Goodbye, Holiday Guilt!

It’s finally December, which means that the candy canes and christmas cakes have hit the shelves, and the weather is finally getting warm enough for us to hit the beach.

Almost as predictable as pavlova and sunshine, another commonplace feature of the festive season is food guilt. That familiar frustration and sadness that creeps in when you pick up the cheese and crackers, even though you told yourself a thousand times that you wouldn’t. This guilt has the uncanny ability to ruin a holiday gathering. It takes away pleasure and enjoyment from big events, and for many people, keeps us especially worried about how we look and what we’re putting on our plates.

In the southern hemisphere, where the holidays coincide with summer weather, this issue is often compounded. In many people’s minds, the notoriety of holiday eating is only further complicated by the requirement to have a “summer body” (Which, by the way, is absolute rubbish). How can we possibly eat, drink, and be merry when we have to fit into our bathing suits by boxing day? Well, I know that this goes against everything the media will try and tell you at this time of year, but the idea that you need to be a certain weight or size to enjoy the holiday season simply isn’t true.

“If feelings of guilt, shame or anxiety creep in, remind yourself those are not your feelings, they were given to you by a culture that preys on your insecurities and vulnerabilities and you are not going to let diet culture walk all over you.”
— Laura Thomas, PhD.

It’s important to note that ometimes the excitement of all of the special holiday foods means that we pay less attention to our actual hunger and fullness. On more than one occasion over the years, I’ve eaten to the point of physical discomfort. I’ve also had Christmases where I restricted myself and refused to ‘indulge’ in any of my favourite treats for fear of bulging out of my bikini in the new year. I can tell you now that neither occurrence was fun or satisfying, and stemmed from a complicated relationship with food. It’s so much more satisfying and rewarding to go into the holidays knowing that you can eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re full.

So, what’s the solution to holiday food guilt? Enjoy all of your favourite foods wholeheartedly, and savour every bite. Try to eat intuitively where possible, and remember that there is nothing ‘naughty’ or ‘sinful’ about consuming foods that nourish your body and soul. Tell the inner critic in your head (or the one sitting across from you at the dinner table) to back off, and know that you are okay just as you are.  Don’t waste precious energy worrying about what you should and shouldn’t be eating or what you look like, and instead give yourself (and others!) the gift of compassion this holiday season and make the most of it by enjoying all of the things that come along with the holidays - food included.