Be Present: Enjoy the Holidays Without Overindulging

November 2021

by tiffany ricci

When it comes to food, the holiday season does not disappoint. Between traditional favorites, holiday parties, and seasonal delights - there is much to enjoy. Yet, within this special season, a cultural pressure exists to "be good" during the holidays and restrict our edible enjoyment to manage our weight. 

We can find ourselves so restrictive that we bypass enjoyment of treats and head straight to overindulgence when we've had enough. This cycle of All-or-Nothing becomes a source of stress, and we can lose the ability to delight in this culinary wonderland with moderation.  

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and foodie, I want to encourage you to enjoy the festive foods of the holidays without overindulging. So let me share with you some different views on experiencing holiday decadence. 

Be Present: 

You’ll find it difficult to overdo it at the holiday party (or with any holiday treats, really) if you’re mindfully eating. Pay attention to the details of your meal or snack. Note the presentation, the aroma, the texture, and the flavor. Tune into your hunger before you start eating and notice your hunger fade into satiety. Rather than fixating on how much is left on your plate, listen to what your body tells you.  

Often, with desserts, we experience less pleasure the more bites we take because the enjoyment diminishes as your taste buds get used to the flavor. Chances are, you might not need to eat the entire treat; half of it might satisfy you. When you direct your attention to the eating experience, overindulging doesn’t happen. 

Forget about focusing on whether you “should” eat something or not. When you’re mindful about your choices and are present when you're eating, guilt and shame over food choices dissipate. Your worth is not tied to the food you eat or do not eat. Instead, decide to be present in all aspects of this holiday season, including the treats that accompany this celebratory time. 

Exercise is a Tool, Not a Punishment: 

The pressure of the holidays can add to an already stress-filled life. Use exercise to relieve stress, not as a way to "earn calories" or create a deficit for the office holiday party.  

Crank the upbeat holiday tunes during your workout or rock around the Christmas tree with a home dance party.  

Exercise is so much more than a calorie-burner. Let movement improve your mood and decrease your stress. 

Fuel Your Day: 

We're busy this time of year. Fueling your day is a proven way to ward off that afternoon crash and desperate inhale of too many office cookies and coffee. So prioritize breakfast and lunch, and you'll notice the energy boost you get to tackle that to-do list.  

Start with a hearty breakfast packed with complex carbs and protein to keep you going through till lunch. Fuel again midday with energy from veggies, whole grains, and lean protein. Make sure you take in plenty of water to stay hydrated, alert, and energized. 

Survey The Buffet: 

Survey what you have and decide on what you really want to try. Love the homemade treats? Savor them and bypass the store-bought stuff. Are you more of a savory person and live for the sausage and cheese platter? Decline the sweeter goodies and dig into the stinky cheese.  

The implications of this notion go far beyond food. It's impossible to do everything this time of year, so really consider your options and choose what lights you up. The same goes for holiday treats. Truly enjoy the ones that only come around this time of year and disregard what you can get year-round. Just like music, you can enjoy good tunes all year round, but we only enjoy Christmas music around the end of the year.  

Lastly, let there be grace. The holidays can bring so much joy but can also be a source of tremendous stress. If you find yourself having overindulged, refrain from beating yourself up and tightening the reins. Instead, consider what may have caused the overeating and move on. Not every day has to be perfect food-wise. Change the narrative of overindulging to enjoying the joy in the season to enhance some of the best aspects of this time of year - the food!  

Originally printed in the November 2021 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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