Lisa Hardesty, Ph.D.
Behavioral Health, Psychiatry & Psychology
When it came to eating, how did this past holiday season treat you? Was there a foreboding sense of doom based on a fear of excessive cookies and snacks? Perhaps you encountered nightmares related to copious amounts of food and sugarplums chasing you in the dark. While these examples may seem over the top, the feelings are very real for some, especially when food is related to addictive tendencies. That’s why adopting a healthy eating mindset is important throughout the entire year.
Challenges with food around holidays and events
Food presents a challenge during the holidays and events for a number of reasons:
- Food is plentiful and readily available.
- Food items are unique when compared to our everyday meals.
- Holiday foods are traditionally high in fat and calories.
- Family time is often structured around food and the act of eating.
Your exposure to food makes a difference
Unfortunately, the more available food is, the more you become exposed to triggers. Additionally, your resolve to abstain decreases each time you’re placed in one of these situations. Have you ever noticed you can go an entire day eating well, only to lose all control later on? This is especially evident during instances where you experience what’s known as decision fatigue and become more open and vulnerable to environmental cues with additional exposures.
How to lessen your responsiveness to food triggers
Even if you don’t struggle with addictive tendencies related to food, you still face many triggers throughout the year. The good news is there are behaviors and thoughts you can adopt to help lessen your responsiveness to food triggers and alter the way you approach eating, especially during holidays and events.
Healthy eating habits for all occasions
- Adopting a healthy eating mindset starts with identifying the reasons you want to eat healthier. What compelling reasons come up when you consider this question?
- Having a plan is one of the most important things you can do. Anticipate when you may have more difficulty making healthy choices, and create a solid plan for those times.
- Try talking to your family and friends about having healthier options available during a gathering.
- Savoring your food and being present will help you make better choices rather than approaching eating mindlessly.
- Instead of moving from food dish to food dish, first survey the options and decide which ones you really want and how much before adding food to your plate.
- It’s also important to allow yourself a few unhealthy food options, but decide when and where you will make those choices.
Additional techniques to help modify your eating behavior
- Bring fruit and vegetables to holiday gatherings to create more options for you and others.
- Eat a light snack before attending holiday events to lessen the likelihood of overeating.
- Measure and portion your food over the holidays.
- Increase your level of activity and exercise.
- Commit to making changes with someone close to you.
- Bank your calories if you know you’ll attend an event with more food options available.
- Learn not to despair.