It’s OK to Indulge on Thanksgiving, Says Dietitian, But Beware of These Unhealthy Eating Behaviors

Whether it’s good, bad or somewhere in between, we all have a relationship with food – and food-focused holidays like Thanksgiving can bring them to the fore, with unhealthy behaviors we might have in response.

“Complicated relationships (around food) are much more intense at times like this, where we’re celebrating something that culturally revolves around food,” says Amanda Holtzer, a registered dietitian based in New Jersey. “It can really trigger a lot of potentially negative emotions in people with negative or complicated relationships with food.”

Due to diet culture and the pressures and messages that come with it, it has become easy to focus on what we think we should or should not add to our plates. But Holtzer says that engaging in holiday meal as it will not have a major impact on your body or health.

“It’s absolutely no big deal,” she said. “I can promise you that a day of more indulgent eating will not lead to lasting weight gain (nor) will it derail the progress you’ve made.”

However, there are some unhealthy behaviors common this time of year that can fall into the category of eating disorders.

Eating disorders exist on a broad spectrum and are not synonymous with a diagnosed eating disorder, says Dr. Samantha DeCaro, director of clinical outreach and education at the Renfrew Center, a network of eating disorder treatment facilities.

“At the extreme end, we have clinical eating disorders. At the other end, we have people who have a healthy relationship with food and their bodies. And most of us fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum,” she says, explaining that food restriction, bingeing, purging, and overexercising can all be considered disordered behaviors.

“You don’t really have to have an eating disorder to combat some of these issues,” she says.

Unhealthy behaviors around food

Restriction: In an effort to “save up” for a big holiday meal, Holtzer says it’s very common to see people skip meals or even restrict themselves the day before an event – but she warns that it has almost always a negative effect.

“By skipping meals and snacks earlier in the day, you set yourself up for ravenous hunger, and as a human being, it’s our nature, when we’re so hungry, to overeat,” she explains.

DeCaro says that in many cases, unhealthy patterns like this can be normalized or even mislabeled as healthy, which can lead to confusion.

“A lot of these behaviors, not only are they disordered, but they can also feed into the cycle of a full-blown eating disorder,” she says. “For example, most people are very surprised to learn that restriction is actually one of the things that can fuel binge eating disorder. Because when you skip meals or deprive yourself of food when you have hunger, it can cause you to go on a binge eating attack because you are in a state of craving, whether it is physical or psychological craving.

So no matter what you’re going to eat at your Thanksgiving meal, Holtzer recommends having a protein-rich breakfast as well as lunch or a snack if you’re not eating dinner until later in the day.

“I never want anyone to not eat or restrict in order to save money or compensate for what they will do later,” she says.

Demonizing foods: Viewing certain foods as “good” and others as “bad” is a mindset we want to move away from, Holtzer says.

“Food has no morality and it should arouse no feelings of shame or fear, just as it should arouse no feelings of pride.”

And while it recognizes that food is more than just fuel – Thanksgiving highlights how food is also about tradition, family and culture – it’s not meant to have an “emotional impact on us.” in this way, she said.

“We don’t want to attach such emotion to food because, ultimately, that’s not the role food is supposed to play in our lives,” she says.

Body and Plate Comments: Another behavior to avoid during the end of year celebrations? Comments about another person’s body or the food on their plate that can negatively affect others, no matter how well-intentioned.

“You may instinctively want to compliment someone’s appearance, and even that carries a risk, because when the first thing you do is compliment someone’s beauty, you reinforce the idea that her appearance and her body are important to you,” DeCaro says.

Instead, she encourages people to shift the focus away from appearance and focus on how you feel when you see that person — for example, “I’m so happy to see you! How are you? “

Even comments about yourself – “I’m going to have to go on a diet after this,” for example – are best avoided.

“We really want to avoid any comments that might induce any form of guilt or anxiety about eating food,” says DeCaro.

Holtzer also encourages his patients to move away from diet or body language, but knows that we can’t control what other people say.

For this reason, if you encounter someone making these comments toward you or someone else, she suggests setting a boundary or simply changing the subject.

“For example, if someone says, ‘I just started this new keto diet,’ they say something like, ‘Great, what’s up? How’s your family?'” says Holtzer. “It’s really important to remember what you need emotionally and what you feel comfortable doing to meet those needs.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with body image or eating issues, the National Eating Disorders Association’s free, confidential helpline is available by phone or text at 1-800-931 -2237 or by click-to-chat message to nationaleatingdisorders. .org/helpline. For 24/7 crisis situations, text “NEDA” to 741-741.

Gn Health

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