6 Tips to Embrace Holiday Temptation

The holidays are a time of gathering with friends and family and lots (and lots) of food! With social pressure, the desire to please your hosts, and decadent dishes right in front of you, it can be very tempting to indulge and eat more than you usually would. It's hard to resist all of the temptations! You've worked so hard to be diligent about your health and what you eat, and then wham bam - it goes out the window! But it doesn't have to be that way. You can still be in control.
 
It’s important to recognize the difference between hunger and appetite. Hunger is not the same as appetite. Hunger is physical, and appetite is emotional. When you're hungry, your brain signals to your stomach that it's time to eat. You feel the physical sensation of hunger, leading to poor choices when trying to lose weight. When you recognize the difference between hunger and appetite, you can decide better when and what to eat. Appetite is how we feel emotionally - happy, sad, or bored - and these feelings can lead us to overeat at parties. If you're feeling happy and celebrating with friends, chances are you will eat more than usual since life is good! But if you're feeling lonely or anxious about something else, then overeating might result in comfort eating (eating for emotional reasons). This type of eating tends to happen more often when we aren't paying attention to our fullness signals or when we don't give our bodies enough time between meals because we are busy socializing with friends or family members who serve us food all day long!
 
So how do we manage this during the holidays? Here are some tips:
 
Check-in and honor your fullness
You'll want to check in regularly to see if you've had enough. Like I said earlier, you don't want to gauge the time to stop on whether or not there is still food on the table. During the holidays, there is always more food. Listen to your belly and honor it when it says "enough." Even if it means passing up dessert or a second helping of food that someone spent hours preparing. Politely say, "No, thank you, really."
 
Learn to say "no"
Many people tell me that they have difficulty saying "no" to the social pressure of eating at holiday dinners and parties. The discomfort comes from feeling like the people offering the food will be insulted or disrespected if you don't eat everything provided. One way I have gotten around this is to take a portion of food but only take a bite or two if I am already full and don't want it. The other way I deal with this is to say "no." Be brave and be the one who helps change the culture around food. 
 
Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite holiday foods
Try to let go of any food rules. Shift your mindset from labeling food 'good' or 'bad' to focusing on having a healthy relationship around food. Practice moderation so that you can eat the foods you enjoy without overeating. Restricting too much can leave you feeling deprived and guilty, setting you up for overeating later.
 
Don't make food your only pleasure
Too often, people turn to food for their only pleasure because it's fast, quick, and accessible. You're worth more than that! Find time to take yourself out for a holiday shopping trip and buy something that feels comfortable and looks fantastic. Wear clothes and shoes that fit who you are today. You will feel confident when you show up at the party. When you feel confident, you'll be more relaxed and less likely to turn to food to feel good. It's a win-win!
 
Manage stress and take care of yourself
For some people, high-stress levels can increase hormones, notably cortisol, and the "hunger" hormone ghrelin, which is linked to increased appetite. Stress can contribute to cravings that lead us to crave more foods high in fat, sugar, or both. Here are some tried and true suggestions of things that you can do to manage your stress. Keep up your regular self-care activities during the holidays and choose activities that will be the most meaningful, joyous, and connecting.  Meditating, taking short walks, reaching for a warm cup of herbal tea, spending time with people who make you laugh, getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, staying hydrated, and embracing social support can all be helpful. 
 
Ditch the New Year's Diet Resolutions
Instead of thinking, 'I'll just eat whatever I want during the holidays," plan ahead by adding more exercise, eating a well-balanced diet (no "fad" or "crash diets" or juice cleanses), and approaching holiday meals in a more balanced way. After the holidays, don't try to lose a lot of weight fast. It's better to lose a slow, steady weight, 1–2 pounds per week. People who lose weight slowly are likely to keep it off long-term.
 
In summary, honor your choices and your health as you head into the holiday gathering season. Check in with your hunger and employ these tips to enjoy the festivities and feel good about your choices.  
 
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