It's time to celebrate, not self-flagellate. 
Credit: Photo Courtesy of Oxmoor House

The greatest gift you can give yourself this season is eliminating the word "guilty" from your vocabulary, especially when it comes to eating. If you’re a lawyer, have committed some manner of crime, or accidentally woke up a puppy that had been snugly asleep in your lap, please continue using it in those particular contexts.

When it comes to food, however, it’s time to make guilt a ghost of holidays past. As a maelstrom of festive gatherings swirls around centerpieces of sweets, meats, cheese, booze, bubbles, and traditional dishes, it’s easy—and entirely understandable—to be tempted the edible, drinkable bounty.

There's ‘nog to sip, lebkuchen to nibble, and stollen to sample. And it's there to be shared and enjoyed. But then the little voice in your head whispers: "Ooooh, should I be naughty? What happens if I sneak a cookie? I'll feel so guilty tomorrow."

Yeah. Now's a good time to tell that voice to shut its fruitcake hole so you can be present in the moment and enjoy yourself. You do not need to feel the slightest bit of remorse for it later.

If you eat until you feel physically unwell afterward, okay, that's one thing. Maybe listen more closely to your body and pace yourself better next time. But there's no need to beg forgiveness after sampling holiday treats—because you didn't do anything wrong in the first place. Food—even sweet, gooey, calorie-laden, carb-heavy, and fatty fare—is morally neutral. It does not confer virtue or vice upon the person who consumes it. It's just, you know, food. You're allowed to enjoy it.

I know that's not always easy. Especially at a time of year when headlines and TV segments and commercials abound telling you how many minutes you'll need to spend on the treadmill to burn off the candy cane you just ate, or that you should strategize before parties, socking down baby carrots to avoid the temptation of the cheese plate.

But please remember: It's not a zero-sum game. Snacks are not a cruel trap that your colleagues and loved ones have laid out for the express purpose of having a snicker at you (oooohhhh… are those snickerdoodles?).

Foods, especially these, are crafted for pleasure, and to experience that pleasure is not a failure on your part. If you don't want to eat them, that's perfectly fine, too. But you don't have to be "stronger" than a cookie on principle. That's just exhausting, and the cookie doesn't actually care.

Maybe it's the echo—or presence—of other people's voices policing your delight, hissing: Do you really need that slice of Stilton or the cup of mulled wine? Friends: Don't be silly—of course not. No one needs cheese and booze. (Blasphemy! If technically true.)

But they're truly lovely foods. And so long as there's no actual medical impediment in your way, you can (and should) have at them—and maybe make a resolution to seek out some kinder companions in the coming year. (Yes, even if you're related to them. Again with the blasphemy.)

Guilt is an emotion that steals from you: It takes time, sleep, confidence, sustenance, and pleasure. Cross being guilty off your list, disinvite guilt from your soiree, and stop letting shame feed off you over the holidays, and during holidays yet to come.

The very kindest present you can give yourself is the chance to be present—and enjoy the ding-dang marzipan.