Holiday Eating Survival Tip #4: Evaluate past holiday experiences


Happy Chanukah!

It’s hard to believe that we are 4 weeks into the holiday season!  Chanukah starts tomorrow night and Christmas is next week!  So, to continue to help you through this holiday season, I’ll cover Holiday Survival Tip #4: Evaluate past holiday disasters, ah, I mean experiences.

Look back on this year’s Thanksgiving meal and holiday parties already attended and observe your eating behavior.  Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Did you eat food that you didn’t like just because it was there?
  2. Did you enjoy and savor those holiday treats that come around once a year?
  3. Did you overindulge in alcohol or food?
  4. Did you have a confrontation with a relative?
  5. Was your significant other driving you crazy?
  6. Did you eat balanced meals throughout the day before the celebration?
  7. What were you feeling when you walked into the event?  Stressed?  Excited?  Anxious?  Lonely?

All of your answers inform you about your eating behavior. Look back on how you ate without judgment because you’re just trying to gather information and beating yourself up about it doesn’t help!  Once you’re aware of your eating behavior, you can begin to understand why you did what you did and take steps to make different choices.  For example, if you had an altercation with a relative at the beginning of the party, did you eat your way through the rest of the event?  If so, it’s quite possible that the emotions resulting from the altercation bugged you enough that you had to eat to “numb out” the feelings.

This level of understanding is invaluable to making different choices in the future.  Knowing this information won’t magically change your eating behavior but it gives you a fresh way to look at WHY you’re eating making it a bit easier to choose differently at the next holiday celebration.





Holiday Eating Survival Tip #3: Enjoy holiday foods!


photo by cuteimage and courtesy of

My Holiday Eating Survival Toolkit continues with Holiday Eating Survival Tip #3: Enjoy holiday foods that come along once a year. Eat them mindfully and you’ll get more pleasure from them and won’t overdo it. Try not to beat yourself up or have thoughts of guilt around eating holiday treats, they’re delish!

We have so much guilt over eating holiday food that is considered “bad”.  How can we remove that guilt and embrace our favorite holiday foods?  Why should we enjoy holiday food if it’s only “bad” for us?  Here are my strategies and reasons for throwing out the guilt of eating your favorite holiday foods this season: 

  1. There is no good or bad food.  It’s just food.  It’s true that there are more nutritious foods and less nutritious foods, however, attaching a good or bad label to the food we eat serves to label our behavior as good or bad.  The labels are untrue…it’s just food and you’re just eating!  Resisting “bad” food out of sheer will triggers feelings of deprivation that throw us into a binge.  How about eating food because it tastes good instead of using “good” or “bad” labels to judge it?  Use the sensations of how your body feels after you’ve eaten to determine if it’s something you’d like to indulge in again.  The very food you thought you loved at holiday time may become one that makes your stomach upset or doesn’t satisfy anymore.  This is a subtle difference in thinking but it takes you out of “deprivation” mode and into a “loving your body” mindset which makes deciding what to eat less of a struggle.
  2. Allowing yourself to enjoy holiday food guilt-free removes the allure of that food.  We want more of what’s forbidden so taking the mystique out of holiday treats removes the magnetic hold it has over us.   
  3. Holiday food comes around once a year so we become frenzied in our haste to get our fill before it disappears.  Please know that you don’t have to look forward to it only once a year. There is no law that says you can’t have the holidays in July and eat your favorites then!
  4. Eat those amazing holiday goodies mindfully.  Savor them, enjoy them and eat them slowly.  You’ll eat less…test the theory and click here to let me know how it works for you in my Facebook comments. 

I highly encourage you to use this holiday season as an experiment.  Take note of what you’re eating and how it makes you feel.  You may be surprised that the eggnog just doesn’t do it for you anymore!   

Holiday Eating Survival Tip #2

My Holiday Eating Survival Kit continues with Holiday Eating Survival Tip #2 “eat Balanced-Platebalanced meals throughout the day and at the party.”  A common strategy used to combat the guilt of eating at a holiday celebration is to “save up” all the day’s calories for that party.  This seems logical but doesn’t serve to dull cravings or binge urges during a celebration with tons of yummy food and emotionally charged situations.  Here’s why restricting during the day is counter-intuitive:

1.  Every restriction causes a binge.  The make-up of a good holiday party includes tons of food that is “off-limits” throughout the year which is the perfect binge set-up in and of itself!  Add to that restricting during the day and you have 2 reasons to binge.

2.  Restricting calories during the day denies your body the NUTRIENTS it needs to function.  Our bodies needs macro and micro nutrients to function properly.  Not fueling your body with these nutrients sets you up for cravings of sugar and salt when, in fact, your body is craving nutrients (sugar and salt aren’t nutrients!).  Isn’t it just great that you’re heading to a holiday party where salty and sugary foods are in abundance to feed those cravings….NOT!

