move more and hurt less with Musclestache

Holiday Four Part Series: Part One - Enjoy Your Holiday Food Without the Guilt

Holiday Four Part Series: Part One - Enjoy Your Holiday Food Without the Guilt


Welcome back Musclestache community!

Since the holiday season is quickly approaching (where did 2018 go!?) the next 4 weeks will be geared toward how to balance the holiday season and a fit lifestyle.  We will be talking about nutrition, gift giving guides, keeping your fitness schedule during gym closures (hello at home workouts) and resolution revolution.  Here at Musclestache we LOVE the holidays and are looking forward to celebrating them with our new community.  Interact with us on social media: check us out on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

Food Guilt & Holidays – It’s all about Balance


What is food guilt?  Why do we feel it?  How do we overcome it?

We all know that feeling… after eating something we have deemed “unhealthy” or not “nutritionally dense,” or we “overindulged” in a meal that was just too good to stop eating -- there is the moment of shame, guilt, or regret.  Although food guilt can be natural in very small doses, and allows us to practice mindful eating, it should not interfere with everyday life or with holidays.  Further, extensive food guilt can result in disordered eating, and can continue to evolve into a much more serious diagnosis if not acknowledged or treated by a professional. 


Like most things in our current society, food guilt is heavily influenced by media.  Social media influencers, self-appointed diet “experts,” and fad diets have created a construct that labels food as either “good” or “bad,” but nothing in between. We have created an all or nothing mentality that conditions us to avoid “bad” food, and then feel guilty when we give in to enticements. 


To counteract this thinking, we must reframe how we view food, redefine the way food is labeled, and remember nutrition is all about balance. According to a dietician at Boston College, Sheila Tucker, “In nutrition, it is a matter of balance. I encourage students to not put every food under the microscope for a ‘good/bad’ evaluation, but instead pull back the lens and look at eating over several days to see how it balances. Not every food eaten has to be low fat, low calorie, high fiber, or full of vitamins and minerals. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, just ‘good’ and ‘bad’ diets.”  Therefore, the food that you love should be enjoyed in moderation and should be balanced with food that is nutritionally dense and valuable to your body’s needs. Healthy eating should not be balanced with unhealthy thinking, and good nutritional habits does not indicate strict restriction. 


Enjoy your holidays without food guilt

Sticking to good nutritional habits should focus on what is good practice, not what is bad practice. Empower yourself to make good food choices that allow you to participate in the holidays and remove diet stigma and food guilt.  Here are ten useful strategies to help you stay on track physically and mentally, while appreciating all your favorite holiday traditions.

  1. Food is a huge part of traditions and memories. I know I have fond memories of my grandma’s kitchen being full of people, activity, and food during Thanksgiving, and this still holds true today. Practice mindful eating by focusing how food contributes to the holiday, how it smells, looks, and tastes, and how it contributes to your day.  Create new memories and reflect on old ones as you participate in the day.
  2. Your diet throughout the year matters more than one day of eating. If you are consistently eating whole, clean foods and participating in active movement regularly; give yourself permission to enjoy the celebratory food of the day.
  3. You get to decide your portions, and there is always an opportunity to have a second helping.Take a moment to listen to your body after your first plate – are you full?  Are you still hungry?  Are you looking forward to pumpkin pie at the end? If so, save some room.  If you’re feeling full, save some of your favorites for later, and if you’re still hungry, go back for seconds!
  4. Trust your own appetite, pass on food that doesn’t appeal to you, and don’t over or under eat to please someone else. One of the joys of adulthood is getting to choose what you do and do not eat.
  5. If you overindulge – accept it and move on (refer back to number 2; one day does not determine a whole year).
  6. Acknowledge the food that provides good nutrition on the table. Most holiday meals have protein, vegetables, sweet potatoes, and other foods that may be part of your daily diet already.  You may not be “indulging” as much as you think you are.
  7. Vow to not comment (internally or externally) about the amount of food you or someone else is eating or someone else’s weight. This thinking only perpetuates the societal constructs put forward by food guilt and encourages this tendency to continue. 
  8. Many gyms offer a morning workout on Thanksgiving. Participate in these workouts if you want to start your day off sweating, but not with the sole purpose to create a calorie deficit to subside food guilt. 
  9. Do not change “once a year” recipes to make them “healthy” (I recently saw a recipe for stuffing made out of cauliflower…). If it is a recipe you truly make once every 365 days, and you are looking forward to it, enjoy it as is!
  10. A longitudinal study done by Harvard University (75+ years) examined what makes people happy over a lifetime. It was not numbers on a scale, weights lifted in the gym, or money earned. It was close relationships.  Enjoy the holidays with your family and friends, enjoy the festivities and meals, and do not concern yourself with feeling guilty over a day (and meal) well spent.


The takeaway

Universally, holidays are a time to celebrate family, friends, and good times.  Although physical health and nutrition is an important part of a quality life, there is room to indulge and enjoy the food that has been a part of previous traditions and helps create new traditions.  Don’t let food guilt dictate a great day -- celebrate with your community, family, and friends.  Enjoy the foods you love, overindulge if you want, and remember diet, exercise, healthy living, and happiness is all about balance.


Tag us in your holiday meal plates on Instagram, and we might feature you on our page! 


Check back next week for part two of our four-part holiday series; don’t forget to mobilize and use your Musclestache in between weeks!