I was at several holiday parties recently. The next 2 weeks have many opportunities for eating decadently. For many people, Christmas means pigging out at a big, yummy holiday dinner. Yet a holiday dinner is accompanied by some side dishes that can dampen your pleasure:

* Guilt. Weight s a big issue for many of us. Believing you shouldn’t have dessert or potatoes or more than one piece of pie—or believing that you should just stick to meat without gravy and veggies—can make you feel guilty if you indulge. That ruins each bite and tempers your pleasure.

* Disgust. When guilt gets strong, disgust with yourself for indulging can set in. I’ve heard people lament every bite of a delicious, high calorie dinner. “I’m so bad for eating this.” When you do that, you get the extra calories but you don’t enjoy eating them.

* Deprivation. If you choose to “be good,” you’ll feel bad about not having what everyone else does. You may resist temptation but long for the goodies you watch others eat. It stirs cravings that you can feel long after the dinner and eventually may lead you to a pig-out that isn’t as satisfying as the parts of the dinner you choose not to eat.

Why do that to yourself! It can ruin your meal, and your day! I’ve stopped the shoulds and shouldn’ts and give myself permission to do what makes me feel good, not bad. Knowing that I’ll be eating more on the holiday, I’ll go for a run before and then try for one after too. I tried to do this for Thanksgiving. But as I began to put on my running clothes, the sky got very overcast and I lost my desire to run. At first I pushed myself with reminders of all the eating I’d already done and what was coming up. I SHOULD got burn some calories!

But I didn’t. I chose to honor my feelings that were concerned about getting caught in a rain storm and ignored the SHOULD.

The sun returned later and improved my mood. A few hours after pigging out, I had a desire for exercise and went to burn off some calories. This time I was in the mood and enjoyed my run, instead of forcing myself out. I didn’t know I’d go later when I passed in the morning. But if I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have felt guilty, or worse about my eating. There’s always tomorrow!

You have ONE life. Don’t ruin it by inflicting rigid standards on your pleasure.

Yes, it’s important to eat healthy and exercise—MOST of the time! I don’t make rich foods and sugary treats a habit. But once in a while won’t ruin you! I’m trying to get a bit more exercise before the upcoming holiday dinners this weekend to compensate. But we had a blizzard and snow is on the ground so I won’t beat myself up if I can’t get out to exercise. I’ll do my weight training in the gym. But I won’t eat less if I can’t run.

Erma Bombeck said, “Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.

Seize the day and enjoy the holiday food! Indulge without guilt. You don’t have to pig out to enjoy it. Instead, plan a little so you have some control over what you eat while still enjoying the goodies. Rather that withholding all the richer foods:

* Check out all the food before taking large heaps of the first few, especially if the food is served buffet style. When I see a dish I love, I take a lot. Then I realize there are 4 others yummy ones I want to partake of and then I take too much food. So I try to take a small scope of everything first and when it’s finished, decide if I need more.

* Make trade-offs. If your concern is just one big dinner, just relax and let yourself go a bit. But, if you’re away from home for many meals, you can create some restraint that doesn’t deprive you. When I travel and eat many meals out, or I’m at someone’s house for several days in holiday mode, I assess what I want beforehand and choose which goodies to skip or just have a taste of and which I’d like a real portion of. If I want dessert, I skip bread and only have a small portion of potatoes. Think about what you’d normally have in the situation, and decide what you can skip. Trade one goodie for another.

* Leave the gobbling to turkeys. Eat slowly. Chewing food more carefully improves digestion. The longer it takes you to eat, the fuller and more satisfied you feel. Have smaller bites instead of shoveling food into your mouth. Even if you’ve always been a fast shoveler, you can practice and get used to a slower pace. I savor each bite and can eat less by doing so.

* Take smaller portions. Take just a little of each dish instead of piling your plate high. Get small portions of seconds if you want it. You’ll still eat less this way and not feel deprived.

The holidays are for celebrating and enjoying fun times with family and friends. Cut yourself some slack and enjoy them! I wish you all a blessed holiday season, no matter what you celebrate.

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