Enjoy the festivities, eat the food

Vegan sticky toffee pudding. From

Holiday food anxiety is a thing. I’ve already started hearing about it from friends and co-workers. It usually starts around Halloween, when people are “worried” over eating their leftover candies from having over-purchased for the trick or treaters, or sneaking chocolate bars from their kids’ stashes while the kids are at school. But it intensifies through late November and early December, when we attend parties and social events and also contend with the leftovers thereof, which people like to bring to work.

I know food anxiety, having experienced my share of it in the past. But since my almost 30 year project of intuitive eating (see my post about finally becoming an intuitive eater), I no longer feel stress over holiday eating. One thing that has alleviated that for me is that I no longer treat it as an “indulgence.” Indulgences, guilty pleasures, “sinful” or “decadent” treats — these are all ways of insinuating that we ought to feel guilty for eating these things. Guilt is associated with wrong-doing, and so there is an underlying “I really shouldn’t” behind every bite when we regard eating holiday treats in this way.

I realize that in some sense, venturing into taboo territory can add an extra little charge of delight, but for the most part, it leaves us feeling worse in the end. Why not instead just eat the food, enjoy the food, and move on?

This makes it sound easier than it actually is for many people. And I don’t mean to sound flippant or to trivialize the agonizing internal dialogue that can ensue when a chronic dieter who has spent a lifetime monitoring their food intake and watching their weight. The level of preoccupation that some experience, and the self-recrimination afterwards, is hard for those who have never experienced even to fathom.

And yet the mixed messages of media–where we are bombarded with recipes for holiday treats, on the one hand, and cautioned against “over-doing it,” on the other hand–encourage this tortured internal dance.

I vote for giving ourselves permission to enjoy the food and realize that we are grown ups who get to make our own decisions. If it’s not easy for you to do, consider how life would be if you gave up dieting as a way of life and instead dealt with food on a more accepting level? For some, this may be the beginning of an experiment, starting on the path to thinking of food in a more neutral manner, and learning to enjoy what you enjoy in amounts that feel good and comfortable, knowing that you can make that choice again later if you wish. That’s in contrast to the diet mentality, when we consider the holidays (and special occasions) as “cheat” times before we go back to the drab day-to-day of incessant food restriction.

Enjoying what we eat isn’t indulgence. It’s completely acceptable adulting.

Do you enjoy holiday eating or find it stressful?

What do you think?

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