Forget the food rules for the holidays

Strict eating rules lead to a loss of enjoyment to nourish our bodies with the delicious foods that we need. Here’s the one rule that can change your outlook on holiday eating for the better.


Countless individuals have been subject to the consequences of rules.  But not just any rules.  Food rules.  We all have them, whether intently or subconsciously. 

Don’t eat after 8pm.
Always eat vegetables first.  
Don’t eat carbs.  
Don’t eat “bad” fat.  
Only eat dessert on Friday nights.  
No meat on Mondays.  
Only eat unrefined, unprocessed foods.  

And the list goes on and on.  

When we stop to think about where these food rules originate from, there is likely no real logical explanation.  Granted, there are legitimate medical reasons for which individuals must adhere to a certain diet.  But what about those of us who abide by food rules for the sake of control?

These food rules are something created in our mind by the “Food Police”, the negative force that creeps into our minds and taints our perspective on food.

The “Food Police” tends to make a sneaking appearance at holiday events, rather uninvitingly.  Many of us already have predetermined thoughts about holiday foods and how to handle these types of meals, such as:

  • I just won’t eat all day and let myself eat whatever I want come meal time.
  • I’ll avoid ______ , so I can eat _______.
  • I’ll eat whatever I want today, and for the next few days, I’ll be really good by working out and eating clean.

There’s also the common “talk of shame” following a meal: “I can’t believe how BAD I was for eating all of that.”

So what’s the one food rule that we need to remember to keep ourselves happy and sane this holiday?

Leave behind the “Food Police” at the door.

Keep in mind, what this does not mean is to binge on food to your heart’s desire. What it does mean is to remember that holiday food is not a criminal offense.

Food rules can be seen as an effort to help simplify the choices we make when it comes to food.  If we can draw the line in the sand and determine that there are “good” and “bad” foods, it seemingly becomes easier to choose what to eat.

Unfortunately, this mentality completely strips away the pleasurable aspect of eating, often creating chaos amidst unnecessary guilt and shame.  Whether the negative chatter is coming from within or externally, remember that you have the capacity to abandon the “Food Police”.  Once you do so, choose foods based on what you find nourishing, appetizing, appealing, and pleasurable.

Without unnecessary food rules in place, you are more likely to feel satisfied at meals, feel less inclined to “indulge” or overeat, and more able to focus on the good things that are most important: fellowship, family, and priceless memories.

In our society, food has become a culprit of a “moral” decision: something that is either good or bad for us.  Let’s be real about the issue.  Food is NOT a moral thing.  No one becomes a good person by eating “healthy” foods, just as no one is considered a bad person for eating foods on the “naughty” list.  Keeping this perspective helps normalize what food is:

It is simply nourishment for our body, and nothing that has power over us.

Adapted from the original article.

Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a San Diego-based private practice dietitian helping others embrace their health for themselves and their loved ones.  Focusing on maternal/child health and eating disorders, Crystal creates the nurturing, safe environment that is needed to help guide individuals towards a peaceful relationship with food and their bodies.

Don't let your food rules rule you.