How To Enjoy Holiday Food Without Guilt

Posted by Ash DePass on


Published: 11.24.2021


Here’s an overshare, when I was a kid, I was bulimic. Unfortunately, I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I would eat something ‘bad’ like cake at a birthday party or chips at a sleepover, then sneak into the bathroom and puke it up.

I was twelve when I started doing this. Twelve.

Over the years this turned into a commitment of binging and purging. I would restrict myself to X amount of calories, and aggressively cut out different foods, but by doing so I would end up rebelling against my own rules and binge on those things. Then, once the vice-grip guilt settled in, I would rush to the bathroom and methodically rid my body of the indulgences.

But, this isn’t a cautionary tale about how I abused my body for decades; rather let it add some weight to my forthcoming advice.

I have since recovered from that abusive cycle and now eat whatever I want – and no, I am not trying to say that I eat piles of junk without guilt, while maintaining a healthy body.

What I am saying is that when you take restrictions out of your diet (unless you have serious allergies or other medical reasons), your body will eventually tell you what it wants to eat; what feels good, what doesn’t, and how much of it it wants. If this sounds familiar, you’re right, I’ve talked about this in my article on intuitive eating.

However, that isn’t the main point of this piece. It’s the holidays after all, and there are bound to be foods that your taste buds want more than your gut is ready to optimally digest. I mean, baked mac and cheese and pumpkin pie are delicious, even if they don’t have much nutritional value.

In fact, I encourage you to indulge in your favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Fully, without guilt. And, I can promise you that if you allow yourself to enjoy each bite, with grace, that one meal will not affect your overall health – and will not make you gain weight.

But, there are some caveats.

So, without further ado, let’s get to the heart of this article and cover how you can enjoy holiday foods without guilt – or repercussions.

Three tips to honor yourself while enjoying holiday meals. 

1. Give yourself permission to indulge

I don’t believe in diets, therefore I don’t believe in ‘cheat days’ or ‘cheat meals’. In fact, it was that type of thinking that drove me to binge. Diets are, by nature, restrictive and don’t allow room for intuition or logic.

If you eat ‘badly’ one day, biologically, it isn’t going to make you gain a bunch of weight. What can cause real and lasting damage is the aftermath of the mental warfare that happens after you eat ‘badly’. The guilt, stress, reproach, and shame that take over are the real issue, not the 1200 calorie dessert you consumed.

If you can take the guilt and shame out of the equation, along with the panicky rebellion of having to cram all the things you’re not allowed to have into one ‘cheat meal’, you’re already setting yourself up for long term success.

So, give yourself permission to actually enjoy all of the food, and remember that it isn’t a cheat day, so you don’t have to overindulge and cram all the things in. If you feel like having more the next day, you’re welcome to.

2. Eat slowly

This one can feel a bit challenging if you’re used to chowing down at warp speed, like me, but it is an important step in doing right, not only by your body, but also by your mind.

Eating too fast can give you a stomach ache or lead to overindulgence, which can psychologically affect your relationship with the food you’re eating.

As much as I’m encouraging you to eat whatever you want, I am also encouraging you to be a bit mindful and listen to your body – which you can’t do if you’re operating from a place of lack and hammering food before your gut has had a chance to process the last bite.

Now, I’m not saying you need to eat in slow motion and torture yourself in the process, just consume at a pace that intuitively feels right and gives you a chance to really taste each bite, and feel when you’re satisfied – aka full.

3. Give yourself a post meal pep-talk

The first two parts of this process are fairly straightforward and can feel really empowering, but after the meal is done and you’re getting into bed, that old familiar shame can creep right in and try and steal all of the joy from your day.

First, that’s normal, especially if you’ve been dieting for years and have subconsciously convinced yourself that food is the enemy.

Food is not the enemy, and you deserve to enjoy it.

This is why it is so important to have a minute alone to remind yourself of that. At the end of the night, give yourself a pep talk. Remind yourself that you deserve to enjoy food, that this one day will not destroy your body.

Lock yourself in the bathroom and look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are doing wonderfully, that you are on the right track, and that you should feel good about how you enjoyed the foods you ate.

Now, I am not saying that you should eat garbage every day. What I am saying is that you can use the holidays as a chance to heighten your relationship with your body, mind, and soul.

I am challenging you to toss your diets out the window, and replace them with intuitive eating. Even if it means eating more junk than you usually would, until your body and mind guide you to naturally course correct.

So for tomorrow, give yourself permission to enjoy the food you’re eating. Slow down and enjoy the flavors, go slow enough to give your body a chance to tell you how it feels to consume these foods, and tell you if it wants more or not. Then, pop into the bathroom and give yourself some love whenever you feel panic, doubt, guilt or any negative emotion of self-talk set in.

Finally, take a moment to find gratitude for your beautiful body, the beautiful food, and your beautiful self. Remember, this one day (or two) of indulgence won’t affect your weight, and by giving yourself some grace and enjoyment, your body, mind, and soul will thank you.

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