Did you eat a lot over the holiday weekend? If so, don’t feel bad — Thanksgiving has that effect on a lot of us.

Sure, we look forward to spending time with loved ones and gathering for a big feast, but we also look forward to our favorite Thanksgiving dishes — the ones we usually don’t get the rest of the year. So, it’s understandable that we maybe overindulge a little.

The other side of that coin, of course, is that we’re paying for it now. As you probably know, those feelings of guilt from overeating are prevalent this time of year, particularly if you’ve been on a diet or plan to start one in January. And while Thanksgiving is behind us, there’s still the entire Christmas season to worry about what we’re eating and what we’re going to eat.

But Blount Memorial registered dietitian Heather Pierce says, even though this can be a stressful time of year when it comes to food, there are some strategies you can use to avoid being apprehensive.

“This is a time of year to enjoy our family and friends, not to feel guilty over food,” Pierce said. “For many people, food is a source of fear and stress, and we simply don’t need that in our lives. The first thing to remember is that one meal will not cause you to gain weight, just as one meal will not cause you to lose weight.”

“Overeating at Thanksgiving or Christmas may not be the best thing for you or your diet, but that one act won’t sabotage your entire diet on its own,” she explained.

“The second part of that, though, is that overeating sometimes can lead to bad habits such as binge eating or compulsive overeating,” she said.

“These situations will require special attention and planning. For instance, if you’re pretty sure you’re going to indulge in one particular meal favorite, fill the rest of the plate with healthy options as much as possible,” she added.

“Feeling guilty about food, in general, can be counterproductive to your health, particularly your mental health,” Pierce continued. “When faced with the possibility of indulgence, some people will eat too fast and eat too much of something. This especially is true if the indulgence is in response to emotional eating, which is quite common. Emotional eating can lead to a spiral of overeating to ‘self-soothe.’”

“Still, feelings of guilt aren’t all bad, especially if they help you stay on a good track toward your ultimate weight loss or eating goals,” she explained. “What you want to avoid, however, is shame, which can be completely paralyzing for some people. Harsh feelings associated with food and eating can lead to such issues as poor body image and disordered eating patterns. Self-compassion, though, has the opposite effect, so it’s important to use positive ‘self-talk’ this holiday season. Try to avoid negative language when it comes to food or eating, and create a ‘judgment-free zone’ at the table. Remember, you may not be the only person in the house hiding those feelings of shame,” she added.

Finally, Pierce says, remember mindful eating this season. “When you do indulge, try to do so in a mindful manner,” she said. “Eat slowly, enjoy your food and savor every bite.”

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