Guilt is not an ingredient in anything you're having this year, no matter what the media and diet culture gurus want you to think.
The concept of "guilt free eating" is actually a bit out of our depths, if we're being 100% honest. We educate based on science and health promotion- not restrictive eating. Nevertheless, there have been countless clients and friends coming to us with concern about getting back on track after the holidays when the holidays aren't even here yet.
It breaks my heart to see people so fearful of food, so today we are going to bust some myths and hand you some useful tips for tackling diet mindset during the holidays!
Myth #1: Indulgent food makes you gain weight if you eat it
Tip #1: use our portion control guide from last week to feel confident that you're filling your belly, but not over doing it.
Foods themselves do not have any associated "weight gain" or "weight loss" to them (so yes- this is me also telling you that any "foods for weight loss" guides are phony bologna).
Weight gain happens when we consume an excess of any nutrient. This comes back to the idea of calories in vs. calories out, but it's not quite that simple.
When food breaks down in our body, here's how it happens:
Carbohydrates turn into sugar chains which are used to produce energy
Proteins are broken down into amino acids which are used to build tissue and encourage cellular processes
Fats are broken down into fats which are used for energy or are stored in the body for any number of reasons.
Some fat stores are necessary for a healthy body- peak health is actually having 18-24% body fat for men and 25-31% for women.
Wanna know another fun secret?
It takes 3x as much energy to turn carbohydrates into adipose cells (body fat) than it does fat. Aka...carbohydrates do not make you fat.
Unless you eat way too many of them.
Which you most likely don't.
Aka-aka: this is why including a balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins is important and why working with a professional to understand the right range for your body can make such a huge difference.
Myth #2: a vegetable is a vegetable, no matter how you eat it.
Tip #2: include a variety of vegetables prepared in a variety of ways (baked, sautéed in oil, drenched in gravy, raw) to meet your goals on a holiday
Bonus- this tip will help reduce bloat, too, because you'll be more full from the fiber, less likely to overeat the more indulgent dishes, and keep your digestive schedule regular!
So this myth does have some truth to it. You do technically get a serving of vegetables from green bean casserole or sweet potato pie with marshmallows. But you also 1. cook the vegetables down so much that they lose a significant portion of their nutrients and 2. add in A LOT of fat, calories, sugar, sodium, and other additives that your body could do without.
If you know that your people will have all the heavy classics out, offer to bring a veggie platter with hummus or a salad (this one is always a crowd pleaser!) to help incorporate some more nutritious (but still delicious) veggie options that'll make you feel good.
Myth #3: only eating dinner on a holiday is acceptable and allows you to eat more.
Tip #3: Unless you want to slow your metabolism and experience a massive crash after dinner, aim for at least 1 additional (macronutrient balanced) meal in the morning or at lunchtime plus a few snacks throughout the day.
You may be surprised to find out that the process of starvation actually slows your metabolism and digestive system down and causes imbalances when you do eat again.
It takes, on average, 14-16 hours for the body to fully digest your food. At this point, you begin to enter a phase called autophagy, which is when your cells and organs are able to solely focus on their designated jobs and restore any imbalances.
This sounds awesome, but after a short while those cells and organs begin to get tired.
What happens to you when you get tired...?
You might sit on the couch, slow down your movement, and eventually even fall asleep or "turn off" for a while.
Your body does the same thing (how cool?!)
All that is to say that frequent periods of starvation and/or extreme calorie deficit can (and most often will) slow down your metabolism.
So please don't starve yourself all day long on Thanksgiving. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
Myth #4: Thanksgiving is about food and you really should just over indulge
Tip #4: Thanksgiving is about SO MUCH more than food, and if you're having a difficult relationship with food right now, you have options to draw attention away from the table.
I'd like to first address those who share this sentiment-
You have NO IDEA how many (or who) people struggle with binge eating in some form.
This may only be a one-day thing for you, but there are people around you who can't only indulge once, and it sets off a negative pattern for them. Or people around you who indulge and then feel guilty and won't eat for a few days or will make themselves sick to feel better about their body.
Watch your words. They hold a lot of power.
Thanksgiving (in terms of eating) is honestly just another day. Despite cultural norms, you can eat to feel satisfied or only have a few options just like a normal dinner.
The original Thanksgiving feast only meant that there were many more options than usual. You had a lot of choice at that table.
Those feasters didn't eat a full serving of everything- they tried a little bit of everything.
The Americanism of Thanksgiving has lead to very misguided ideas and relationships with holiday meals because we like more better faster, even if it's unhealthy for our minds and bodies.
Some ideas to help take the focus off the feast are to organize a family game where everyone gets outside or gathers in another room, ideally something that gets you moving to help offset some of those calories!
Another option is to put together a slideshow or photo book of old memories of the family. This is sentimental and endearing, but also typically leads to other conversations and chatter about years past that puts some time between the people and the food.
Finally, you can treat it like a normal dinner party. Make a plan and make it streamlined so that there are set snacks/hors d'oeuvres and drinks available, and then everyone comes to the table and sits down to eat. Many families (mine included) often opt for a buffet style and this can increase portion sizes simply because the sole focus is the food. Around a table, you're chatting with family and taking notice of the table scape and outfits that join you.
If you are in need of additional support- mentally, emotionally, or nutritionally, please reach out.
We are here to honor and support you through ALL seasons of life.
Let's put the joy back where fear and body image have stolen the show. 🧡
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