Somewhat tongue and cheek, and taking a deep breath in to emphasize the extent of my emotions, I answered rather pointedly, “I tell my clients to STOP TRYING to not overindulge” and, as if I needed to underscore my point further, added, “…and I tell them to NEVER diet over the holidays!”
As a psychologist, eating disorder specialist, and advocate for the eating disorder recovery process, my ever-so-frequently chanted mantras, “Stop Dieting” and “Allow yourself to enjoy all foods within healthy moderation!” are never stronger – or repeated more often - than they are during the holiday season.
Enjoying food, partaking in the culinary pleasures of the holidays and socializing around familial traditions involving food does not, and I (quite often) repeat, does not cause significant weight gain and/or make people “fat.”
Quite the contrary, whether over the holidays – or at any other time of the year - as an eating disorder expert, I unequivocally know that whenever you diet (or significantly restrict your food intake), you are setting yourself up to overindulge, binge, and/or binge-purge at some point in the near future.
Like so many pieces of inaccurate information circulating around the holidays, the unfortunate – and irresponsible - myth that people gain an extraordinary amount of weight during the holidays is just that, a myth.
Dig deep beneath the hype and diet-media-propelled surface and you will find an abundance of research which reveals the inaccuracy of these statements. For example, a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health reported that the average weight gain for adults between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day was less than one pound (although most participants estimated that they had gained much more). Similarly, a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that most Americans gain about one pound of body weight on average during the holidays.
So, this holiday season, stop stressing about the potential to overindulge! Instead, allow yourself to partake, taste, experience and enjoy, albeit with a merry bit of healthy moderation, the foods and splendor associated with this glorious time of the year.