Christmas gingerbread cookies. Photo: Deborah Lee Soltesz

Health & wellbeing

Overindulging during Christmas or other special occasions, followed by the need for dieting, can be signs of an unhealthy food relationship. Mari Aalto, a nutrition therapist at Terveystalo, encourages permissive eating every day of the year.

According to Mari Aalto, a nutrition therapist, one of the most concerning aspects from both a physical and mental perspective is when people restrain themselves from Christmas treats until the holiday itself.

"Usually, an unhealthy food relationship is indicated when people eat boxes of chocolates during Christmas and then experience such distress afterward that they feel the need to start a diet," says Mari Aalto, who has worked with eating disorders for over fifteen years at Terveystalo. Constant Weight Cycling Is Unhealthy for the Body and Mind

The need to overeat during special occasions often stems from excessively restricting food intake during daily life.

"The problem arises when one's eating is restricted by overly strict rules. This easily leads to losing control and overeating, followed by even stricter dieting and restrictions on food or food groups."

Constant yo-yo dieting creates a distorted and harmful relationship with eating.

"Constant weight fluctuations lead to easier weight gain as energy needs decrease with muscle loss, and the feeling of fullness is delayed, causing us to eat larger portions," adds Aalto. Balanced Food Relationships Through Permissive Eating

According to Aalto, the best approach is to buy a box of Christmas chocolates now and have a few pieces for dessert every day.

"When you indulge moderately every day, the allure of overindulging fades. Permissive eating every day of the year helps manage cravings and maintain a healthy diet and food relationship." Eating Should Be a Preventative Act

Mari Aalto believes that eating should be a rational, not emotional, activity and should be considered a preventative measure.

"To maintain healthy control and a balanced diet, it's important to eat earlier in the day and include snacks in your routine. All of this helps avoid compensating for an energy deficit through excessive evening eating and indulging. When you enjoy a small dessert every day after meals, there's no longer a need for overindulgence on weekends or holidays," explains Aalto. Seek Help If You Feel Guilty About Eating

Everyone overeats occasionally, and that's not dangerous. However, a constant need to overeat followed by dieting attempts or feelings of guilt about eating may indicate a problem.

"Even if you indulge in Christmas treats until you're stuffed, there's no problem as long as life returns to normal afterward. But if there's a need for dieting, if binge-eating behavior persists, or if you feel guilty about eating, it's a good idea to seek help, for example, from a nutrition therapist," concludes Aalto.