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Take Control of Holiday Eating: A Quick Start not a Quick Fix. by Caroline K. (Registered Dietitian)

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

Take Control of Holiday Eating:

A Quick Start not a Quick Fix.


Instead of heading into the holidays on autopilot, an eating free for all, throwing all caution to the wind, let’s explore a quick start (not a quick fix). So instead of eating more, losing control and craving more, explore the possibilities discussed here. It isn’t about “cancelling the holidays”, still do the baking, attend the parties and do all things “holiday”!


My hope is that everyone makes space over the holidays to rest, relax and rejuvenate for the new year. Use these tips to explore ways to get through the holidays without having to wake up on January 1st full of shame saying, “I was “bad” and now it’s time to start (yet) another diet.” I do not believe in quick fixes. Any long-term change requires lifestyle shifts. What better time to start than now?


Enjoy yourself (by using your other senses and your imagination.)


Food doesn’t have to be the focus of how you are going to get through the holidays.


We know that so much of the holidays is about memories (both good and bad), family, love and connection. But did you know that the biggest portal into memory is not through taste, but rather through smell? The smell of the food and goodies is filling you with memories more than the tasting of it.


So instead of eating your memories, try using the sense of smell this holiday. Bring the fresh baked cookie to your nose and pause as you bring back memories of what baking cookies means to you. You can take it a step further and imagine a tray of cookies baking in the oven. In your mind’s eye, pick up the warm baked good, bring it to your nose. Pause. Use your sense of smell and watch how it fills you with joy. Take time to smell it. The smell of it is filling you with the memories more than the tasting of the actual food.


When you can create a distance between yourself and the act of eating you are on the path of long-term success. Start by bringing your memories to mind via the sense of smell, instead of eating your memories.


Let’s remember other senses too! Use sound by playing holiday music that brings back happy memories. Watch your favourite Christmas/holiday classic you watched as a child.


Out of sight. Out of mind.


Stimulus control is 70% of weight management. Keeping your environment clear of extra triggers is a good way to get on the right path.

At home, parties or other holiday gatherings sit or stand where extra food isn’t constantly in your line of sight. If you are hosting, have people serve themselves in the kitchen and then come to the dining room table. And let’s face it, for those who have grown up with the “Eat everything on the plate” rule it may be easier to just eat off smaller plates!


At home keep mindless food triggers out of sight. If you are in eye line of the treat it is so easy to engage in a conversation every time you pass it. (“Oh I shouldn’t. But the cookie says “I taste so good. What are you waiting for?” You know how the conversation goes!) So, instead of having a relationship with the plate of cookies every time you walk past it, manage the conversation by storing them away in a container.


Manage Hunger

Understanding the subtle cues of hunger is key to being able to stop eating before one is uncomfortably full. When one is overscheduled and stressed it is harder to discern the subtle hunger cues. And when this happens it is far easier to go into the extremes of overeating.


First step is to get out of autopilot during the holidays. Pause and reflect. Find out if you really love the choices you are making. My clients find that a lot of the indulgences they have are because of the connection to it and in fact they might not even really enjoy it. Are you eating something because it is there and always is there? Could you save it for the next function?


If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. Go to the party, look at all the food and ask yourself is there something you’d love to have, then have it. Make room for those foods. Not doing so can lead to overeating or binging. The key to success is to not deprive yourself. A lot of people have “all in” or “all out” thinking. The goal is to not let the pendulum swing from restriction to excess, by giving yourself permission to eat what you choose. Giving permission brings peace of mind to food choices.


Action plan: Plan to eat a treat. Yup I said it. Give yourself permission. And eat it while you are sitting down, enjoying every bite vs. on the run and realizing you didn’t even taste that one bite which leads you to another.


Here is something to explore: I call it the “last bite threshold”. There is a point in the eating experience where the enjoyment of the food hits a peak and then diminishes. The goal is to identify when that peak happens. It is also good to understand that after three bites our mouth experience goes from 90% down to 20%. So next time you are enjoying the food bring to mind the concept of the last bite threshold and see how are able to stop eating without missing out on the pleasure. You might just find in doing, so you can enjoy eating, while eating less.


If these strategies are new to you, give yourself space to practice. Just like working out your muscles in the gym, repetition and practice is needed to hone the skill. Learn these strategies and take them to the parties with you and see how different the outcome will be. And remember there is no such thing as perfection. It is a journey and there WILL be bumps in the road, that is a given.


Now imagine…...It is January 1 st you’ve opened your eyes and realized for the first time ever; you don’t need to start over again in the New Year because during the holiday time you respected your needs and started to listen to your body, nourished it with foods, all foods, without expecting perfection. The journey has begun……




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