3.  You’re ravenous by the time you arrive at the party.  When you’re hangry (combo of hungry and angry), you do not eat mindfully…you eat whatever you spot first and scarf it down!  First of all, you aren’t even enjoying what you’re eating.  Second of all, you’re eating foods you may not like just to feed your physical hunger.  Thirdly, you eat too much.  It is so incredibly difficult to slow down, eat mindfully and enjoy these “once a year” foods when you are so hungry you’re about to eat your hand 😉

The remedy for all of the above is to eat macro nutrient balanced meals throughout the day (this is a good practice for daily eating as well as for the day of a holiday party)*.  Click here to get a great explanation of macro nutrients.  The macro nutrients are carbohydrates, protein and fat (water is also a macro nutrient) and are the food groups needed most by the body.  Ever get hungry an hour after you’ve eaten?  Chances are you didn’t eat enough protein.  Need a 3pm energy boost?  Check to see if you ate a balanced lunch.  It’s amazing how incorporating this type of balance can regulate your cravings and keep you satisfied for a longer period of time throughout the day.  This is why eliminating fat or carbohydrates (unless health restrictions mandate it) to lose weight have the opposite effect and keep weight on…your body just isn’t getting what it needs to keep the organs functioning.   

Heading into a holiday party having a couple of balanced meals behind you does the following:

1.  There has been no restriction so there is no added reason to binge.  After eating a balanced diet throughout the day and honoring hunger and fullness cues at the party, you will eat less and enjoy your food without guilt. 

2.  Cravings for salt and sugar are diminished.  When your body is in a nourished and balanced state, it has the fuel it needs to function thereby diminishing physiological cravings.  As a result, the only cravings popping up during the celebration are those for delicious holiday food that you want to enjoy.  Go ahead and enjoy them without guilt and while honoring those hunger and fullness cues. 

3.  By the time you hit the party, you may be a bit hungry (depending on the time) but you won’t be ravenous.  You want to avoid arriving at the party in a frenzied, ravenous state because it doesn’t allow you to consciously assess the food situation.  It doesn’t allow for mindful prowling of the buffet table to see what looks especially good and it certainly isn’t conducive to slow eating where you’re paying attention to fullness cues.  I highly recommend building a plate that has a macro nutrient balance during the party.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to load up on carbs at these events and find myself hungry an hour later so adding a bit of protein to the mix serves to keep you full longer. 

The most important thing is not to deprive your body of nutrients just because you want to “save” calories so you can “go crazy” at the party.  This sets you up for failure before you even get started!  Be kind to yourself, eat in a balanced way and ENJOY the foods at the celebration!  Let’s face it…food is one of the best reasons to attend 🙂

*Michelle is not a Registered Dietician so before implementing any type of dietary changes, it’s a good idea to seek the advice and recommendations of a nutritionist. 

Holiday Eating Survival Tip #1: Set Your Intention

Welcome to my Holiday Eating Survival Kit Series where I will be covering, in more detail, Thanksgiving-Imagethe first tip mentioned in last week’s blog (click here to read):  “Set your intention.”

Holiday Eating Survival Tip #1: Set your intention. Imagine the best case scenario for an event or activity and set that as your intention. You’ll be surprised when that best case scenario actually comes to fruition.

We have all imagined what we want in an event but often dismiss our imaginings as “pie in the sky” or impossible to attain.  Please consider that this is just not true.  The trick to setting and realizing an intention is to THINK and BELIEVE that it can and will happen.  This may seem a bit too easy but it’s really simple.  So, how are intentions set, let’s consult the expert, Deepak Chopra…click here to read Deepak Chopra’s 5 Steps to Setting Powerful Intentions. 

Some of the intentions you can set in preparation for a holiday celebration are:

  • “I will be the best version of myself and let my brilliance shine through.”
  • “My interactions with _______________ are going to be kind, compassionate and loving despite _____________’s behavior.”
  • “I am going to rock my new outfit.”
  • “I will eat and enjoy my favorite holiday foods mindfully and without guilt.”

What intentions will you set?  Click here to head to my Facebook comments to let us know!

Setting a positive intention for a holiday event is beneficial because it predicts a pleasant outcome and serves to shift the mindset to anticipate and actually experience the best case scenario.  Gently achieving this state of mind before the celebration and maintaining it through the actual event lessens the need to emotionally eat.  Food is used to cope with conflicts and difficult emotions evoked during stressful situations.  Eliminating or deescalating a stressful situation through setting an intention has the potential to make a huge difference in how these emotions are handled.  The difference is to acknowledge the emotions, not “stuff” them down with food.

The wildcard is that the behavior of others cannot be controlled or anticipated.  The only way an inebriated co-worker or judgmental relative can be handled is through setting an intention that the response will be compassionate and not in the form of a toxic reaction.

