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Holiday Season and Eating Behavior

Holiday Season and Eating Behavior

The holiday season is approaching, and for some, this means celebrating with family and friends, enjoying the changing seasons, and gift-giving. For others, this can also include guilt, shame, and worry revolving around eating holiday food. It may mean that you cannot indulge and enjoy holiday food, fearing that you will get "off track" from your health and fitness goals.

Included are some tips for the upcoming holiday season to honor your hunger while still enjoying holiday food.

Balance Your Plate

An essential part of nutrition is understanding the importance of balancing your plate.

According to MyPlate guidelines, it is recommended that your plate should consist of grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy or dairy alternatives, and protein (either animal protein or plant protein). This does not mean that every plate needs to include all five food groups, especially since some holiday plates are smaller for more of a buffet style. Instead, balancing your plate just means including different foods throughout the day to receive all daily nutrients needed for optimal health.

Some quick tips:

  1. Make half your grain intake whole grains. This will also help increase your fiber intake.
  2. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Enjoy the seasonal fall and winter fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety means you'll get different nutrients and phytochemicals.
  3. Opt for unsaturated fats and minimize saturated. Forego trans fats.

Incorporate Movement

Exercise and movement are essential to maintaining your health goals. Finding movement

that brings you joy is optimal for stress relief and good mental health and can help you feel that you are not "getting off track" with your personal fitness goals. Movement can be different for everyone! Some prefer to go on a run; others might turn on their favorite song and dance. Whatever your activity is, keeping active is suitable for both your body and mind.

During the holidays, it might be harder to stay consistent with your workout or movement goals. Life can certainly feel like getting in the way when the family is in town, gift wrapping takes over your guest room, and cleaning needs to be done. Remember, any movement is an essential movement. Finding small breaks throughout the day to schedule time for a walk might not seem like a major workout, but it is beneficial.

Drink Enough Water

Hydration is essential for health and well-being. Dehydration can lead to mental fog, digestion problems, and a negative mood. Women need around 11.5 cups of water per day, and men need approximately 15.5 cups for daily water needs.

Water comes both in the form of liquid and food. Typically, you get around 20 percent of your water intake from foods. Therefore, make sure to include foods like cucumbers and celery on your plate.

Get Involved with the Cooking

Cooking around the holidays is a quintessential tradition. Getting involved

in cooking is excellent for spending more time with your loved ones. Additionally, making a dish for a holiday event is a great way to know what nutrients and food components are in your food. This way, you can better keep track of what nutrients you are consuming.

Minimize Distraction

There are many distractions around the holiday season; however, minimizing the distractions that are in your control is important for mindful food consumption. For example, when you have some alone time to eat, minimize eating in front of the TV or while on your phone. This way, you can listen to your hunger/satiety cues more optimally and know when you are full and when you need more food to satisfy your hunger.

Get Enough Sleep

Downtime, rest, and sleep are all essential for the body and mental recovery. Being in a good mental state requires good rest. Additionally, not receiving enough sleep can leave you lethargic and more apt to crave sugar/salt. Increasing sleep can leave you more aware of your body's cues for hunger and can minimize specific cravings. Aim for around 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and incorporate brain breaks and naps whenever necessary.

Find Ways to Slow Down

Slowing down can be difficult during the holidays, where it seems like everything else is speeding up. Finding time to slow down is important for listening to your body to not overindulge in food. Try taking an extra 10 seconds between plates to see if you are actually hungry for a second helping. Or try chewing for just a little bit longer to savor the food and enjoy it a bit longer. Making eating less hectic can help you focus on what is important to you around the holiday season.

Listen to Your Body

Understanding your body's cues for hunger and fullness is a tool you can use for not overindulging. Understanding your personal boundaries with how much you want to consume and what you wish to avoid. Remember, you don't have to eat anything you don't want to, and as an adult, you're exempt from being in the "clean plate club."

Ensure that the food you have on your plate is serving you. Find the food's purpose. Is it bringing you joy? Does it taste good? Is it providing you with good nutrients? Is it a new food you are excited to try? Finding the purpose of the food can help bring you peace with the consumption of it.

Check-in With Your Mental Health

Mental health can fluctuate significantly during the holiday season, so checking in with your emotions and feelings is essential. Emotional eating can happen throughout the year but can fluctuate more during the holiday season with the much-added stress of holidays. Finding proper coping mechanisms for your stress will help you minimize emotional eating and cravings that can leave you feeling guilty and like you lost track of your goals. No one is perfect, and if you do emotionally eat, make sure to have grace with yourself and have the mentality that growth doesn't happen overnight. With grace and self-compassion, practice eating more for physical hunger than for emotional comfort.

Try Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating is a style of eating that honors health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body to meet your physical and psychological needs. It provides food freedom while helping people make peace with food by connecting the mind with the body. While practicing intuitive eating, there is no diet or food plan, and there is no way to "fall off track" with your fitness goals. Instead, it includes 10 principles that help you navigate the barriers to finding peace with food while still encouraging overall health and well-being. If you would like to learn more, visit

Finding Peace with Food at LVMC

Lompoc Valley Medical Center offers a variety of treatment options for mental health and food choice. Visit our provider's page today to schedule an appointment,