Should You Be Taking A Non-Diet Approach To The Holidays?

You might want to eat that cookie after all.

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Photo by: AleksandarNakic/iStock

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The hustle and bustle of the holiday season brings excitement, stress and, of course, food! With all the holiday preparations often comes the desire to get in on the latest health craze to avoid all those unwanted holiday pounds. But contrary to popular belief, the newest fad in dieting is actually not dieting at all. We spoke with Alissa Rumsey MS, RD, a nutrition therapist and intuitive eating coach in New York City, to get her top tips for taking a non-diet approach to the holidays.

What exactly is a non-diet?

A non-diet is actually what it sounds like – say bye bye to restrictive fads that only set you up for failure and embrace the concept of good, old fashioned self-awareness. “A non-diet approach to health and wellness helps you tune into your body signals, break the cycle of chronic dieting and heal your relationship with food” says Rumsey.

How does it work?

“Instead of using measuring cups and points and calories to control portions, you'll use your hunger and fullness cues to guide you to the right amount for you, which may change from day to day. Instead of controlling your diet with complicated food rules and good/bad food lists, you'll pay attention to how food makes you feel, which generally makes you want to eat healthier foods because we all want to feel good," she says. This may be easier for some folks than others, especially serial fad dieters, but it may be worth considering how liberating it can feel – now that’s a good way to get into the holiday spirit! Rumsey adds “instead of engaging in unhealthy behaviors to get to an arbitrary ideal weight you engage in healthy behaviors and let your body settle at what actually is your ideal weight.”

Should I still diet come January?

The holiday craziness can get to us all and when it comes to the constant bombardment of favorite foods and the focus often goes immediately to the inevitable "New Year, New You" thought process. Rumsey points out the emotional and psychological toll this can take. “It’s no wonder the holidays feel like a food free for all - if you’re thinking ‘I’ll just start over on January 1st’, your body senses that restriction and deprivation are around the corner. This influences how you feel and behave around food.”

What about making holiday faves diet-friendly?

You may be thinking that lightening up all those high-calorie holiday favorites might be the best plan of attack, but Rumsey points out why this has the potential to backfire. “Trying to avoid your favorite holiday foods or make ‘lighter’ options causes cravings to increase, not decrease, which sets you up to overdo it with these foods.”

So, how do I start?

So what’s a holiday food lover to do? Rumsey’s suggestion may seem crazy – so crazy, it just might work! “Instead, give yourself permission to eat — and enjoy — food this holiday season, without the plan of going on a diet come January. Overeating happens when there are thoughts of scarcity and deprivation such as, ‘I won’t be able to eat this for another year, so might as well go for another slice.’ When the attention shifts from your body, redirect it back to your internal fullness and satisfaction cues.” The final tip from Rumsey – don’t forget to sit back and allow yourself to truly enjoy your favorite holiday flavors. “Pay attention to the taste of the foods. Eat the foods that you love. If you don’t love it, you don’t have to eat it. If you do love it, really savor it.”

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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