2020 has been a stressful year for many of us and the last thing we want to have to worry about is the inevitable wave of less than ideal food choices that accompanies the holiday season.
Halloween has already come and gone, and perhaps so too has our mindful eating practices we’ve worked so hard to establish during the year. With Thanksgiving (and many Friendsgiving’s) and Christmas looming, many people both consciously and unconsciously prepare to do battle with drinking alcohol, eating cake, and many other Festive goodies. So, what can we do to ease the stress of the holiday season?
Let’s talk paradigms. We can often separate people into two distinct groups.
Group A consists of people who are very mindful most of the year over their food choices and can be strict with their “diets”. Some may have reached the Nirvana level where they can “reward” themselves when they choose without worry. But the majority of this group struggles daily with making the “right” choice and staying on track – and should they fall off the wagon, they flog themselves mentally and physically with extra workouts and an even more restrictive diet. And during the holiday season, it is this group of people who stress the most. “Do I go to this party with cake and alcohol? Will I look weird if I turn down all these treats? Can I be social without participating?” The list of self-doubt goes on and on.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to remember. One cookie won’t make you fat just like one salad won’t make you skinny. And most importantly, you’ve already put in the work and built a great foundation all year that you can use as your guideline to eating normally the meal after or even the day after a party.
And then there is Group B, the majority of us who are still struggling with trying to have a solid foundation of eating and are easily triggered into making consistently less than ideal choices. When we make a “poor” choice, we jump off that cliff completely and self-sabotage. In fact, we may not even think about whether the choice we are making is good or bad, we just go for it at social events!
So, if this sounds like you, the most helpful way I find to get through the holidays is to still enjoy yourself but exercise a modicum of control. When you reach for the third cookie, ask yourself, “Am I doing this because I actually enjoy eating this cookie and really want a third one OR am I doing this because, well, it’s the holidays and I already had two so screw it!” More often than not, many of us fall into the latter, and so rather than fall into this spiral of eating despair, let’s think about really enjoying those first two cookies WITHOUT guilt and putting down the third one. In short, learn to enjoy what you are eating and actually take the time while eating it to appreciate it.
Now regardless of what group you find yourself in or if you happen to be somewhere in between, here are a few pro tips:
- Meal prep before you go to a party for the following day. Vegetables, lean meats, low glycemic starches. That way you are prepared the next day to get back on track.
- Don’t like cooking? Take home leftovers that will not trigger you to continue to eat poorly. Bring home the extra salad and the extra proteins. Leave the carbs and the sweets. Chances are, you have them at home anyway!
- At a social event, spread out your eating. Fill a small plate and nibble. Most likely, there will be more than enough food to go back and get more. In between plates, drink a glass of water. In between beers or wines, drink a glass of water. And don’t sit in the corner, eating or drinking by yourself. Participate and be social – and it’ll slow down your cravings.
So, a few final words:
Let yourself enjoy the holiday season. One extra cookie will not make you fat. One extra workout will not make you skinny. And once the holiday season is over, you have a whole 350 days to re-build a consistent, sustainable eating lifestyle that still includes pizza and beer!
Shameless self-plug: you can always stock your freezer with ful. meals so you don’t have to worry about whether you have heathy meals lying around!