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Dec 7

6 Stupid Holiday Food ‘Rules’ That Are Really Diets In Disguise – HuffPost

Its the most wonderful time of the year unless youre on a diet and have set impossible standards for eating during the holidays.

Theres nothing wrong with taking an everything in moderation approach at the dinner table, but other rules we establish for ourselves around the holidays can actually hinder rather than help our overall health. Think Ill work out extra hard so I can earn my holiday meal, or I want to eat clean this holiday, so Ill skip the pie.

Anyway, if youre stressing about holiday weight gain, youre probably doing so needlessly. Research shows that holiday weight gain does happen, but generally only to a minor degree. One study on college-aged adults found that holiday eating only contributed to between half a pound and two pounds of weight gain. You may not even gain anything at all. In any case, there should be no moral value assigned to weight loss or weight gain: Demonizing food at the holidays (or any other time) can have a negative effect on your mental health.

What are some of the most common rigid diet rules that people establish for themselves at the holidays even though theyre more harmful than healthy? Below, dietitians and other experts share what food concepts to throw out the window this holiday season.

Skipping a meal or snack before a holiday party to save room.

This one has restrictive diet written all over it. You could play the waiting game, but who wants to listen to their stomach grumble all day and get hangry at their relatives for not eating at an earlier hour? Plus, waiting until dinner to eat something may end up backfiring, said Cara Harbstreet, a registered dietitian at Street Smart Nutrition in Kansas City, Missouri, and the author of Healthy Eating for Life: An Intuitive Eating Workbook.

Your body still needs to be nourished and energized throughout the day, and skipping meals or snacks can leave you overly hungry or disconnected from hunger and fullness cues when it comes time to actually dig in, Harbstreet told HuffPost. Although many people use this approach, remember youre allowed to eat according to your hunger regardless of what holidays gatherings are taking place.

Working out hard to earn a holiday meal or treats.

The suggestion that we have to earn or burn our food is entirely rooted in diet culture, said Kathleen Meehan, a registered dietitian in Houston. Your big plate of food isnt an award for good behavior at the gym its just a plate of food.

This rule is often perpetuated in how we talk about movement or exercise, and sometimes its even used as a form of motivation for fitness classes, she said. This does a lot of harm and it can unintentionally play a part in normalizing eating disorder behaviors. (With disordered eating, a person is often preoccupied with excessive exercising as a way to burn off calories.)

Telling yourself your diet starts in the new year, as a way to give yourself permission to eat holiday foods now.

When youre fixated on your diet, you may fall prey to now-or-never thinking: Ill load up on all my faves now green bean casserole and a double serving of stuffing and start my diet first thing tomorrow.

But sometimes, thoughts like this cause people to abandon their natural hunger and fullness cues, said Andrea Wachter, a psychotherapist and author of Getting Over Overeating for Teens.

Why cant we eat our favorite foods all year long? she said. When we eat the foods that we like, love, and need in amounts that are respectful to our bodies, we have no use for this type of all-or-nothing thinking.

Wachter said to imagine telling a kid that starting in January, theyll be restricted to limited, low-calorie foods. That kid would probably load up and binge on cookies and other sweets.

The reality is, kids need a variety of nutritious, delicious foods along with some yummy treats and so do adults, she said. Try setting a New Years resolution to feed yourself in a non-restrictive and respectful manner and, if needed, seek support for the unresolved issues that lead to dieting in the first place.

Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images

Restricting yourself from drinks with calories.

Many diets have rules against drinking caloric or sugary beverages, and instead encourage us to stick to water, diet drinks, coffee or tea. That may be a sustainable goal during other seasons, but it can exclude you from many of the social activities and fun of the holidays, Harbstreet said.

If you want to enjoy a comes-around-once-a-year nostalgic recipe, spiced mocktail, or festive favorite, go right ahead, she said. Remember that zero-calorie beverages arent inherently better or more satisfying than the drink youre really craving.

This isnt just about alcohol, she added, although thats certainly an option if you wish to indulge responsibly.

Making healthy swaps for dishes you love, so you can enjoy them guilt-free.

Give yourself permission to eat what you like this holiday season. (Some of these dishes are only on offer once a year, so why deprive yourself of that deliciousness?)

I often encourage clients to consider what healthy really means to them, Meehan said. How can we expand the binary healthy vs. unhealthy and add in some room for nuance? If swapping out ingredients for the healthy version means less satisfaction, pleasure, connection to memories or your culture... is that really going to be healthy for you?

Thinking of food as something to burn off.

Again, dieting often trains us to think of eating and exercise as an exchange system: calories in, calories out. If we know we cant work off the sweets at the table, we might pass and say, Ah, Id love to, but theres no way I could work that off with the amount of exercise Ive been doing lately.

We internalize that into a belief that we must make up for or compensate for what we eat through physical activity, Harbstreet said.

Instead of refusing a serving of food, tap into your appetite and enjoy what you love with zero guilt. If youre full and cant take a slice of cheesecake, recognize that. But if its calling your name and you have room, by all means, have some.

Theres no need to adopt an earn-and-burn mindset around food and eating, Harbstreet said. Just enjoy it if you want to, or pass if you dont.

How to actually enjoy the holiday foods youre eating

If your goal is to eat smart this season and into the new year you may want to give intuitive eating a shot. Its the idea that no dieting is the very best diet of all.

Instead of falling into the trap of tiresome food rules, intuitive eaters listen to their bodies and give themselves permission to eat what they want. They rely on their internal hunger and fullness cues to tell them when, what and how much to eat.

Given how ineffective diets can be 95% of people who lose weight on a diet regain it within five years many dietitians and nutritionists are starting to sing the praises of intuitive eating.

I think as the holidays approach, its wise to consider exploring the non-diet approach, which allows for a peaceful relationship with food by allowing permission to eat pleasurable, satisfying foods year-round, Meehan said.

See more here:
6 Stupid Holiday Food 'Rules' That Are Really Diets In Disguise - HuffPost

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