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Healthy Eating During The Holidays: Q&A with Judith Matz & Ellen Frankel

November doesn’t just mark the beginning of cooler weather and Thanksgiving celebrations; it also signals the arrival of “healthy eating” advice. The advice that reveals a slew of secrets on how to avoid gaining weight during the holidays, what to do when faced with a buffet and, as Self magazine puts it, “how to dodge holiday diet traps.”

The underlying (or blatant) message of this advice is that there’s a danger of gaining tons of pounds during the holidays, and you better run or hide from food because you simply can’t handle yourself.

We’re taught that we should fear food and weight gain. We’re warned against enjoying food too much: If you’re going to “indulge,” do so in little itty bitty quantities.

Some of the advice is downright disturbing, and no doubt it makes many of us confused and anxious.

Since this advice is seriously everywhere, I asked Judith Matz and Ellen Frankel, clinical social workers and authors of the fantastic book The Diet Survivor’s Handbook, to offer some sane advice on navigating the healthy eating tips and tricks.

(BTW, I highly recommend their book, especially for the holiday season, since New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner. And dieting is a big one.)

Q: In November, inevitably we’ll be inundated with advice on how to eat healthy during the holidays and how to prevent the supposedly whopping weight gain. I think all of this advice just makes people more and more anxious about eating and actually enjoying the holidays. What do you think is the impact of this advice on readers?

A: We live in a culture that normalizes the obsession with food, weight and dieting.  As you point out, when the holiday season rolls around, the media – especially women’s magazines – gives advice to readers about what to eat, what not to eat, how to get thinner or how to avoid weight gain.  This advice is offered as the way to take good care of yourself, but it actually backfires on many levels.

10 thoughts on “Healthy Eating During The Holidays: Q&A with Judith Matz & Ellen Frankel

  • November 16, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Great interview! The onslaught of advice really is a challenge, and I love how the authors pointed out that most of it is just a “diet in disguise” (love that phrase!). For me one of the biggest things is reminding myself to stay in the present (not an easy task!) and to remember that regardless of my weight or body image issues, I deserve to have a fun and pleasant holiday as much as anyone else.

    • November 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm

      @ Katie, I also have to remind myself to be mindful and stay in the present. I think it’s tough to distinguish helpful from harmful advice, so I also love their point about diets in disguise.

  • November 16, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Really great read & couldn’t agree more with the statment “Focusing on food and your weight means you are less present at holiday gatherings.” Sometimes in the struggle you WANT to be present, and don’t know how to because the voices are so loud. I like to remind them to listen closely to their body, and reach out for support if they need it. Sometimes it can help having someone to share and be accountable during these times. Never have to struggle alone. Thanks for sharing this interview.

    • November 16, 2010 at 1:36 pm

      @ Kendra, thanks so much for the tips! You’re right that the “how” is usually the challenging part. I also love eating mindfully: eating slowly, really tasting the food, the texture, smelling it and also paying attention to how I feel.

  • November 16, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Excellent advice. I can’t stand most women’s magazines for the very reasons mentioned here. I appreciate your sane thoughts on refocusing the way we approach this season, and all the eating that goes along with the celebration.

    • November 16, 2010 at 1:37 pm

      @ Chef Lisa, thanks for stopping by and commenting! I think Judith and Ellen definitely offered some important insight. Glad you liked it!

  • November 16, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    It took a long time for me to realize all the helpful tips are just dieting tips not really ascribed to any particular diet plan. I’ve let my preoccupation with food and weight hinder my enjoyment of spending time with friends and family over the years.

    I really loved The Diet Survivor’s Handbook and I’m really glad you were able to interview the authors!

    • November 17, 2010 at 12:54 pm

      @ Kate D, I think so many people can relate to letting general diet tips rule their life (me, included!). When you see the information everywhere, you think that you’re doing something wrong if you enjoy food and don’t watch like a hawk what you’re eating. It’s really damaging. I loved the book, too. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • November 19, 2010 at 11:51 am

    What a brilliant interview. I have never heard of these women or the Diet Survivors book.
    I love what they say about “if you notice any increase around the obsession with food and weight, let it go” – I recently thought that it might be time to get more “healthy”. The result was a disturbing preoccupation with food, albeit of the healthy variety. Lesson: Let it go.
    As the authors so wisely stated:
    “there are no “tricks” when it comes to your hunger and satisfaction.

    For me, every time I try a new “trick” I end up eating more , obsessing more and less “healthy” than when I started.

    • November 19, 2010 at 12:06 pm

      @ Nina, I can totally relate to your experiences with trying to get “healthier,” and then it evolving into an obsession. I can say that after I let go of the diet mentality, I have felt this great sense of peace. Letting go feels so liberating and really you end up being truly healthier anyway. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! 🙂


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