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Ditching Diet Talk During The Holidays

As holidays approach, we are bombarded with messages about "guilt-free" recipes and warnings about the dire consequences of overeating at family gatherings. Diet products and ads are shown to us at a higher volume and family parties can be a place for a lot of diet talk. The family table can be a time when everyone is commenting on each other’s food choices and discussing weight. The problem is, all of this dialogue can further promote a diet mentality and create a lot of stress around holiday gatherings. I think we can all agree that holidays can be stressful enough, especially this year.


Now don’t get me wrong, pursuing a more healthful way of eating is certainly encouraged, but we tend to be an all or nothing society and the holidays are times when this mentality can be particularly damaging. Diet talk encourages people to view foods as either good or bad, which sets the stage for binge eating and can lead to a serious disconnect between your body and mind. On the other hand, too much restriction can make us feel deprived and anxious and make us want to avoid family meals; where food might not fit into the “rules of the diet.” The further we can get away from the diet mentality, the closer we can get to a more intuitive approach to eating.


Intuitive eating involves eating more mindfully, and allows a place on your plate for a variety of foods. The key to intuitive eating is listening to your body and honoring its messages. This allows us to regain that innate sense of hunger and fullness that dieting tends to skew.


When heading into the holidays try these tips and tricks for avoiding diet talk and mentality:

1. Do not starve yourself in preparation for a large family meal. This will only lead to overeating and feeling terrible when trying to enjoy your loved ones. Instead, check-in with yourself frequently throughout meals to observe how you feel.


2. Savor the flavors. Slow down to appreciate all the different flavors you are eating. Enjoy your time throughout the meal and take time to really think about what you taste and if you are enjoying it or not.


3. Change the subject. When approached with food-shamers or negative body talk, try shifting the conversation to something else. Bring up a topic totally unrelated to food, such as, "what are you thankful for this year?" Or share something you are thankful and excited about!

4. Don't be afraid to set boundaries. If someone is commenting on your plate, feel free to politely request that they do not comment on your food choices. But don't forget, if you don't want others talking about what you are eating, make sure to practice what you preach. If you see someone being overly restrictive during holidays, it is not your place to help them move towards a more balanced approach.

5. Aim for an attitude of gratitude. Try taking a moment before holiday gatherings to jot down 5 things you are grateful for. Aim to include at least one that acknowledges your body in a positive way; thanking it for all it does for you. By prepping yourself with an attitude of gratitude you'll be better equipped to avoid any negative impact "diet-talk" or body shamers may spread at the holiday table.


Intuitive eating can not only save you from eating yourself into a post-holiday coma, research shows that following an intuitive eating approach can help people lose weight, and even reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. When compared to a more traditional diet approach, those who follow intuitive eating programs, rate themselves with increased self-esteem and decreased body dissatisfaction. Most importantly, studies show that these results are more long term vs. dieting.


Intuitive eating takes practice and can often involve reframing years of diet mentality, but the payoff is worth it. Food is meant to bring pleasure and make you feel good, a non-diet approach like intuitive eating brings freedom and helps people to find enjoyment in food again. If you are interested in learning more about intuitive eating principles and how to apply them, consider nutrition counseling with Vitality Nutrition and Wellness Center. Call 609-904-5627 to schedule an appointment today!



Reference:


Schaefer JT & Magnuson AB. (2014). A review of interventions that promote eating by internal cues. J Acad Nutr Diet; 114: 734-760.

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