Six keys to eat guilt-free during the holidays

During the holidays or at any time, eating favorite foods should be a pleasure. Courtesy photo

POWAY – Holiday season eating tends to bring a lot of anxiety, Palomar Health and Arch Medical Group Registered Dietitian Janice Baker said. There is food everywhere, starting with Halloween candy leading to Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas goodies and new year’s eve parties. Simultaneously, diet advertising ramps up with images of ripped abs and sculpted muscles, pressuring people to make a new year’s resolution to start a new fad program.

It’s also the worst time of year for “plate shaming.” Friends, co-workers and family members shame what’s on each others plate.

“You can’t just go to lunch and enjoy yourself,” Baker said. “Everyone has to talk about diets.”

However, Baker said there is room for fun foods in life as part of a healthful eating pattern.

“Food is not good or bad,” Baker said. “Look at it in context – not just what we eat, but how we eat.”

With that in mind, Baker shared a list of six keys to healthful eating during the holidays or anytime for that matter.

Diets don’t work. Baker is emphatic that just about all diets end badly, including all the ones that have been heard of or that will be heard of in the future. The reason is most diets are not sustainable; at some point, most people become tired of rules and restrictions and return to usual habits.

Don’t classify foods as good or bad. It creates anxiety, and overeating often results. All foods can work, aside from specific medical restrictions, in proper context and moderation. Denying certain foods, for example, ice cream, might lead to feeling out of control with that food, as opposed to being able to savor and enjoy foods without guilt or shame.

Get proper sleep. Research shows proper sleep has all kinds of health benefits, and one of the most important is supporting normal appetite and hunger signaling.

Make time for fun. This is a big stress reducer. Stress is one of the foremost causes of overeating, which leads to weight gain and an unhealthy lifestyle, leading to even more stress.

Minimize distracted eating. Eating in front of the TV is like “texting and driving,” according to Baker. When a person focuses on their food, neurohormonal messages are sent from the gastrointestinal tract to the brain as a signal to stop when they are satisfied. When a person eats while distracted, the messages are corrupted, and their brain might not be sensitive to this signaling. Another phenomenon can occur with watching TV and eating; watching TV can become a trigger to eating. The brain makes an association between TV and food, similar to Pavlov’s famous research on conditioning.

Savor food. Take the opportunity to chew more thoroughly and really enjoy food. This is an important part of digestion, and it gives the stomach time to get the message from the brain that it is full.

Ultimately, eating during the holidays or any time should be a joy, Baker said. To maintain joy, people should never use weight as the sole barometer of good health, and they should avoid comparing themselves to others.

“To compare is to despair,” Baker said.

Janice Baker is a registered dietitian and nutritionist, certified diabetes educator, certified nutrition support clinician and board certified in advanced diabetes management. Baker has been in practice since 1983 when she began at Palomar Medical Center Poway as a clinical dietitian in the acute and intensive care setting and has worked with Arch Health Medical Group since 1994, teaching nutrition, diabetes and health classes and providing nutrition education and counseling to individuals throughout San Diego.

For individualized expert advice on nutrition and healthful eating, Janice Baker is available for individual consultations. Medical nutrition therapy could be covered by insurance. Appointments can be made by calling (858) 675-3100.

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