9 Tips to Eat Without Guilt This Holiday Weekend

by | Jun 30, 2014

Photo by rushdi13

For many newly minted foodists, the upcoming long holiday weekend will be the first real test of your new anti-dieting healthstyle that embraces real food and enjoyment.

Although it can be a little challenging to get started, switching from a dieter’s mindset to a foodist’s mindset is fairly straightforward when we’re in the comfort of our normal lives. But when confronted with a situation where we have multiple days of sun, fun and celebration, fear of sugar, fat and binges can easily seep in.

Can we really handle all this freedom?

The answer is yes. As a foodist, you can enjoy food-filled holidays to your heart’s content. It probably won’t be the healthiest few days of your life, but that doesn’t matter. The purpose of holidays is to take a break from the rat race and enjoy friends, family, and all the other things that make life wonderful, including food.

One of the most important things to remember is that enjoying yourself isn’t what will do the most damage. Fear––of temptation, losing control, undoing progress––is your real enemy. But if you’ve been working to build a life around real food and healthy habits, a fun weekend every now and again is nothing to worry about.

A foodist knows that self-control cannot be relied on to keep us virtuous through several days of indulgence. Instead, we take measures to ensure that we can enjoy ourselves without succumbing to the triggers that cause us to go overboard, eating more than we actually want or enjoy.

These tricks will help you make value-based decisions in the face of decadence so you get everything you want out of your holiday, and nothing you don’t.

9 Tips for Enjoying a Long Holiday Weekend (With Minimal Damage)

1. Drink lots of water

When sun and alcohol are abundant, drinking plenty of water is essential. Dehydration is easily mistaken for hunger, and there’s no value in eating extra food when all you really need is a glass or two of water. Avoiding nasty hangovers and maintaining your complexion are good reasons to follow this advice too.

2. Chew, chew and chew some more

Chewing is easy to forget when there’s a smorgasbord of delicious food in front of you. I know you’re excited to eat your mom’s famous potato salad, your dad’s famous ribs, and your aunt’s incredible brownies, but keep in mind that the whole point is to actually enjoy it. Chewing helps you slow down and actually appreciate what you are eating. You may even realize that you need less than you think to be satisfied.

3. Eat the best stuff first

As I hinted in tip #2, anticipation of tastiness tends to overshadow the actual experience of eating, which often causes us to eat quickly and overeat. One way to dissipate this effect is to eat the food you anticipate the most, first. If you know you’ve already had the best bite, there’s no reason to eat more than you need.

4. Go splitsies

Portion sizes are incredibly deceptive these days. While most of us are pretty good at knowing how much we eat (i.e. how many calories we are consuming) when we eat smaller portions, we’re terrible at scaling up and tend to vastly underestimate how big larger portions really are.

While there’s no need to share everything you eat, finding a friend with which to share especially rich, calorie dense foods is a great way to indulge without accidentally putting down an extra 600 calories you would have been just as happy without.

5. Don’t forget your greens

No matter how fabulously luscious and delicious my meal, I always go out of my way to eat something fresh and green. Enjoying yourself doesn’t need to be synonymous with neglecting nutrition, and I find that I always feel better if at least some of my stomach space is occupied by lighter, more nutritious food.

6. Resist the “what-the-hell” effect

If you’ve ever dieted you’re probably familiar with the “what-the-hell” effect. This is that moment when you realize that you’ve already surpassed your intended limit on carbs, calories, or whatever, and decide to throw up your hands, lean in and just go nuts while you can. Future you can deal with the consequences.

Problem is, while your brain may work in this binary on-off mode, your body still calculates every last calorie, and binging is never as rewarding as our deprived dieter brains expect it to be. You don’t win, so don’t go there. Enjoy your food and eat as much as you need to feel satisfied and there will be nothing to regret.

7. Remember you can “have it later

If you know you’ve had enough, but the dessert table is still singing its siren song, try telling yourself you can have some later if you still want it and look for something to distract yourself for a few minutes. This trick is a sort of mental alchemy that shifts something in your mind from the super tempting “I want it, but I shouldn’t” to “I can have it, but it isn’t that important.” Psychologists have shown that this tactic can reduce cravings for a particular food for up to a week after we use it.

8. Walk it off

Since you aren’t stuck in front of your computer at the office, holidays are a great time to be less sedentary than normal. Walking, swimming and other pleasurable pastimes are a great way to offset some of the extra calories you take in over the holidays. As we saw last week, walking after a meal can even jump start your metabolism. There’s no need to go to the gym if you don’t want, but incorporating some extra fun activities can make a big difference.

9. Trust your home court habits

Still the best way to avoid the what-the-hell effect and overeating in general is understanding that no food is ever off limits as a foodist. You can eat what you want, because you have set up your life to be healthy in a way that includes holidays and indulgences. Foodists can always rely on our home court habits to get us back on course after an exceptional weekend.

What are you eating this weekend?

Originally published July 1, 2013.

