Avoid, Guilt-free, Substitute, Light and Other Words I Don’t Like

December 11, 2009

Raise your hand if you’ve come across an article or an email with some form of these words in the title. (I have both hands raised). I promise if I receive one more email that has a “guilt-free” recipe in the title I’m going to scream. Well, okay, a delete and then a purge from my email memory forever will suffice.
Last year I did a post on All that Healthy Eating Advice and I’m sticking to those thoughts and feelings this year as well. I really dislike the idea that we have to use tactics and trickery to control eating and that a feeling of guilt can enter our minds when we eat a real food we truly enjoy.
Food is part of culture. Culture can often be defined by food.
Family celebrations and holidays throughout history have focused on food. I believe with all my heart that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. I also feel it is dishonoring our culture and traditions to find sneaky ways to avoid enjoying real food and beating ourselves up like it is a failure of character if we do.
I’ve been there. Tried all the tactics myself and am guilty as charged.
Yes, there are some problems with our food culture in the U.S. Not listening to our minds and our stomachs and stuffing until we are sick is not healthy. Stuffing with foods made of heavily processed ingredients isn’t healthy either. Not to mention, avoiding any movement until New Years isn’t the best decision.
There are some very unhealthy habits that surround our holidays, that is true. I’ve mentioned some of them above. But truly savoring and enjoying my mom’s pumpkin pie, the cookies I bake or a rich, delicious appetizer at a party can be one of the healthiest things we do this holiday season, especially if we are in the camp of sacrifice, deprivation, and guilt this time of year.
I know, I’ve been there.
You can read all those tips/thoughts/ideas I listed in last year’s post. I only have a couple more to add this year. These are a few more of the ways I am looking at things this holiday season.
Invest and enjoy. If you are going to indulge, make it worth it. Buy real cheddar and not processed cheese food, make your own cream soup and buy a quality chocolate. Break those fake food habits and start eating real food. Yes, it will take some readjustment of your budget and time (we’ll address this in a later post), but when you stop buying the processed stuff you’ll have money to spend on the quality stuff and your body will thank you for it.
Keep moving. You are going to eat and enjoy some delicious foods this season that likely have more calories than what you eat on a normal daily basis. Again, this is okay. Physiology makes it so an increase in calories causes weight gain. Exercise will combat these extra calories and carry you happily through a holiday season. You’ll reduce your stress, the endorphins will be pumping and you’ll feel much more like St. Nick than Scrooge.
Not all the time, every day. Keep your parties in mind throughout your week and lighten up on the days you don’t have one. It’s perfectly okay to indulge in the foods at your friend’s dinner party this weekend, but when you have a chance to cut back this week, do so. Save your intake of cookies and desserts for the cookie exchange and take a break from them a few days before. Don’t take it to the point of feeling deprived, but some checks and balances throughout the season will keep you from gaining a lot of unwanted weight. Along with the exercise, doing this helps. Since the beginning of November, I’m rid of 9 lbs of the weight I gained over the past couple years (all that ex-pat eating experimentation) and I’ve enjoyed A LOT of great food.

And what if you do gain a few pounds?

Accept and appreciate yourself. So you gain 5 lbs during the holidays? So what? The bigger question is – 1. Did you enjoy the foods you ate and avoid mindless munching? 2. Did you enjoy the time spent with the people you love? Give yourself a break and commit to losing it as soon as the holidays are over. Life is so short, don’t spend it feeling deprived and consumed with guilt.
The healthiest thing we can do this holiday season is know ourselves well enough and be in tune enough with our bodies and emotions to choose the foods we want, eat them and savor every bite, appreciating where they came from and the people who made them.
Photo from the Bellagio Las Vegas Dec 2008

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  • Erica December 11, 2009 at 6:51 am

    hahahah…ah yes! I totally use to be a major purchaser/maker of those “guilt free”, “no fat”, etc etc products. It took me a while to realize that just pushing for more clean foods was so much better for me. I couldn’t agree more with the keep on moving mentality and to go for the REAL treats that are worth it. I focus on those things I can’t get on the regular and enjoy every bite 🙂 Happy Holidays girl! Are you guys finally feeling settled? Hows that cute little pug of yours?

  • Kimberly December 11, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Thanks for a great post!
    I a new reader of your blog and really enjoy it.

  • kat December 11, 2009 at 8:09 am

    My plan for this season in to watch my portions. Have everything I enjoy but just have one small portion. Hopefully that mixed in with the new gym routine will help

  • sangeeta December 11, 2009 at 8:18 am

    great post Lori ..
    real food n quality food is the thing to watch for n i agree on celebrating your festivals n special days …sensibly though..

  • Blake December 11, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Loved this post. Holidays are a time to enjoy great company and great food, but, like you said, we need to have some checks and balances.

  • janet December 11, 2009 at 10:11 am

    It’s funny, I was thinking along the same lines today when I posted a Christmas cookie recipe. I rarely make cookies, we certainly don’t eat them everyday, but when I do I think they should be made with real food and savored!

  • Lori December 11, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Erica – Me too! We are doing well. It is taking a while to get settled, but that is to be expected I guess. 🙂 Macy is great. I’m so happy to have her back. Tell Frank she says hi!

    Kimberly – Thanks for your comment and welcome. So glad you like the blog!

    kat – Yes! That is a great one too. I’m in the same boat.

    sangeeta – Thanks! It is all about high quality, real food for sure.

    Blake – Thanks! It is all about family and I think for must of us food is a big part of it. At least in my family anyway. 🙂

    janet – Absolutely! We are the same way around here.

  • Michelle @ Find Your Balance December 11, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Ahh yes. Last night I had to do the husband’s company party thing and you know what, I’m going to have a bacon wrapped scallop and some meat from the carving station! People look at me like, Gasp! Aren’t you supposed to be the health nut?

    And I’m like, this IS healthy. Enjoy the holidays 🙂

  • Maria December 11, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Great post! I believe in a healthy balance and do not believe in “diets” if you can’t eat that way for the rest of your life, don’t even bother. No pill will solve the issue. Eat a well balanced, healthy diet and enjoy some of your favorite “splurges.” And of course EXERCISE! I eat to fuel my body, nourish my body, and sometimes for pleasure. If foods don’t fit in these categories, I don’t eat them-like processed garbage:) Ok I will stop now:)

  • Dinneen @Eat Without Guilt December 11, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Excellent advice and totally my motto! Hence, the name Eat Without Guilt 🙂

    It’s all about having a healthy relationship with food, and not having any “forbidden” foods (unless, of course, if you have a sensitivity/allergy, etc).

    But the enjoyment and real pleasure you talk about — definitely KEY to a healthy body, mind, and yes, not to sound cliche, and soul.

    I really learned this when I lived in France. If anyone knows how to enjoy real food…it’s the French.

    Thanks for your right-on insight & advice!

  • Sarah December 11, 2009 at 11:35 pm

    I completely agree with you, as a chef I deal with this every day! I have learned that I can take a small taste of something and walk away. I do not need to eat everything! Exercise has also been my saving grace and as a bonus I have so much more energy!

  • OysterCulture December 12, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Good points all as usual. I try to follow the invest and enjoy because once you have the “real” thing substitutes pale.

    Can I just say, i got a chuckle out of the fact that your snowman picture is from Las Vegas? =)

  • Tangled Noodle December 12, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    I really appreciate this reminder that eating is not about guilt or punishment or deprivation. For a while, I lost that joy of eating because I was so concerned with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. But I’ve learned that ‘moderation’ is the key to recapturing that enjoyment – I no longer deprive myself but do try to remain mindful about how much I’m consuming. Thanks for these words of wisdom, especially as the holiday feasting begins!

  • Daily Spud December 14, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Hear, hear Lori! I really do cringe at the use of words that cast eating real food in a guilty light. In fact I now deliberately ‘avoid’ things that claim they are low-fat / guilt-free etc 🙂 I do plan to enjoy my Christmas eating – I just need to remember to get out and about and exercise too…

  • Marianne (frenchfriestoflaxseeds) December 29, 2009 at 1:11 am

    You have full agreement from me. I just don’t see why guilt should ever accompany food. It’s just food! Enjoy it and move on. Especially around the holidays – you generally don’t eat like that on a daily basis, so a couple celebrations aren’t going to make or break you.