Guilt ruins everything.
Even perfectly good holidays.
This holiday season, I have a challenge for you: Say no to food guilt.
When I first started my healthy eating journey, I swore off all sugar.
I acted like I was allergic to it and really couldn’t have it.
Maybe this was the right thing to do at the time.
I used to be addicted to sugar, and by taking a long break from it, that addiction went away. I can now enjoy it occasionally without cravings.
The Rule of Diminishing Returns
Growing up, my siblings and I made cakes, brownies, or cookies almost every single night. Somewhere along the line, it lost it’s “specialness.”
But when I quit sugar, I might have veered too far the other direction and started thinking of sweets as poison.
I had a couple of years where I made everything from scratch without sugar.
My healthy holiday treats were delicious, but they were a lot of work, too.
Now I like the idea of balance.
I truly believe that it’s how you eat everyday that matters – not a couple of days out of the year.
If you want a slice of cake at a party, have a slice of cake. Without guilt.
(Especially if it’s made from scratch!)
Yes, sugar is addictive. But once you’ve broken that cycle of addiction, you an actually have it now and then without the cravings. At least that’s how it has been for me.
There is a difference between a habitual ritual and a rare treat.
The Rule of Diminishing Returns is an economic rule stating that too much of anything makes it loose its value. Just like supply and demand, the things we have less often are by nature more valuable to us. (And having sweets every night, like I did when I was growing up, made those treats nostalgic, but less special.)
This is how I want my kids to understand food. Malachi gets sugar on birthdays and special occasions. I’ve heard him say: “I loooove sugar. It’s a very special treat.”
I’m hoping that my kids can figure out the balance on their own – that moderation and not strictness is key.
It’s a lifestyle, after all. If I withhold all sugar from them while they are under my roof, they will surely resent it and go too far the other direction when they are on their own.
Balance is key in so many areas of life, is it not?
And if a varied diet is actually best, then that gives us a little bit of wiggle room.
I’ve even read that a cheat day every now and then keeps your metabolism strong. Isn’t that a nice thought!
I’ve done the healthy holiday thing in the past, and I was actually hungry at the end of the day!
Avoiding the bloat and pain is one thing, but hungry? That’s kind of a bummer.
You can eat more than just salad and green beans at Thanksgiving dinner.
One day won’t undo all the good you’ve already put into your body in the long run.
Does that mean you should chow down on cookies through the whole month of December?
No, I wouldn’t recommend it.
That’s why gyms are so packed come New Years Day. People have regrets because they overdid it. So they pledge to do better next year.
So go ahead and indulge, but keep those treats to special occasions if you want them to remain truly special and mouthwatering.
The 80/20 Rule
The answer isn’t two extremes. I believe the answer is balance and freedom.
The 80/20 rule applies to this situation, like it does to so many other things in life. If you strive to eat healthy 80 percent of the time, you can (and should) “cheat” 20 percent of the time – without guilt!
If your only focus is the guilt and fear of food, then you probably won’t enjoy going to any parties this year.
Food is so much more than just calories and / or chemicals. It is something to be savored and enjoyed.
But I Have So Many Parties to Attend…
I hear you. The holidays are celebrated over a span of several months, not just on one or two days. Here’s some tips for staying ahead of the game when you attend those small group shindigs:
- Bring something healthy that you like to every party – just so that there is at least one healthy option there. You have no control over what anyone else brings or what the host serves, but you can bring something that you enjoy that won’t leave you bloated or uncomfortable.
- Strive to keep sweets out of your house. Enjoy them at celebrations freely, but don’t take any leftovers home with you. That’s when it’s easiest to overdo it – when no one else is watching.
- Keep up with your workout routine over the holidays. I know I’m always inspired to eat better when I’ve been working out. And how quickly one bad habit can lead to another… Keep guilt out of the equation though. Do it to feel awesome. Do it to get outside on cold days. Do it because you love yourself. Not to punish yourself.
Let your motivation be balance, wellbeing, and a healthy lifestyle. Not guilt, fear, or social pressure. Your body will thank you for taking care of it. And for not obsessing.
A Healthy Awareness, Not a Dangerous Obsession
Even good things become dangerous when we let them turn into obsessions. I love that I broke the sugar addiction, but I don’t believe sugar is poison.
I believe it’s good to have a healthy awareness of nutrition and what we put in our bodies, but it’s so easy to let our healthy awareness become hyper-alertness, which could actually lead to eating disorders.
Yes, sadly the “clean eating movement” of the past few years might be to blame for many eating disorders, food anxiety, and even some perfectionist tendencies.
Eating “clean” often creates a sense of morality around food, where certain foods have the potential to be good or bad. This makes food chaotic and confusing for many people, creating feelings of guilt, anxiety, and stress around food.
Can there be such a thing as eating “too clean”? Or what happens when clean eating behaviors are taken out of proportion or to extreme measures? Individuals who become obsessed with the quality of foods being consumed and with being “healthy,” this could lead to a more serious eating disorder known as Orthorexia Nervosa.
Now please don’t take this to mean that everyone who tries to eat healthy around the holidays has a severe food-related hangup or disorder.
Rather, use it as a reminder that balance and moderation are the best way to approach your food choices.
You don’t need to beat yourself up for celebrating during the holidays. (Of course, you should drink responsibly and use common sense!)
You don’t need to go for a run to “undo the damage you just did to your body.”
There are so many better reasons to workout than a “bikini body” and “undoing food damage.”
Sugar isn’t pure evil.
I didn’t think this several years ago, but I’ve had a change of heart.
Sugar, like many other things in life, can be enjoyed in moderation without guilt.
Fear is, in fact, a terrible reason to do anything.
How do you find a healthy balance during the holidays? Do you have any special traditions that revolve around food you eat once a year? How are your workouts and guilt levels affected by the holiday season?