Once you start setting intentions and seeing them come true, you will be hooked, in a good way!  Try it with your next event and start small like the Holiday Luncheon held in the office conference room.  Your intention can be as simple as allowing yourself to eat some Christmas Cookies after you’ve had a balanced lunch.

My intention is that we’ll have a wonderful, fun, happy, safe and healthy holiday season while enjoying traditional foods mindfully without using them to cope with holiday stress!

Please accept my very best to you and yours for a Happy Thanksgiving!

Holiday Eating Survival Kit

They’re heeeerrrrrreeee…The Holidays!   Some of us love ‘em and some of us hate ‘em. Despite how you feel about the holidays, the common thread throughout the season is the abundance of FOOD. Since the topic of holiday eating is pretty broad, I have decided to put together my Holiday Eating Survival Kit and write a series of blog posts between now and the New Year to help you navigate the holidays with joyful cheer!

Gingerbread House

“Gingerbread House And Snowman” by Serge Bertasius Photography

For some, the holiday season is something to “be gotten through” and many of us eat our way through it to cope with the stress of multiple parties, shopping, cooking and relatives! I’m here to tell you that there are things you can do to get through them without eating every room in the gingerbread house.

Here are the tools in my “Holiday Eating Survival Kit” which I will cover in detail during the coming weeks of the season.

Holiday Survival Tip #1: Set your intention. Imagine the best case scenario for an event or activity and set that as your intention. You’ll be surprised when that best case scenario actually comes to fruition.

Holiday Survival Tip #2: Eat balanced meals throughout the day. Not eating or eating “light” during the day in anticipation for a party in the evening sets up a potential binge.

Holiday Survival Tip #3: Enjoy the foods that come along once a year. Eat them mindfully and you’ll get more pleasure from them and won’t overdo it. Try not to beat yourself up or have thoughts of guilt around eating holiday treats, they’re delish!

Holiday Survival Tip #4: Evaluate past holiday disasters, ah, I mean experiences. Did you have a confrontation with a relative? Was your significant other driving you crazy? Did you overindulge in alcohol or food? If so, ask yourself why and what you can do to avoid those feelings and experiences this year.

Holiday Survival Tip #5: Manage the stress of the holiday as best you can. We know that low level, chronic stress decreases digestion and calorie burning capacity (click here to read about this in more detail). The more you can limit or manage stress proactively will lesson the need for food to deal with it.

Holiday Survival Tip #6: Peace on earth. OK, you can’t achieve world peace in 6 weeks all alone but you can work to find peace within yourself. Once you find a sense of peace, even if it’s just for a minute, you’re on your way to view things differently and with more compassion (for yourself AND others).

Start to think about these tips and how they apply to you. My philosophy is that weight issues and emotional eating isn’t really about the food but about WHY we are using food to cope. Figuring out how the holidays trigger out of control eating can help you enjoy this time of year more than you did when you were 10!

Please be sure to tune in over the next 6 weeks to get more in depth coaching tips from my Holiday Eating Survival Kit.

Question Those Beliefs

We often want to lose weight, stop binge-eating or follow a particular diet (i.e. gluten-free, question-markAtkins, etc.) for the wrong reasons. The motivating factor usually is to hit a certain number on the scale, look like the latest swimsuit model or join the “in” crowd following the newest diet fad. We don’t want to be judged if we eat a piece of bread from the bread basket. We follow these diets because the pressure from external forces brainwashes us into thinking they’re right and our instincts about WHAT’S RIGHT FOR US are wrong. Hardly ever do we question those beliefs or stray from societal norms because it’s too hard to go against the grain.

It isn’t until we hit a certain weight that’s judged harshly, reach a level of hopelessness or realize that the new fad isn’t working that we start to question if it’s truly right for us.

What would happen if we did question? Have we ever stopped to think that going along with the crowd is harder than being different? If we’re expending so much energy fitting in, we are denying ourselves the energy to follow our instincts and eliminate the suffering that doing something unnatural causes. This suffering creates negative thoughts that morph into branding ourselves not good enough or unworthy only because a particular “norm” isn’t right for us. Wouldn’t it be much easier to search inside ourselves for our truth, follow it and achieve (with little to no effort) a fulfilled life free from the suffering of molding ourselves into something we’re not? I’m not saying wanting to lose weight is bad. I’m saying that the motivation, reasons and ways to achieve weight loss or a normal relationship with food be questioned to achieve the results we want.

