’Tis the season to freak out about all of the calories lurking in your mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and second slice of pie (get it, girl). But this year that you should chase those Christmas cookies with a chill pill.
Apart from the fact that one meal won’t wreck your diet and that the average woman doesn’t gain five pounds every holiday season, worrying about weight gain just isn’t a healthy approach to the season of family feasts, says Michelle May, M.D., founder of the Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Programs and Training and author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. Here, she explains four reasons you should enjoy every last calorie of your holiday meals.
Deprivation Always Backfires
Cookies are bad. Bad cookies. Don’t eat the cookies. Okay, now what are you thinking about? Exactly. “When we restrict ourselves from eating certain foods, we are giving those foods more power, not less,” says May. We become so obsessed with not eating them that we can’t help but eventually give in, she says. And when we do, we eat as many as we can. The result: You feel guilty and are even more obsessed with foods you "shouldn't" eat. It’s a destructive cycle.
Holiday Foods Are Traditions
For many women, holiday foods connect them with their family heritage (think: great-grandma’s dinner rolls or grandpa’s stuffing). “These things are part of who we are as human beings,” she says. Why restrict yourself from any aspect of the holidays, especially recipes that your family is proud of and shares on special occasions? We promise the world won't end if you give yourself permission to enjoy those traditions this season.
The “Good vs. Bad” Mentality Just Isn’t Healthy
May doesn't even like the idea of saying it’s okay to ‘indulge’ during the holidays because that feeds into the idea that, by eating a particular food, you're doing something wrong. Let us remind you: Food isn’t evil. And letting go of that mentality allows you to trust your body to guide your food choices (see: mindful eating), and that’s how healthy eating becomes second nature.
All Foods Can Fit into a Healthy Diet
Yup, even candied yams. “If we practice variety, balance, and moderation, we can choose whatever foods we want on a daily basis,” says May. It’s when we dig into them because "the diet starts January 1st" that bingeing, food comas, and guilt arise.
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