Holiday Food Freedom with Bree Shields

Today’s post is a guest post from a fellow Whole30 coach, Bree Shields! She won the diversity scholarship from Whole30 in 2018, is a military spouse, and veteran advocate! I hope you find helpful this piece she wrote on Holiday Food Freedom!

The holidays are in full swing but it is never too late to start a new habit, fine tune your Food Freedom, and show up well for yourself! Navigating food around the holidays can be tricky whether you are working your Food Freedom for the first time during the holidays or you’ve done a couple rounds of Whole30 and need to fine tune some Food Freedom habits when it comes to all things holidays. Either way, I would love to give you some tips and tricks to make this holiday season one where you walk out of them feeling successful and holding your head high, especially when it comes to engaging in holiday parties and social gatherings!

First lets start by getting a little refresher on what exactly Food Freedom is: food freedom is about indulging when it’s worth it, passing when it isn’t, and never feeling guilt or shame for doing either. It’s about taking the morality out of food, and recognizing you are not a “good” or“bad” person based on what’s your plate. True food freedom means you never again feel powerless over food. With that definition in mind lets jump into some ways to navigate holiday parties with ease,
confidence, and most of all empowered to rock your Food Freedom.

Start small!

Buffets are usually the theme at most parties. A grab what you want kind of style. I always start by putting a very small portion on my plate to make sure that what I am actually eating is worth it. If it’s not then I’m not staring at a mountain of mashed potatoes I now have to put in the trash, and if it’s 100% worth it and the best food I’ve ever tasted I can always go back and get more. I share this with you because I battle the scarcity mindset from time to time. This means “give me all the things now because there may be none left later”. Reminding myself that there is
enough for me and I can always go back has given me permission to take a smaller portion and really enjoy what is in front of me versus trying to get in all the goodness I can all at once (which never ends with an enjoyable feeling).

Split Food.
If i’m going to a party with someone I always ask if they want to split something with me. I do this for a couple of reasons. The first is it’s hard to know if something is worth it so instead of taking a whole cookie I split it with a friend who may find the cookie totally enjoyable. This echoes the thought above with small portions but has also helped me overcome the “I feel bad for wasting food” feeling. You may be new to Food Freedom and the thought of throwing away food because it is not worth it may not settle well and may be counterintuitive to how you have operated most of your life. I know so many of us come from this background and I want to remind you that if the food you are eating does not serve you, taste good, or makes you feel less than your best (physically, emotionally, or mentally) it is wasted anyways. However, if your mindset has not totally shifted to a place where you feel comfortable throwing something away or passing on it after one bite, splitting with someone again means a smaller portion.

The second reason I also love splitting with someone is because we so often underestimate what we need to actually feel satisfied. Sometimes it is only half a cookie but with a whole cookie in front of me, I have definitely been in the space where I get to talking and reaching for little pieces of my cookie here and there (not tapping into being mindful) and before I know it the half cookie that I was totally content with has turned into the whole cookie that is now upsetting my
stomach. If you know you will be distracted while eating and chatting with others this is a great way to not end up not mindlessly eating.

The third reason is because I love variety. I’m that person that wants a little taste of everything but doesn’t want to feel overloaded on just one thing. Splitting actually allows me to try a few varieties of whatever my host is serving which I absolutely love rather than getting my fill with just one type of cookie (can you tell baked goods is my go to for a holiday party?).

Bring a dish!
I always bring something with me and that ranges from a case of sparkling water to a main course. This puts you in control and guarantees you a choice that you are going to feel comfortable with. I have never met a host that wasn’t excited that I was bringing something to share. Often times I put a beverage of my choosing that I bring with me in a cup similar to ones all the guests at the party have. If you are worried about being the odd one out, this is a great way to feel just like everyone else and very rarely do people ask, “so what’s in your cup?”

Green and protein.
I have now begun to make sure when I go to events with a serve yourself option that I load up on my greens and proteins and I eat these first. My eyes get wide from delicious holiday dishes but getting in my vegetables and proteins makes sure that I am properly nourished and making decisions from a mindful place rather than a place of hunger…..which leads me to my next point!

Don’t show up starving.
I know when I am ravenous the ability to feel in control of what I am eating and eat things I know my body loves drastically decreases. You don’t have to eat a full meal before going but maybe eating a Chomps on the car ride over will be just what you need to reduce those feelings of “I must put all food insight inside my stomach right now!”

Remember why you are there.
Recently I have found myself pausing and putting down my food when someone is telling me something. Especially if we are past the small talk and really connecting. I find it hard for me to be fully engaged in both savoring my food and intently listening at the same time. It’s important for me to really hear and know people and it is also very important for me to honor my habits. I have had many people that I have coached through a Whole30 say to me they did not even realize how unconnected they were to food when put in social situations. They could tell
the times they were distracted and not being mindful, so they would ask themselves if what they were eating was worth it and if they actually wanted it. There has also been feedback that people have forgotten what the purpose of their event was simply because food was present and the norm was to walk into an event and start eating rather than connecting. I would encourage you to pause when you enter a party, maybe engage in conversation first, and then start in on the holiday food! I have also encouraged clients of mine to bring games to a party, suggest going for a family walk around the block following a holiday meal, etc. Anything to further connection!

Offer yourself love and grace this holiday season!
You may find yourself walking out of a holiday party feeling like you wish you would have made some different decisions. That is okay. Food Freedom is something we are always fine tuning and reevaluating. There is no end point. Once I realized this it really allowed me to offer myself more grace and to love myself through the process knowing that there was room for growth and that I would do just that. Also reminding myself, “Bree, you are not where you use to be. This is worth celebrating.” Reflecting back on my journey I have found myself making the most progress when I was kind to myself and it’s also when I started to enjoy my health journey rather than looking at it as this awful thing that was always there.

I hope these tips have inspired some ideas for how you will navigate your Food Freedom this holiday season. Remember: “Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose and commit myself to what is best for me” -Paulo Coelho.

Allow these to be suggestions and inspire what works for you, your Food Freedom, and exactly where you are at on your journey. What works for me may not work for you, and I think that just might be my favorite thing about Food Freedom.
Happy Holidays!

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