How do we determine what’s right for us? If we’ve been trying to lose weight, stop bingeing, yo-yo dieting or whatever, why haven’t we achieved it yet? What has our strategy been?  Is our goal weight realistic?  Maybe we’re going about it in the wrong way and need to look inward to find what feels more natural. If we’re bingers, lifting the restriction off of food will probably lessen our binges. If we’re emotionally eating, identifying our emotions will allow us to deal with them without food.  The most important question is how do we FEEL when we’re following the latest diet craze?  For example, does eating a gluten-free diet (if we don’t have gluten sensitivity) feel right for our bodies? Are we losing our hair because we’re missing vital macronutrients due to a weight loss diet? Are we following the diet to the letter and still not losing weight?

The answer to these questions can go one of two ways. One, we find that following the new fad is in keeping with our truth and we see the weight melting off. Two, we discover that following the path that strays from the crowd is the way to a joyful life and optimal health. Whatever the answer, go ahead and become the next swimsuit model or hit that number on the scale, just be sure to question if that’s what you’re really hungry for!

Nourish and Flourish

The “N” in the KIND Approach to eating stands for nourishment. One definition of nourish is “to cause (something) to develop or grow stronger” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. You may be surprised that I didn’t list the more conventional definition of nourish first which is “to provide (someone or something) with food…”

Honestly, we need both definitions of nourishment to gain a healthy and KIND relationship with food. Nourishment of the mind, body, heart and soul is the key to finding fulfillment, pleasure and joy in life which eliminates the need for emotional eating. Most importantly, it creates balance in life that serves to keep us emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy. I always say “it’s not about the food” and the below concepts of nourishment clarify what I mean by that.

  1. MIND NOURISHMENT. One of the best things you can do for your well-being is to quiet the mind which brings about a sense of peace and contentment. This is primarily accomplished through meditation. Sogyal Rinpoche in the book The Healing Power of Meditation writes, “As the mind settles into the practice of meditation, something extraordinary seems to take place. For a start, our restless, thinking mind subsides into a state of deep inner peace, the scattered, fragmented aspects of ourselves come home, and we can become whole. Those contradictory voices, dictates, and feelings that fight for control over our inner lives settle and become friends, the pain and distress of struggling with ourselves dissolve, and a deep and compassionate forgiveness of ourselves becomes possible. Overall, we notice that with regular meditation practice, negativity is undone, speed and aggression are pacified, frustration, tension, and turbulent emotions are defused, and the unkindness, violence, and harm in us are removed, revealing our inherent “good heart,” the fundamental goodness and kindness that is our true nature.” You see, our thoughts, feelings and emotions are fleeting and don’t necessarily reflect our true selves because they often are influenced by external forces. Once our mind quiets these fleeting things, we can truly know a peace that can be sustained through the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Meditation doesn’t have to be hard and doesn’t have to be performed for hours every day. Get comfortable meditating for 2 minutes and then increase gradually and I bet you will eventually experience what Rinpoche describes.
  2. BODY NOURISHMENT. Nourishing the body not only means eating well and moving but refers to self-care that often gets neglected. Massages, manicures (for men and women!), haircuts and luxurious baths are ways to nourish the body. Slowly eating the highest quality food is just as important as WHAT you eat and is one of the most nourishing things you can do to heal emotional eating and extra weight. Moving your body is nourishing only if you feel a sense of embodiment, happiness and joyful anticipation of the activity.
  3. HEART NOURISHMENT. All humans need intimacy and love. I believe the most important intimate relationship you can have is with yourself. Love yourself as you are now, regardless of your weight or appearance. My teacher, Marc David, says, “You can’t hate yourself into weight loss.” This is very true but is a hard concept to practice because we’ve spent so long hating our eating behavior that it’s transformed into hatred of ourselves. De-toxing this belief will deeply nourish and heal your heart.   
  4. SOUL NOURISHMENT. We all have a purpose in life. What is your purpose or passion? What are your deepest desires? Are you in tune with your spirituality (whether it be organized religion or atheism)? Soul-searching to determine the answers to these questions and taking steps to make your desires reality will allow you to live in accordance with your true Self. This is so helpful because living outside of your true Self often leads to emotional eating.  

“Love what is” by nourishing yourself in these 4 ways because it diminishes unwanted eating behavior by promoting a sense of well-being. A heightened sense of well-being paves the way to becoming a mindful and intuitive eater which is the key to breaking free from emotional and over eating.

There are tons of valid reasons why nourishing yourself is not a top priority and we all know what they are. But is putting your nourishment last on the list serving you? Is it time to do things a bit differently because nothing else works? If the answer is yes but it seems like a daunting task, pick the easiest nourishing activity and incorporate it into your life slowly. There’s no rush or stress around these nourishing practices, they are meant for pleasure.  

A more peaceful mind, a massage, loving yourself and achieving your deepest desires sounds divine, doesn’t it? Oh, did I mention that a deep sense of nourishment is metabolically beneficial? So, what are you waiting for? Harness your infinite power NOW and go forth to nourish and flourish!