Approaching the Holidays with Intuitive Eating

The season of holiday eating, ushered in by fun-sized candy bars and bowls brimming with candy corn and peanuts, can be a slippery slope toward months of more treats than usual for many moms, myself included. Come Halloween time, I’d be a liar if I said I have never raided my kids’ bounty, all of a sudden drawn inexplicably by that bowl of Kit Kats and York Peppermint Patties.

If you’re in the two percent of moms who’ve never dipped into the trick-or-treat bowl, congratulations. Chances are, you’re a fitness model. But if you’re like me and want to better understand the lure of “special foods” and the feelings of both “being good” by staying away from them and having guilt after indulging in them, I invite you to explore the concept of intuitive eating with me.

I reached out to registered dietitian and mom Katy Harvey, for help unpacking the concept of intuitive eating and how to apply it to holiday eating, for both moms and kids. 

First, let’s clarify what intuitive eating is not: anything to do with weight loss or dieting. Nor is it about eating whatever you want, whenever you want. 

Rather it the eating pattern we were born with. Babies cry, are given milk, and stop when they’re satisfied. 

“To me, intuitive eating is about being connected to your body’s cures for hunger, fullness and satisfaction, and being able to respond to those cues with intention and compassion,” Harvey says. “Food doesn’t need to be feared during the holidays. It’s a wonderful piece of enjoyment, excitement, pleasure, and tradition.” 

Rather, she says, Halloween and the upcoming holiday season that follows can be an opportunity for both adults and children to learn how to interact with treats in a healthy way. If I like Kit Kats, rather than completely avoiding them, perhaps allow myself to eat some, guilt-free and with enjoyment.

Sometimes, when we have food just once a year (for example, only eating pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving), it may be especially tempting to you. Instead, allow yourself to have it more frequently.

“For some people, it’s really liberating to realize that holiday treats don’t have to be a once-yearly thing,” Harvey says. “There’s less urgency to eat as much as you can if you know you can have it again when you want.” 

Likewise, it’s helpful to recognize that the food is just part of the holiday. So, fill your plate with with what you truly want. Eat until you feel satisfied and comfortably full. Then, shift gears and go do something else, Harvey says, like having a conversation, playing a board game, or going on a walk.

“Holidays are meant to be about connection and making memories,” she says. “Sure, food is a wonderful part of that, but it doesn’t have to be the centerpiece, even at Thanksgiving.”

And what if we do raid the candy bowl and have one too many of those fun-sized chocolate bars, or sample a few kinds of pie at the Thanksgiving table? Rather than viewing an overindulgence as a failure and beating ourselves up for it, we can try to more constructively view it as a struggle that we can learn from next time, Harvey advises.

“If you were teaching a child to ride a bike you wouldn’t yell at them and berate them for falling down,” she says. “You’d respond with care and compassion, you’d encourage them to get up and try again. We need to be our own cheerleaders.”

Katy Harvey is a Registered Dietitian at InSight Counseling, LLC, in Overland Park. For more information, see www.kateyharvey.net

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

  1. Reject the diet mentality
  2. Honor your hunger
  3. Make peace with food
  4. Challenge the food police
  5. Respect your fullness
  6. Discover the satisfaction factor
  7. Honor your feelings without using food
  8. Respect your body
  9. Exercise – feel the difference
  10. Honor your health with gentle nutrition

Source: “10 Principles” Created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in 1995 and validated with more than 90 studies to date (Tribole, 2017)

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Natalie is a Lee’s Summit freelance writer and mom to a sweet girl, Adelyn, and a spicy boy, Gage. She’s married to David, a dermatologist. This means she's that mom at the park in the wide-brimmed hat with nine bottles of sunscreen in her oversized purse. Natalie’s first job out of journalism school was as a health and cuisine reporter for a small-town newspaper. Today, her continued love for food, fitness, and family adventures are manifested on her lifestyle blog, Lovely Inside Out. Making healthy food from scratch is her jam, and you’ll often find her trashing her kitchen while making cashew butter, protein balls or plantain tortillas.

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