Whether you are hosting the holiday party or just there for a good time, food is probably on your brain. And for many people, the holiday eating frenzy can be an emotional battle that makes it hard to practice the empowering principles of intuitive eating.

Many people begin the holiday season with a crash diet or the hopes of using their willpower to keep themselves from eating too much and gaining extra weight. This way of thinking is damaging. Instead of creating a list of “forbidden” holiday foods, try keeping the mindset that nothing is prohibited. Anytime something is deemed “off-limits,” it suddenly becomes much more appealing than if you knew you could have it whenever you wanted. Deprivation also creates guilt, and when guilt and food mix, the result is usually eating too much or eating too little.

This unconditional permission to eat can also be applied to your ability to say “no” to a food. Don’t let the pressure of being a polite guest override your right to choose when, what and how much you eat.

Getting in touch with your hunger and fullness signals is a great way to enjoy holiday eating without the useless guilt. If you can take a moment to recognize if you are really hungry, or simply eating because of stress or social situations, you will be able to make better decisions when it comes to food. By eating slowly, enjoying the conversation and staying mindful of your fullness cues, you can stop eating before making yourself sick.

Emotional eating habits are often elicited during the stressful holiday months. Know what situations trigger your desire to use food as a coping mechanism and do what you can to prepare for them. Keep a healthy snack in your purse, take five minutes to meditate in a quiet room or find a moment to slip away for a quick walk around the block.

Finally, try entering the holiday eating season without thoughts of the New Year’s diet. Having a mental deadline for what you are allowed to eat often causes you to choose less healthy foods and eat more of them than if you had no impending diet looming on the horizon. This type of “last supper eating” does not serve you, and instead, work on accepting the idea that food is meant as a means to keep you fed and feeling satisfied all year long.

Taryn Palmer is a registered dietitian for the Magic Valley YMCA.

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