Yes, you read it right, ditch the diet this holiday season- the season of parties and buffet tables filled with cookies and cake, pies, chips and dips, breads and cheeses, and hot creamy drinks spiked with alcohol. Why is this health professional encouraging you to ditch the diet during this time? Because the diet mentality causes restrictive, negative thinking that sets you up for stress, struggles, and usually guarantees defeat. Doesn’t sound very festive does it? Not to mention most people agree this time of year brings about a whole lot of stress and anxiety. Family conflicts, financial strain, finding the right gift, travel plans going awry, and unpredictable weather can wreak havoc on our minds and bodies, so why ADD to all of that by putting restrictions on what we can eat?*
Here are some ways to stay stress-free, healthy, and happy while still enjoying all the delicious food the holidays has to offer:
- Make A Game Plan. You’re most likely not going to a holiday party every night of the week, so when you’re not out, center your meals around the nutritionally dense foods (whole grains, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats). Have healthy foods ready and available. To avoid arriving at a party in starvation mode, eat a small meal before you go so when you get to the buffet table you can make smart choices. Having nutritious meals available for the days after the party can also help you get back into the groove of healthy eating for the rest of the week (or until the next party).
- Contribute. If you are going to someone’s home for a get-together, offer to bring a healthy appetizer or dish of your own that you would feel good eating while there.
- Indulge in Tradition. Grandma’s homemade scratch apple pie is special. The apple pie bought at the grocery store is most certainly not. Ask yourself if what you want to eat was made with love by people you know, or if someone just picked it up at the store for the sake of bringing something. Enjoy the foods of your culture, not the mass produced stores.
- Savor the food. Eat slowly and taste every bite, after all, you only eat this special holiday food once a year! It also takes our brain 20 minutes to register when our belly is full, so by eating slowly we are more likely to feel ourselves getting full and to stop. When we eat too fast, we can end up eating way more than what our stomachs can handle, leading to the uncomfortable (or painfully) full feeling (you know what I’m talking about!).
- It’s ok to say “no.” It’s ok to say “no” when you are offered another helping of the fried meatballs made with your family’s secret recipe. Like most things, when you have too much of something it becomes less special. Plan a few phrases to say to those food pushers. Sometimes you might just have to repeat yourself with a simple, “No thank you, I’m really full!” Remember, no one can make you eat anything you don’t want to and it’s not your responsibility to make them feel better by eating.
- Be Kind To Yourself. So you ended up having that eighth cookie. While your stomach may be hurting, you don’t need to add extra pain by berating yourself or feeling guilty. Acknowledge that you ate and enjoyed it, then move on to enjoying other non-food related activities.
There’s going to be a lot of stress we cannot control during the holidays, but we can help ourselves deal more effectively with the stress by eating well and allowing ourselves to enjoy the fun holiday foods.
*This is not giving you permission to ignore any health advice your doctors have given you, particularly if you have certain health conditions.