Columnist

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 6–8 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Q.I ate my way through Thanksgiving. My house is packed with treats. How do I get my eating back on track!

15-year-old

Mary Jo’s response: Holidays can interrupt our routines. Holidays are also celebrations of life, family and, in the case of Thanksgiving, a lot of delicious food!

I’ve asked a dear friend to give me her insights on your question. She’s an expert in eating, food and moods, and I trust her wisdom. I’d like to offer my perspective first.

Eating healthy and exercising are excellent lifelong choices to help all of us maintain our health. I’m happy when a young person considers food choices. I’m also cautious. I know many teens who worry about weight to the point of an obsession. I hear some young people talk about gaining a pound or two as if they would be mortified.

Please know your self-worth is much more than your body. You are a person of worth, no matter your weight, your height, your hair, your nose, your foot size – you are worthy just by being you. My papa taught me my body was the container for my spirit. He was a deeply spiritual man, and assured me I wouldn’t have been given the wrong container! He also encouraged – and modeled – healthy eating. The vegetables from his garden were so good they were treats!

I want you to enjoy life, love your body and eat well. It sounds like getting your eating back on track will make you feel balanced, and that’s great. Talk with your parents; they can help. Please don’t do “what ifs” in terms of food. You know the drill: “What if I didn’t eat that dessert, or what if I passed on those mashed potatoes.” Regret in life only hurts. Go forward positively, and allow yourself time to step away from any food regimen at special times in life.

These words are from my friend Lindsey Smith, a certified health coach and the author of the book “Eat Your Feelings.” She’s also known as the Food Mood Girl, and her website is FoodMoodGirl.com. “It’s important to remember that food is not good or bad, it is just food. Don’t try to quantify or qualify what you are eating or what you had. Instead, focus on what you can add that is healthy and you enjoy. For example, maybe this week, you focus on simply drinking more water or ensuring you have a vegetable with at least two of your meals. These small tweaks lead to a healthier long-term relationship with food rather than always thinking of it as a battle.”

Thank you for writing a great question. Take care of you!

Peer Educator response: You’re only young once, so honestly eat as much as you want! No, wait, not exactly, but your metabolism will equal it out, so enjoy those treats. All you can really do is plan out what you eat and eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored. It’s super easy to get those two mixed up with lots of time on your hands. Please also remember not to let how much you eat dictate how you feel as a person. Body dysmorphia and eating disorders can be really scary, so let yourself do what feels right.

Try:

  • Maybe limit to one treat after dinner.
  • If you think it would make you feel better, add a little bit of exercise to balance out the overeating of Thanksgiving.
  • Don’t become fixated on the fear of gaining weight.
  • Try keeping track of everything you eat in a day.
  • If you eat enough of the right stuff in addition to the treats, you should be fine.
  • Instead of focusing on cutting out food you love, add stuff that’s good for you.
  • Enjoy the snacks when you eat them!

Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email at podmj@healthyteens.com.

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