Does your history with food create anxiety during the holidays? Many people feel the same way. Whether your struggle is medical, emotional, or psychological, you’ll navigate the season best with some key strategies for healthy, well-ordered meals and snacks. The goal is to eat for the needs of your body while enjoying the joy and delight of dining with others.

Still, does this seem like a challenge? Perhaps the following ideas can smooth the way:

6 Ways to Eat Safely & Sanely During the Holidays

1. Prep for Feasts and Festivities Strategically

Be sure to prioritize dietary and bodily self-care before sitting down to holiday tables or partaking at seasonal parties. Do your best to have a few healthy snacks nearby, on your person, or in your car. You don’t want to arrive at a feast with an empty stomach. It’s too tempting to overdo it.
A snack-sized bag of veggies, protein shake, or small salad before a carbohydrate-heavy meal can help you maintain your health goals and feel more in control.

2. Make Mindfulness Your Mealtime Priority

Eat with your senses. To prevent a tendency to binge or become overwhelmed by a holiday spread, slow down and notice the food and dining experience with all of your senses. Pay attention to the sounds of the fork on your plate, and the conversations around you, notice the varied colors on your plate and the holiday place settings, enjoy the textures of the food, the bubbles in your soda or sparkling wine. Pause after bites of food and sips of drink. Let the sensations settle into your consciousness for an experience you appreciate in the moment and neither dread nor overindulge.

3. Savor Your Food a Little Bit at a Time

Think small portions and smaller bites. Consciously choose moderation when it comes to portion size. If you have the option, choose a smaller plate, eat more appetizers than large entrees, and refrain from accepting your host’s offer of a second helping.

Moreover, try to savor your food by taking small bites and chewing them slowly and fully. Smaller bites will help you taste flavors well and increase the odds that you’ll feel full faster.

4. Drink More Water Than Soda or Alcohol

Hydration goes a long way in maintaining clear and functioning bodily systems. It also does wonders for clearing the mind. Simply having a glass of lemon water before making the rounds at a holiday buffet table can take the edge off hunger and apprehension. Additionally, it’s a good idea to make an effort to flush your system of the excess sugar that is often present in holiday sweets and cocktails.

5. Move Your Body Before and After Meals

You’ve heard it a thousand times, but the advice holds true: Move your body. Food is fuel. Rather than worry about weight or fret about calories, put in place a plan to use the fuel in your bodily tank. Improve digestion and circulation by taking a walk after feasting with a few other partygoers or relatives. Perhaps dancing is available for a bit of exercise. You can even speed up your metabolism prior to the meal by planning a yoga session or quick jog an hour or two before the party.

6. Honor the Mind-Body Connection

Finally, it’s vital to recognize that the key to eating safely and sanely is to fully recognize and appreciate the mind-body connection when it comes to food. So much disordered eating and so many unhealthy perceptions of food result from unresolved emotional problems and thought patterns. It’s important to challenge negative self-talk and low self-image. It is crucial that any traumas are addressed, and you understand how you may be focusing on food to soothe yourself or control your surroundings.

In truth, the holidays can be tricky because they can amplify relationship issues, loneliness, financial stress, and deep emotions. Consider spending time with a counselor before, during, and/or after the holidays as an outlet to obtain an objective view of your food habits.

Take the first step…

If you sense that you need support regarding your relationship with food, during the holidays or beyond, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.

Linda K. Laffey, MFT