November 19

Stuffed Turkey, not You


Holidays are quickly approaching. Instead of posting a recipe this week I felt like sharing a few thoughts about approaching holidays and healthy eating. Those two seem so incompatible in this day and age. Are they?Movie A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

You have decided to compliment your hard work at the gym with eating whole foods, cutting out processed junk, and limiting your alcohol intake. You’ve done really well so far. Why is it that most of us feel like letting our guard down when the holiday season comes rolling in? Maybe it’s the out of town family members that tempt you with going out to eat every day they are in town? Maybe it’s the TV commercials grabbing your attention with images of people in cozy pajamas sitting around the campfire drinking hot cocoa and eating marshmallows? Or maybe it’s your own mind telling you that ‘you have been good for so long you deserve a break’?

Whatever the reason, there seems to be a clear line between ‘restriction’ and ‘all-hell-broke-loose’ mentality, being ‘good’ vs being ‘bad’, ‘on the wagon’ vs ‘off the wagon’. This relationship with food is not only unhealthy, it often leads to all sorts of disordered eating. People are definitely in a special emotional state during the holidays. Memories of childhood treats and your Mom’s cooking come flooding the mind. There is nothing wrong with that. These are indeed special times. So why some people experience guilt from overeating after the holidays?

I think the answer is: they feed their emotions rather than their body.

Here’s a crazy thought: what if we ate every day as if it was a holiday AND during a holiday we ate like we eat every day?

What if,

  1. We ate when hungry
  2. We ate whole foods
  3. We enjoyed variety of foods (exploring new textures, new flavors)
  4. We ate slowly and mindfully
  5. We stopped when satisfied, and not stuffed

It may be a challenge if this way of eating is new to you. Then let your New Year’s resolution be to adopt one of the above healthy habits every couple of weeks. Pick one and stick with it for two weeks straight. When it becomes your second nature, move to the next one. Consistency is the key.

Why does behavioral change take so long?

According to recent research, behavioral change involves physical changes in the brain. In the past decade, researchers have shown that when it comes to the duration of making a new behaviour an ingrained habit there is not a simple answer.

The problem is that behavioral change isn’t something that a person just suddenly chooses to adopt. You have to slowly learn a new habit. And this means that you have to ‘overwrite’ a new habit over the ingrained, existing habit. This takes time and repetition.

So how can you make behavioral change stick? By doing it over and over again.

If you want to establish a new behaviour, you have to ‘rewire’ the neural network that enables the old behavior pattern. This means even in the best case the desired behavior may have to be repeated and reinforced for many months.

What can you do THIS holiday season to keep your eating under control?

If I had to choose one thing from the above list of healthy eating habits, I’d say ‘eat slowly and mindfully’. For some of you it’s a real torture. To make you eat slowly one would have to tie your dominant arm behind your back and make you eat with chopsticks:) Instead of inhaling that glorious food on your plate, take a bite…put the fork down…savor…talk to the people around you. And so on. When it’s time for your momma’s pecan pie you will be more likely to eat a sensible portion.


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Mike Montefusco

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