It’s that time of year again: the holidays are upon us. This can bring feelings of joy and good cheer, but also an increased feeling of unease for some, especially when it comes to food. The time period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s can be a veritable minefield for those who struggle with a history of dieting or weight fluctuations or anyone with a difficult relationship with food. Food — often less than healthy choices — is offered at most gatherings, which can pose challenges for those trying to eat mindfully. Following are a few tips to help guide you through this time, hopefully allowing you to flow through the holidays with more direction and ease.

1. Practice self-care. Self-care is important because when we take care of ourselves in other parts of our lives, it becomes easier to eat in a more natural, healthful, and mindful way. Make sure you get enough good, restorative sleep. Get your body moving every day, preferably at regular intervals and doing something you enjoy. Going for a walk after a meal or playing with your dog are good examples. Make time for quality connections with friends and family. Last, spend time outside in nature to help set your circadian rhythm and increase feelings of calm.

2. Eat regularly. While this may sound obvious, it is all too easy to skip meals during this busy season. You may be juggling work, childcare, shopping, and holiday gatherings, among other commitments. Try to schedule regular breaks to eat three meals per day. The rewards are well worth the effort. Eating at regularly scheduled times helps your body relax around food; this effect will be increased if you eat at roughly the same times of day. You can also add in a healthy snack here or there if needed. Eating this way will ensure you are not ravenous at the end of the day, or when you get to a party, which can lead to overeating. It will also help you make healthier choices because your blood sugar will be more regulated. (Note: eating regularly does not include constant snacking throughout the day; these are two different things.)

3. Set boundaries. Food pushers can sometimes be a part of the equation at food-related gatherings. If you often find yourself accepting food that you did not really want, know that it is okay to politely decline. It is important that you take care of yourself. This includes not eating when you have had enough food. Rehearse ahead of time some phrases you can use to decline unwanted food that remain polite, but firm.

4. Rehearse. Ahead of a food-related event, rehearse your strategy. For example: What will you eat? Filling up at least half your plate with vegetables and making sure you have adequate protein is a great starting point. If you are unsure what types of foods will be served, bring along a healthy side dish that you know will satisfy you. Where will you be? Perhaps standing out of eye’s reach of the food will be helpful after you have eaten. Last — rehearse how you want to feel when you leave the gathering. Will you feel uncomfortably overfull, or will you feel satiated and satisfied? Re-imagine what these scenarios feel like before you head out, and remind yourself of them while at the event.

5. Avoid an all-or-nothing approach. If you vow to not eat any indulging food, or deem certain foods forbidden, your strategy may backfire. Restricting food can sometimes increase one’s desire for those foods. A 90/10 percent approach, or 80/20, or anything in between can help you realize that, as a whole, your eating pattern is pretty healthy. When you eat indulgent foods, be mindful about which ones you choose, and at what point you have had enough. (The tips above will help with this.) Certain ones will taste better than others; maximize your sensory experience by choosing foods that you truly enjoy the most.

Try any or all of these tips on for size. Some may work for you, and some may not. While this is not a comprehensive list, it is a good place to start, keeping in mind that an individualized approach is always best. If you find that you need more support, reach out to a qualified health care professional that can help.

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The information provided in this article is intended for general use only and is not to be used in place of medical advice from a licensed health professional.