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Navigating sweets and treats during the holiday season

Posted December 7, 2016

Food is everywhere this time of year. How do you enjoy the food and this time of year to its fullest? (Deseret Photo)

It's the most wonderful time of the year … right?

The holiday season is full of all kinds of fun traditions and opportunities to connect with loved ones and friends. It can also be an extremely stressful time for anyone who struggles with food. It's everywhere: at work, at school, at social gatherings — treats even show up on your doorstep from loving neighbors and friends throughout the month. For many, this time of year can feel as if you have to choose between being all-in or all-out with your indulgences.

Let me ask you an honest question: when has being all-in or all-out with your food ever worked for you? When have you felt great when you're completely restricting fun foods or completely going hog-wild on every food you see?

My guess is you'd say that an all-or-nothing approach to food doesn't work, especially in the long-term. But maybe you're not sure about what to do if you approach food in a more neutral way. You're probably especially unsure about how to navigate neutrality with food during the time of year where sweets reign: December!

You really can have a holiday season where you enjoy all the fun this time of year has to offer without all the mental anguish of guilt and shame about food.

I want to give you some practical advice for navigating your December regarding sweets and treats.

When you're around your favorite holiday sweets, go through the following steps to decide how to proceed:

  1. Ask yourself a few questions before you even start eating. Ask yourself if you really want that food. Does it sound good? Does it look good? Will it satisfy you? If the answer is yes to all of those questions, proceed to step two.

  2. Take a bite. If it's not as good as you remembered or imagined, don't hesitate to toss it. There's so much power in eating the things you really love! But, if it's just as good as you remembered and you'd like to eat the rest, proceed to step three.

  3. Eat it mindfully. Take some time to truly enjoy the experience of eating one of your favorite holiday treats. Pay attention to the texture, the taste, the smell and be in the moment while you eat. Food tastes better when you are mindful and you often are better attuned to when it's time to stop.

When you pay attention and try to eat the indulgent foods that are truly worth it and tasty to you, you often realize how often you eat things that you don't even like. Don't let the fear of scarcity with a treat during the holidays mess you up — remember, you can always make the same treat again in February.

Take some time to slow down and ask yourself what you really want during this time of year as you're navigating parties and get-togethers with lots of food. Eat the things that are delicious to you and enjoy the chance to connect with your family and friends — don't stress the food so much.

Paige is a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in helping people heal their relationship with food. She hosts Nutrition Matters Podcast and has a private nutrition consulting business based in Salt Lake City.

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