Practice Holiday (Food) Forgiveness

From the WebMD Archives

By Jared Miller

Holidays are about spending time with friends and family, celebrating the season and partaking in delicious cuisine. But for people trying to watch what they eat, holidays -- especially Thanksgiving -- can be difficult. If you’re like me, when you’re surrounded by delicious foods that only emerge once a year, you like to fill up on them. Additionally, the stress that often accompanies a busy holiday gathering can lead to eating more than initially planned. You shouldn’t let the risk of falling off the wagon ruin your holiday fun. Here are a few suggestions on how you can forgive yourself for indulging in the delicacies of Turkey Day:

But... I’ll undo all of my hard work. Do you worry that if you allow yourself that second serving of turkey or a bigger slice of pumpkin pie, you’ll suddenly put on all the weight you lost since you started making better food choices and exercising more? Dietician and upwave review board member Shoshana Pritzker, RD, CDN, reminds us, “One meal isn’t going to make you fat, or get diabetes or high blood pressure or any of those other illnesses or ailments that come from overeating all the time.” Remember that it took many months to put on the pounds and many months to drop them, so one afternoon of indulgence isn’t going to cause you to buy bigger clothes tomorrow. That being said, it's important to make this meal the exception, not the rule. If you overindulge on Thanksgiving, do your best to stick to your diet for the remainder of the season.

But... it makes me feel like a failure. Thanksgiving is all about spending time with loved ones while sharing a great meal. You don’t want to ruin the fun and spoil the food by worrying about letting yourself down. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” says Pritzker. “So plan to succeed.” She recommends deciding what Thanksgiving foods you enjoy the most and go for those while avoiding other food you might eat just because it's there. “Have smaller tastes of more of the foods you want, and don’t waste the calories on the other stuff,” she explains. This way you get what you want without overdoing it. (Joy Jacobs, Ph.D., another upwave review board member, also recommends surveying all of the food offerings ahead of time, if possible. "That way, you'll be able to select the foods you most want to eat, without any 'surprises' that end in overeating.")

But... I won’t be able to get back on track. This is only true if you let it be. Having one afternoon where you let yourself enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly enjoy the same spirit everyday after that. It's a choice, and in order to make the right one, Pritzker says you should reframe how you look at it: “That was one night, and I enjoyed myself. Tomorrow I’m going to get right back on track.” It's all about maintaining a positive attitude.

But... I’ll feel gross. Eating a bunch of carbohydrates, fatty foods and sugary desserts can make the best of us avoid the mirror the next morning. If this is the case, remember what I mentioned earlier: You haven’t undone your hard work. You just need to change your mindset. “Avoid feeling gross by coming up with something positive to do to get back to feeling good about yourself,” says Pritzker. Make this part of your plan to succeed. Tell yourself the day after Turkey Day will be about healthy choices. Go for a run in the morning and plan a few healthy meals for the day. Before you know it, you’ll be in front of the mirror patting yourself on the back.

Don’t beat yourself up for having an off day, especially on Thanksgiving. Spend time with your family and friends and enjoy the food that someone put hard work into, especially if it was you! Just remember to pick yourself (and your diet) back up and continue eating healthy meals and being active. But for one day, it's OK to let it go. There’s enough stress attached to the holidays, don’t make worrying about what you’re eating one of them.