Holiday eating or holiday sabotage? Is this a time to embrace indulgences or battle temptations? Depends on one’s outlook. If you read the last article on cheater’s diets then this is an especially wonderful season. Approach with caution or dive in blindfolded. So, what’s the plan?

Holiday Eating: comfort or enjoyment

Meals this time of year are a mix of celebration and de-stressing. Admittedly, we’re well aware that binge eating to deal with life only intensifies overall anxiety and conditions such as high blood pressure. Identifying what’s burdening our minds and planning how to manage the tension will help us enjoy food as a benefit, not a detriment. With a little extra effort towards time management, particularly with sleep and eating schedules, we can adore the holidays, not try to “survive” them. Common sense is always prevalent, but it may not be as common as we thought.

We are not livestock

“Grazing” became mainstream around the late ’90s. “Eat six or more small meals per day to increase metabolism and prevent weight gain.” As with most nutritional advice generated during this era, evidence was largely anecdotal with little or no long-term observations of a large participant group. Studies at the Salk Institute and in the British Journal of Nutrition show that there is no significant metabolic surge from higher frequency eating. There was no difference in total energy expenditure when the same quantity of daily calories was spread through increased meal times. We may actually gain weight. That’s a lot of time spent for meal breaks. More time is required to measure and balance the proper quantity and quality of nutrients over an extended eating schedule. The reality is opportunities for overeating are multiplied. How do we measure and stop when we’re 80 percent full?

Right time, right place

The studies above also suggested that when we eat is just as crucial as what we eat. Nutrient Timing has gained much traction in fitness performance discussions, but these methods are not restricted to athletes. A great place to start is working with our medical advisors to appreciate what’s happening in our bodies, particularly with hormones. Accepting our ever-changing physiques and lifestyles brings understanding to how foods affect us. We may have to give up some, but we may gain a lot more.

More is a broad category. Some more myths include calories in, calories out, and negative calories. The body has the ability to hoard fat storage regardless of caloric expenditure, and intensified activity is not correlated to bigger eating. Foods that require more energy to digest than they contain are theoretical. According to a study by Harvard University: “…conventional wisdom ― to eat everything in moderation, eat fewer calories and avoid fatty foods ― isn’t the best approach.” We may lose or prevent weight gain, however, the results are likely temporary, and overall health may decline.

Eat to live

We consume food; food does not consume us. Keep it simple. Periodically spend a little time to learn how to eat. Nutrition needs to enhance our life, not drive it. I love food, I enjoy eating clean, I endorse cheating — but there’s a difference between fan and fanatical.