While Thanksgiving and the following holidays could be billed as a time of indulgence – with creamy pumpkin pie, buttered buns, and lots of eggnog – a little indulgence might not be a bad idea. Instead of trying to lose weight or be “good” this year, experts recommend taking care of yourself, even if it means a second dessert.

Alison Pelz is a psychotherapist and dietitian based in Austin, Texas. She said that as nice as the holidays are, we should acknowledge that they can also be very stressful. “There are so many other things people are doing right now,” said Ms. Pelz, who specializes in eating disorders. “Sometimes it’s okay for you to use foods to regulate emotions, especially during times of stress.”

Turkey with a side of stress

And this holiday season could indeed be defined as a time of stress. In 2016, the researchers found that heart failure rose sharply the day after Christmas. You mentioned vacation stress as a possible factor.

Now, almost a year after a global pandemic, the pressure is mounting. The CDC encourages people to stay home and is likely to define a vacation that can be lonely, scary, and undoubtedly stressful, regardless of what families are doing.

But where does food go with it?

Eat to feel better

Eating can be a coping mechanism for dealing with stress, and vacations can lead to more important patterns in eating disorders. This is all before adding the preconceived notion that people eat “badly” over the holidays and have trouble losing weight in the New Year.

Ms. Pelz encourages people to break this cycle and relieve themselves. “There are many articles on how not to gain weight on vacation. There are a lot of articles out there on how to make low calorie foods, ”she said. “… I think the reason I encourage people to pass themselves over the holidays is because the diet culture comes in and pushes people to be” good “during the holidays.”

She is not alone. Marisa Moore, a registered nutritionist in Atlanta, Georgia, has a similar message. “I’m not the type of nutritionist who ever said, ‘Oh, trade this or that for your favorite cake.’ If you like cake then enjoy your cake, “said Ms. Moore.” I don’t think you have to give up your favorites.

What matters, Ms. Moore said, is not whether you use low-fat whipped cream or skimmed milk, but being in touch with how you feel and asking for help when you need it – be it about food or anything else.

Season it

For some, the problem may not be stress eating; It could be cooking stress. After months of being at home, another sink or stack of vegetables to cut might seem daunting.

“You have permission to buy the pre-cut butternut squash. You have permission to buy the pre-cut broccoli or whatever will make your life a little easier, ”said Ms. Moore. When you relax a bit, you can start in the kitchen and move on to the dining room.

For people who feel safe doing it, she suggested swapping meals with friends or neighbors. Cooking for a crowd or trying someone else’s favorite food could help people get out of their cooking furrows.

Snacking alone

Groups aren’t always an option, however. This year, people may see a lonely vacation. And that can be difficult.

“You know, some people use food to regulate emotions, and loneliness would be one of them,” Ms. Pelz said.

Ms. Moore suggested getting involved in virtual gatherings, preparing favorite foods for Thanksgiving, or creating new memories. “It’s not the same as being there and hugging people, but this year we’ll probably all remember your favorite aunt once telling you how to make a pound cake through FaceTime.”

Going home on vacation can also be stressful, either in the form of Covid-19 worries or regular old family tension. Ms. Pelz has set good limits for this.

“So boundaries can be verbal things like, ‘No, thank you’ or ‘That’s what I need,'” she said. “It can also mean taking breaks, taking your time and removing yourself from the situation. [or] It can also mean changing the topic of conversation. ”

Make a change

With more time inside and less time on the winter vacation, some people may feel sluggish or find these last year’s Christmas pajamas a little tight fitting. None of the dietitians is a diet advocate.

Frau Pelz likes intuitive food. For example, look no further than children. “Children are perfect intuitive eaters,” she said. “Infants cry when they want to be fed, [and] They turn their heads when they no longer want to be fed. ”

In short, this is intuitive eating. “Intuitive eating is the opposite of diet,” said Ms. Pelz. Dieters adhere to strict external rules. With intuitive eating, “you hear internal cues about how you feel about food, what you want to eat, and how much of it,” she said. Intuitive eating could mean gingerbread, it could mean a winter vegetable salad with kale and almonds, or it could mean both.

Ms. Moore suggested getting enough exercise and sleep over the holidays and knowing that it is okay to advocate for professional health.

Don’t let the fear of eating “badly” ruin this Thanksgiving Day, whether alone or in a large group. Instead, check in to yourself and listen to what you need.

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