How many holidays have you approached with thoughts like, “I’m only going to have X desserts”, or “I’m skipping lunch because we’re having a big family dinner”, or “I’m starting my diet tomorrow so I better eat it tonight”? Food is a big part of the holidays. For many individuals, this can be overwhelming, especially if prone to holiday food guilt. The food guilt sets in when we don’t meet those impossible dietary standards we’ve set for ourselves when we’ve eaten “too much”, or the “bad” foods. Then, by no choice of our own, our holidays are clouded with food guilt and we can’t help but look forward to January 1 when we can “start over.” What would the holidays be like if we didn’t have to deal with this feeling, if we didn’t feel pressured to eat a certain way, or if we could enjoy indulging and not feel anything but satisfaction?

Here are some helpful tips to avoid food guilt this holiday season:

Give yourself permission to enjoy food.

This means letting go of dieting and of being “on” or “off” of a certain plan or way of eating. Are you trying to calculate the calories of your meal or meet certain macros? Let it go. Forget the rigid plans and commit to being in the moment with food. How do we do that? Choose the foods that look appealing and satisfying, use your eyes, your nose, and your taste buds. Try different foods, eat the ones you really enjoy, and leave the ones you don’t. Labeling foods as good and bad, or labeling actions around food, will only lead to food guilt, possibly even leading to a disordered relationship with food.

Choose something balanced for your next action.

If you’re feeling unbalanced by the food choices you make, try not to wallow in negative self-talk. Instead, acknowledge that it’s okay to enjoy a variety of foods over the holidays and focus on something that helps you to feel balanced. Perhaps a glass of water, a nap, or a nice walk.

Be mindful of your body and mind.

Check-in with yourself. Are you easily distracted and mindlessly eating when in large gatherings? If that’s the case, it may be beneficial for you to eat in a quieter area of the gathering. Do you find that after dessert you engage in more negative self-talk? This is an opportunity to try talking to yourself as you would a friend or loved one. Acknowledge how you feel physically and emotionally. Don’t use your feelings as weapons, but instead as tools to grow your awareness of how food makes you feel.

Celebrate and enjoy delicious meals and treats this holiday season, without the food guilt.

If you need help with enjoying the holidays guilt-free, reach out to us at or 901.800.9526. We practice an intuitive approach that invites all foods into the holiday season. Wishing you happy holidays!

Erin Dragutsky is the co-founder of 901 Nutrition, LLC and a licensed, registered dietitian in Memphis. Erin specializes in helping clients with eating disorders and disordered eating habits. She is passionate about helping clients ditch their diets for good, find food freedom, and develop a positive relationship with food., 901.800.9526