Skip to main content

Savor the Holidays and Enjoy Eating! Manage Your Holiday Food Cravings

The holiday season is here again, which has a lot of people thinking about food. While surrounded by delicious seasonal dishes, many feel forced to choose between their nutrition goals and enjoying their favorite holiday foods.

We challenge you to try something new this year: intuitive eating. Try this approach in order to satisfy holiday food cravings, enjoy holiday parties, and prioritize well-being.

1. Avoid arriving overly hungry

Skipping meals before an event can backfire by increasing hunger, piquing interest in higher satiety foods, and/or triggering anxiety, which usually causes us to eat too quickly. Rapid eating can make it challenging to cue into fullness signals, which can cause us to eat more than we normally would. 

“When we eat too quickly, we cannot pay attention to how the taste of a food changes over time,” says Kristin Francis, MD, an adult, adolescent, and child psychiatrist at Huntsman Mental Health Institute who specializes in treating patients with eating disorders. “This is an early sign of satiety and naturally decrease our desire for the food we are eating.”

2. Eat the foods you love

Food is a key part of the holidays, and it's perfectly normal to love popovers or pumpkin pie. Often when you stop associating negative emotions such as guilt or shame with these holiday favorites and allow yourself to eat what looks, smells, and tastes good to you, you’ll find that you not only enjoy them, but that you spend less energy obsessing over them.

“You may even find that by allowing them to be a part of your diverse eating plan, these foods can stop taking up so much mental real estate as they are no longer ‘forbidden’,” Francis says.

3. Say goodbye to the feast or famine mentality

“I often hear the comment ‘I can’t make this dish except once a year because I’ll eat it all’,” Francis says. “It's okay to enjoy favorite holiday foods all year long or even multiple times a day every day of the week to prevent feeling like such an overwhelmingly significant part of the holidays.” This feast-or-famine mentality often ups the anxiety around specific foods.

4. Cue into fullness signals

There's a host of distractions between the bountiful spread of food and conversations shared with loved ones that make it easy to ignore internal fullness signals. Set yourself up for success by sitting down while you eat, eating slowly, and periodically asking yourself if you are still hungry.

5. Focus on other traditions

Food traditions might feel like they play an overwhelming role during the holidays. If this is true for you, Francis advises to take a step back and appreciate other components.

“You'll begin to notice how many wonderful traditions you celebrate outside of food,” she says. “From making memories with loved ones, looking at lights, enjoying your favorite holiday music, trimming your home in festive cheer, or making donations to people in need, there are bound to be a lot of non-food traditions that make this time of year extremely special to you.”

Holidays can be a time of joy instead of shame, regret, and negative self-evaluation. By making little changes to your mindset and how you interact with food, you can help to improve your seasonal experience and improve your overall health and well-being. MENTAL health is BRAIN health; let’s celebrate whole-body wellness this holiday season!