Cultivate your ‘eating competence’

The holiday season has arrived, and with it comes anxiety about holiday weight gain.

The holiday season has arrived, and with it comes anxiety about holiday weight gain.

For many people, the enjoyment of parties and treats is tainted by guilt and an internal battle for self-control.

Why has this happened?

Ellyn Satter, a dietitian and eating advocate, argues that we as a culture have lost our “eating competence.”

Competent eaters do not gain weight over the holidays because they are accustomed to eating foods they enjoy and therefore do not overdo it. They avoid the cycle of restricting and bingeing and self-loathing. Our society’s focus on dieting and forbidden foods has left many of us with distorted body image and eating patterns.

Satter defines normal eating as going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.

Giving some thought to making nutritious choices but not being overly restrictive and missing out on foods you enjoy. Normal eating means sometimes you overeat, and other times you eat less, but overall you are trusting yourself to eat in a way that is best for you.

If you eat this way, your body will be the size it was created to be (note: this is not always the size you want it to be).

This sounds wonderful; however, for many people who have struggled with weight their whole lives, the concept of letting themselves eat whatever they want is frightening.

“If I let myself eat whatever I want, I will gain weight.”

According to Satter’s philosophy, if you have not allowed yourself to eat something for a long time, you may eat a lot at first, but eventually it will either lose its appeal and you will be satisfied with a moderate portion.

When we restrict ourselves and frame the eating experience negatively, some part of us fights back craving it more. So this holiday season, try taking a positive and compassionate stance with yourself, and remember:

1) Take pleasure in what you eat – choose the food you like but avoid mindless munching.

2) Eat slowly – put down your fork. Savour your food. Take a break before you go back for seconds and make sure you really want more food.

3) Enjoy other aspects of the season – remember the party is not only about food. Seek out good conversation. Enjoy your surroundings. Hit the dance floor.

4) Overeating does not make you a bad person.

-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.