food psychology

Five Keys to a Healthy Relationship with Food During the Holidays 

For many, the holiday season is a time for celebration and indulgence.  But for some, this comes with more negative feelings than positive.  Trying to stay on track with your nutrition and health goals over the holidays can cause more stress than its worth; dealing with the nagging questions and comments from your family members, worrying more about what you’re eating than spending time with your loved ones, and being consumed by feelings of guilt if you do stray from your program. This is not how we want you to be remembering the holidays.

Rather, we should be celebrating the time with the ones we love, feeling grateful for the delicious food we have in front of us and enjoying every single moment and bite that we get to experience. 

MTMM understands the difficulties that comes along with the holidays, so we are here to share with you five tips to keep in mind so you can eliminate stress and enjoy the festivities with your loved ones. 

Focus on your company, not your plate

Yes, food plays a major part in making the holidays what they are, but our primary focus should be who we are with.  When your relationships are a focal point of the holidays (rather than food), this can also help keep you grounded during an otherwise stressful time. If you eat more than usual during the holidays, remember that fullness, like feelings, will eventually dissipate. Food will always be there and feelings will come and go, but the memories you want to remember won’t stay forever. Stay focused on what really matters.

Don’t restrict or punish

Many people come into the holidays with a “feast or famine” mentality, where it’s customary to not eat anything all day in order to have free range to gorge on one meal. These types of eating patterns only make food more chaotic and stressful. Not to mention, going several hours without eating or only grazing ahead of a meal can have serious effects on how your body feels and responds to food. Help keep your energy and blood sugar stable by eating regular, consistent meals, even on days where there will be a big holiday feast. You’ll likely find yourself less obsessive and more able to actually enjoy the foods you are eating when you’re not coming into a meal starving and leaving feeling like you’ve over done it.

As well, we hear it all the time, that old familiar: “I’ll go for an extra long run tomorrow to work off that piece of pie” or “I should not have had so much potato, I won’t be eating for a week.” Comments like these invite the idea that we should punish or restrict ourselves for what we have eaten. Instead, switch your mindset to “yes I’m going to have a great workout tomorrow because of this hearty meal!” and watch your performance in the gym skyrocket.

When we’re referring to a temporary period of time, say a week or two, eating in a slight caloric surplus and indulging in foods we wouldn’t normally won’t really have any long lasting negative effects.  More good can come from a big, delicious meal than can come from beating ourselves up over it or ‘over-correcting’ our indulgences.

Ignore the comments

Going back to the first point, we should make sure we are focusing on the company we are with, and getting caught up with what’s happening in the lives of our loved ones, not with what is on everyone’s plate. During holiday meals we often have to deal with comments from other people on what we are eating.  It’s either too much or not enough, or too much of this, or not enough of that. The more we engage in conversation about our food, the less time we have to talk about what really matters and what is really going on in the lives around us.  Change the subject, brush them off and get back to more important, memorable conversation.

Keep it simple

Now, if you are looking to make smarter decisions about what to eat while indulging a little at the same time, keep these three things in mind:

1. Fill 1/3 of your plate with protein. This will fill you up and keep you satiated for the rest of the evening.

2. Fill 1/3 of your plate with veggies. Even during the holidays we need to get in our veggies, and they also help to fill us up and add some color to our plate. 

3. Fill the final 1/3 of your plate with all of the things that you want to have, that you’ve been craving and that you likely wont have for quite some time after the holidays! If we skip this part of our plate, we will likely be left with unsatisfied cravings that might lead to falling off track later down the road - be it after dinner, the next day, week etc.

Have a plan in place for after the holidays 

This final point is not to be taken as “put a plan in place so you can punish yourself for all of the treats you indulged in over the holidays.” Rather this is to suggest putting a plan in place for the New Year before the holidays come around as a way of feeling like you are remaining in control, even with a bit of indulging.  This will help eliminate feelings of guilt for enjoying your holiday meals because you will have already invested in a post holiday plan to get you to where you want to be.

If you are interested in setting yourself for long term sustainable success in the New Year or even just curious if MTMM is for you and how we can help you achieve your health and performance goals in 2019 - email us at for a complimentary one-on–one assessment with an MTMM nutritionist!