With exam stress and the holiday season quickly approaching, a common theme keeps reappearing through social media posts and casual conversations — diets.
December is already overwhelming with the expectation of being pleasant with family members at gatherings. Turning the month into a diet craze can add one more thing to your list of stressors.
While being mindful of your nutrition is important to lead a healthy lifestyle, misguided dieting behaviours often result in weight regain and could escalate to disordered eating.
Some people might take up restrictive diets before their holiday feasts in an attempt to save up for all those sweet and savoury foods. While this may seem like an option to curb the holiday weight gain, it could potentially lead to more weight gain than no diet at all.
Restricting specific types of food is not sustainable for long-term dietary changes and often leads to overeating due to increased cravings of restricted foods. Preventing yourself from enjoying foods by putting them on a forbidden pedestal is not ideal. That strategy can make you even more obsessed with the idea of being allowed to eat them once you have given yourself permission.
Similarly, if you consider the holiday season as a time to eat anything freely but are planning a new year’s resolution of removing certain foods from your diet, you are more likely to indulge in larger amounts of these foods in preparation for the upcoming restriction.
Restrictive eating is a slippery slope that can have the opposite effect dieters want.
Intuitive eating is an alternative that may prove to be more effective for weight maintenance and overall well-being. A common misconception with non-diet approaches is that if you are not dieting, you are binging and do not care what you eat — but that is not the case.
This mindful way of eating is dependant on the body’s internal hunger and fullness cues — eating for physical reasons rather than emotional reasons and giving yourself permission to eat anything. While this may sound like a food free-for-all, this type of eating takes practice and is more complicated than what it may seem to be on the surface.
It is not about eating everything and anything in sight because you have allowed yourself to — it is about listening to your body and figuring out what it truly needs. It can be useful to note how you feel physically, emotionally and mentally after eating certain types or amounts of food. Using these body and mind cues can help to determine what foods make you feel good or bad.
The healthiest way to go about holiday meals is to grant yourself permission to eat, be happy and not focus so much on the food. You do not need to remove foods from your diet for certain amounts of time to be healthier this holiday season.
Holidays are supposed to be about much more than food, so let them be more and let yourself be joyful.
Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor
Graphic: Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor