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GUEST EDITOR: A nutritionist doesn’t want you to deprive yourself over the holidays

GUEST EDITOR: A nutritionist doesn’t want you to deprive yourself over the holidays

This week, we’ve got a special guest editor taking over The Nessie! Give a warm welcome to Michaela Rowland, a registered dietitian and the Director of Coaching and Content at Wellory, a nutrition app that promotes healthy eating (not just weight loss).

Hi there nesstie,

Taylor Swift yearning for revenge through song is beautiful. But you yearning for holiday desserts through—or, technically, as a result of—food restriction is not. Health is not an all-or-nothing event, and putting hard limits on yourself can seriously damage your relationship with food. At the same time, if you’ve worked hard to make progress towards your health goals, that progress doesn't have to fall flat over the holidays.

Many preach the importance of “finding joy outside the kitchen” and why “the holidays are about more than food” as a way to find balance. And a morning yoga class is a great addition to any holiday schedule, but no amount of Vinyasa can replace the pleasure of sharing your favorite dishes and upholding mealtime traditions with friends, family, and loved ones.

In fact, restriction can actually do more damage than eating more than you’d planned. Research shows that when you stress over that dessert, treat, or extra serving, it causes a hormonal response in your body that spikes your cortisol. Cortisol is your stress hormone, and increased levels can contribute to a number of health issues, including weight gain, fatigue, and irritability. Yikes, talk about a Catch-22.

Whether your goal is weight loss or you’re simply looking to make more nutritious choices, deprivation doesn’t have a place in any healthy eating plan. “I follow a strict food regime 24/7, never eat any of my favorite foods, and it makes me happy and healthy,” said no one, ever.

So, what’s one to do? How can you have your cake and eat it, too? With just a few adjustments, you can nourish your body with whole foods, while enjoying your holiday favorites.

  1. Prioritize your absolute must haves. While there’s a certain nostalgia attached to holiday dishes, some are more important than others. Remember, Hershey’s Kisses will be discounted come January, but Grandma’s buttery mashed potatoes are a once a year event.  
  2. Don’t skip meals. Saving your calories doesn’t work. Your digestive system works best when it receives key nutrients incrementally and experts agree, the only thing skipping meals is likely to do is throw your metabolism out of whack, making it more likely that you will overeat come dinner time. (To note: This advice may not apply to the practice of intermittent fasting, which has substantial research to prove its efficacy as a weight loss method. What you should avoid, however, is skipping a meal in anticipation of a binge.)
  3. Create a new holiday favorite with a focus on healthier ingredients. Holiday traditions are great, but so is helping your dad reduce his cholesterol. Think olive instead of vegetable oil for a healthy skillet breakfast or a whole food pie crust sans Crisco.

I recommend approaching your eating habits with a similar mindset as Taylor Swift writing a thinly-veiled attack ballad: Don’t worry too much about the repercussions. If you’re on track working towards your health goals, a less than “perfect” meal or dessert over the holidays won’t set you back—and you’ll be a lot happier.

Be kind to yourself and your food choices this holiday season,

Michaela Rowland, MS, RD

Director of Coaching & Content at Wellory

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