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12 Responses to “9 Tips to Eat Without Guilt This Holiday Weekend”

  1. Great tips! I love the attitude that this might not be your healthiest weekend ever, but you still don’t have to give into the what the hell effect. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Mary says:

    Holidays and social gatherings are extremely hard for me because I usually end up bingeing extremely bad. Sometimes I even dread them because I know my self control will fail me, and I will ruin the weeks of healthy eating and exercising that I’ve done. I’ve fallen victim to the “what the hell” effect too many times, and my body is really starting to show it. My relationship with food is no longer healthy, as I think about food more than making memories with my friends and family. Binges ruin all of the fun, and I become so embarrassed that I don’t even want to step out in public. How do you deal with the psychological and emotional effects that you experience after you’ve gone too far?

  3. Rosanna says:

    The “what the hell” effect is what gets me. I’m great when I’m in my routine and I have no problem getting back into it the next day. But I can’t just have one french fry. Luckily my binges are never that bad, but they’re enough to make me feel guilty about it the next day. Come decision time, however, (especially a few cocktails in) I always end up saying – “Screw it I’m just going to start over tomorrow”.

  4. Jerry Robertson says:


    Great article. All of it so true and so helpful. All of it I can relate to.

    Along the road, I have managed to drop 30 lbs. I would like to lose another 10. There has been a TON of learning along the way. Right before the Xmas holiday, I had hit my goal of losing the 30 lbs. I was so afraid of what the holiday week would bring. Sure, I jumped up a bit during the holiday week. However, once I got back to the routine, the extra lbs slowly melted away along with my fear that the old me would return. The last couple of “holiday” weekends again brought a bit of angst. For no reason.

    The choices I make are now so ingrained that I no longer have to fear ballooning back up. I have learned that I can indulge a bit and still stay in check. It’s that staying in check that used to not be there.

    That feeling is so liberating.

    Thanks for bringing us the Foodist info.

  5. Chetana says:

    Drinking water is a problem for me. I heard that women should drink minimum of 2.5 litres in a day. However I don’t drink more than a litre in a day. I don’t like drinking more water. Don’t know how to over come this 🙁

    • Jerry Robertson says:


      A couple of strategies that I use include:

      Carrying around a large refillable water bottle. I started off with a 0.5 litre bottle. Then graduated to a 1 litre bottle. I set a goal to finish my 1/2 of my bottle before lunch. Then the other have before I leave the office. Then I try to drink another litre after I get home.

      Another thing that I try to do is to take a significant drink of water every time I feel “hungry”. Many times the hunger feeling is just thirst masked as hunger. And, if it truly was hunger, then the water serves to fill me up before I eat so to help keep me from overeating.

      Hope these ideas help.

    • Jerry Robertson says:


      One more thing…

      As soon as you get out of bed, try drinking a 1/2 litre (or more) of water right away. I usually due that along with taking a multivitamin to get my day going. The water along with a nice high protein breakfast will help keep you satiated all the way thru lunch.

  6. Apryl says:

    Oh thank you, thank you for posting this today! I’m a brand new foodist (still in my first two weeks of journaling) with a big family camping trip coming up over the 4th. I love the balance and moderation of this philosophy and can’t wait for it to become second nature like it is for Jerry, the commenter above. I will admit I’m scared of what kind of failures might occur this weekend, but I believe that’s the dieter mentality coming back to haunt me. I will be keeping these tips close at hand and concentrating on ENJOYING what I choose to eat.

    • Jerry Robertson says:

      April…One of the bigger things I have learned is to be prepared. If you have your “Foodist” supplies at hand, you are way more likely to stick to your routine. For example, I try to bring my spinach/peanut butter smoothie supplies with me over the 4th of July weekend.

      Of course, it’s not always the case that you can make that work. And again, this is where preparation comes into play. If you are prepared to get back to your Foodist ways as soon as you return, all you will see is a small bump in the road on your journey, but that’s all it will be. And 3 weeks from now you will feel even stronger for making it past it.

  7. Kate says:

    Sooo glad you re-posted this one. I’m heading to the Alameda County Fair this Friday for the 4th. Fair food! Ack! Last year I valiantry tried to find/eat something “healthy,” and ended up with something probably as bad or worse than what I was trying to avoid and it tasted AWFUL and made me sad!

    So this year, my plan is to have a nutritious, filling breakfast and lunch before I go, pack a few healthy nibbles, and then to just ENJOY what delicious thing I do eat for supper when I’m there. The Fair only comes around once a year, after all.

  8. Olivia Zech says:

    Great reminder to be aware of the binary brain reaction of the “what the hell” debacle. (I’ve definitely experienced this many times.) My biggest struggle is always with dessert, because I am head over heels in love with it, so enjoying/reserving caloric intake for the sweet bites before starting out my meal with things I’m less interested in – like chicken or corn on the cob – seems like a much better game plan. (And way more fun.)

    And honestly, a gorgeous green leafy salad and half a delish chocolatey brownie sounds like the perfect way to celebrate the 4th. Thanks, Darya. #foodistlove

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