Combat Holiday Food Stress

Enjoy but don’t overindulge

The holidays are a stressful time—especially when it comes to food. We’re bombarded from all sides to eat more than normal with tempting Christmas cookies, candy canes, homemade candy, appetizers and more. At the time, we get reminded that we ought to be more mindful about what we eat. Dr. Mary-Jon Ludy, associate professor and food and nutrition program coordinator at Bowling Green State University, shares advice on how to navigate the holiday eating woes.

Maintain balance

Dr. Ludy says it good to remember that the holidays are just days. “Indulge in your favorite foods, but do so in moderation,” she explains. “Celebrate the special days, but avoid the temptation to overindulge all the way from Halloween to New Year. Remind yourself that it’s all about balance.”

Ignore pressure from both sides

If you feel “food pressure” from family and friends during the holidays, just ignore it, Dr. Ludy advises. “Know that it is not your responsibility to make your well-intentioned friends and family members happy by overeating. Just say no! Explain that you’re full, or that you would be delighted to take leftovers,” she says. On the other hand, if you’re being pressured to diet, Dr. Ludy recommends just enjoying your food: “Tune out the diet talk. Change the subject. Explain to the people in your life that dieting isn’t something that you’d like to discuss. Walk away.”

Get back to normal

While Americans tend to gain one to two pounds during the holidays, Dr. Ludy also notes that family and friend gatherings and shared traditions, including those that involve food, can be great for mental health. She suggests people just go with the flow at the holidays and follow these additional tips. First, give yourself permission to enjoy food so that you avoid the temptation to overeat later. Second, continue to eat regular meals and snacks. Third, bring healthy options to social gatherings. Fourth, pay attention to how much alcohol you drink and stay hydrated. And finally, make sure to get plenty of rest and exercise.

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