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The Christmas season is in full swing! And we all know that the past two years have been a rollercoaster, and we’re all ready to get back to our “normal” (whatever they may look like now) Christmas traditions. 

Usually, that means family and friend gatherings and LOTS of food. 

A lot of us have already thrown caution and good sense to the wind and nibbled on more than a few extra cookies and had more than a few helpings of macaroni and cheese. But, unfortunately, with all the rich foods and sweet treats we’ve been snacking on, many of us may be dealing with “food guilt.” 

But don’t let diet culture steal your joy this holiday season. And for goodness sake, don’t be mean to yourself about it. 

More often than not, the food that we prepare this time of year is not only rich and delicious but baked in memories and sentiment. It’s ok to keep it that way. If you suffer from food guilt, here are a few things you can do to navigate through this Christmas season without feeling guilty:

Dismiss the notion that you have to earn food. 

And you certainly don’t have to earn your place at the table.    

Diet culture dictates that we’re “good” or “bad” based on the foods we eat.

That’s not true. 

Food doesn’t have moral value. And neither are you “good” because you just ate a salad or “bad” because you ate the pie that Grandma made. Nutritional value and intrinsic moral value are not interchangeable. You can set yourself up for failure if you think you have to “earn” the richer food by denying yourself in the days or weeks leading up to your holiday meal. When we treat food as something to be earned or deserved, we set ourselves up to feel guilt or shame. Remember that one meal, or even several, will not make or break your health in the long term.

Do what you normally would do throughout the holiday season.

Our bodies are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Although going harder on workouts and eating less may seem like a rational way to prepare for holiday meals, in reality, you’re setting yourself up for binging and feeling out of control when you finally do allow yourself to eat. After all, you don’t want that uncomfortable, overstuffed, bloated feeling after pigging out on everything on the table. Instead, listen to your body’s signals telling you when it’s time to slow down and stop. However, if you do end up overindulging (as we all have), be compassionate and remind yourself that it happens and move on with your day. 

Set boundaries around diet talk.

Try not to mention anything about diets. Don’t nitpick what you don’t like about your body or talk about how much weight you’ve put on over the pandemic. That type of negative talk can be contagious. There are limitless other topics to discuss. Although, we recommend staying away from politics and vaccines as well! Try to stick with the stuff that won’t suck the life and joy out of the room.

Focus on the whole sensory experience of the meal.

It’s hard to enjoy yourself if you’re overthinking and analyzing everything. Be intentional about being fully present this holiday season by engaging all of your senses. Food is part of that. Focus on the aromas of your favorite foods to the colors on your plate, to the flavors and textures of every single tantalizing bite. Take your time to really taste your food. Don’t just scarf it all down without thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Food doesn’t just have to be for fuel; it can also be for satisfaction!

Obviously, this isn’t to suggest that everything we’ve said in the past about healthy choices and eating your colors isn’t true. The goal is a LIFESTYLE of health, not crash dieting and shame-filled binging. During this season, especially after so much time apart from each other, focus on the things that really matter. Don’t let thoughts of dieting and “shoulds” steal your joy.

Jesus came that you would have life, and have it more abundantly! (John 10:10)

Remember, the most significant part of your gatherings is to be with your loved ones. Be mindful of their faces. Take in their smiles and voices. Be fully present in the moments of laughter. Listen to their prayers. Find out what they’re thankful for. Tell them what you’re grateful for. 

Chances are that it has absolutely nothing to do with the size or shape of your body.