goals. You might still want to use some of the suggestions given to Eager, but most important is just getting back into your regular routine after the holiday. Congratulations on an overall healthy lifestyle!
Here are some other useful tips no matter which approach you try:
Emily Garber, RD is a dietitian in the Nutrition Consultation Service at Brigham and Women's Hospital. She is a graduate of Bastyr University in Seattle, where she developed an appreciation for a holistic approach to wellness. She completed her dietetic internship at Brigham and Women's Hospital.