This is What You Tell Yourself to Survive the Holiday Buffet

I was a dieter and highly regulated my food for years (and years). That meant that I’d use up a whole lotta brain power and mental energy trying to eat only the “right” foods all the dang time. When the pressure got to be too much, though, like, say, at a holiday party where every single thing I wasn’t supposed to eat was right in front of me, the flood gates would open, and I would eat all the food. Way too much of it.

Don't restrict your eating if you want it

That’s not my life story anymore and it’s because of one simple phrase: I can have it if I want it.

This may sound counterintuitive to someone who is trying to maintain a healthy weight and eat foods that best manage diabetes, but hear me out.

With a list a mile long of things you can’t eat, you’re constantly using your willpower, day in, day out, to stay on track. Willpower is not an infinite resource, either, so every time you have to make a decision about anything, like what to wear, how to handle that challenging situation at work, who should pick up the kids, you’re using some of it up. And when it comes to eating, sometimes your willpower just runs out, which can lead to big time rebound eating.

On the other hand, if you give yourself permission to eat that thing you really love, and actually let yourself eat it, you’re going to pay attention, eat some of it, then put the rest down.

For instance, at Thanksgiving this year I had one teeny piece of pumpkin pie, and that was it. There was other stuff there that looked good, but since I was telling myself I could have it if I wanted it, and it would be there the next day, I didn’t have to try to cram it all in at one meal. And I did have some of the other stuff that looked good, but on the next day and the next, and in reasonable portions.

Tips for intuitive eating during the holidays

If you’re interested in embracing the “I can have it if I want it” lifestyle, there are some things you should know.

  • I use an approach based on the concept Intuitive Eating, which is a book that was written in the 90’s. It’s readily available, and you might want to read it. There are also registered dietitians who are certified in Intuitive Eating; they can be incredibly helpful in helping you eat a new way and stay on track managing diabetes.
  • Sometimes you might still eat too much. In my experience, though, I ate way more carby, sugary food when I was trying to restrict them! Now that I tell myself I can have it if I want it, it’s not so alluring and I don’t feel the need to eat every last bite of it.
  • This isn’t about eating all the cake, all the time. It’s about really listening to what you want. And trust me, your body wants vegetables and protein, too! In my experience we only think we’ll eat all junk food because we’re telling ourselves we can’t have it and that makes us want it more. Once we allow ourselves to eat the things we truly want, the obsession for them subsides and there’s more room for green beans.
  • Work with a health professional to make sure things are going well for you. As I mentioned above, a registered dietitian who works with patients who have type 2 diabetes and is also a certified Intuitive Eating counselor is a great combo.

This holiday season, try letting yourself eating those things you genuinely want, and really sit down and savor them. It could be your happiest holiday season yet.

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