It’s that time of year when temptation is everywhere we turn. Maybe your kids still have buckets of candy leftover from Halloween and you keep sneaking “just one” hoping they won’t notice. Or maybe you have started to think about Thanksgiving dinner (WHAAAAT? It’s 10 days away! ?) Then comes Christmas. I remember years ago when Christmas didn’t show up until the day after Thanksgiving, but now the season seems to last longer—already the stores are lined with holiday chocolates for Christmas and booze for New Year’s Eve.
It’s a tough time of year to make healthy choices. I know, I used to struggle to be “good” but ended up being “bad” and beating myself up on January 1. I GET IT.
Every year around holiday time, there’s an influx of articles about how to stick to your healthy eating goals and resist temptation. That’s not what this post is about. I’m not going to give you some test to take to see if you are stressed. I’m not going to give you a list of foods to avoid or alternative ingredients. I’m not going to guilt you into making certain healthy choices. Instead of stress, pressure, and guilt, I will share my struggles and how I resolved to enjoy the holiday foods.
Tips to help you survive and enjoy the coming weeks of celebrating:
Enjoy the food.
Food is part of traditions and memories, so sample your favorite cookies or pumpkin pie. Eat slow and take time to really enjoy every bite. When we eat fast, we shorten the enjoyment time and feel like we didn’t get enough. Focus on how your food smells, looks and tastes. This is called mindful eating, and it’s about fully enjoying what you eat without regret or shame. Mindful eating also includes being mindful of how much sugar is in a candy cane or how consuming gluten, dairy, or whatever your body rebels against can turn your joy into pain.
Eat in Moderation
I resolved years ago that I was not going to beat myself up for having a little enjoyment during the holidays. If you want to taste a piece of pumpkin or apple pie, cut yourself a 1/4 of what you used to eat and enjoy the flavor. Instead of grabbing a handful of chocolate, have one piece and savor it, promising yourself you’ll make it back to the candy dish later to saver just one more piece. Slow down and notice how your stomach feels before you start eating. If you’re still hungry, find something healthy on the table to eat and when you’re almost full, stop eating.
The Holiday Season is Short
If you have a healthy diet in general, a couple of choices of celebratory food won’t be detrimental. If you don’t usually eat well, make that a goal in the new year. Enjoy these special moments focusing on friends and family.
My Almond Trick
If you have a little of the right kinds of fat right before you eat, you can “trick” your hormonal system by sending the signal to your brain that you’re full. Because of almond’s fat content, consuming it may make you feel full longer and avoid temptations. In addition to the usable fats almonds contain, they’re full of fiber which also helps you stay full longer and helps you from overeating. Grab a handful of almonds to eat before a party, drink a glass of almond milk at night to avoid holiday leftover temptations.
It’s OK to Say No Thank You
This was a hard one for me as my personality and gifts include empathy. I worried more about their feelings than mine then I would end up with an angry belly and antacids. I had to resolve that I don’t need to make someone else happy by eating what they have prepared. It was the norm for me to eat more when a host graciously offers more, but now I graciously refuse seconds. I learned to enjoy my ability to make good choices, and trust my appetite. I have learned what foods I can eat without a reaction, and which foods my body rebels with. If someone brings me a plate of goodies, I accept it graciously and pass it on. (Yep, I’m a re-gifter ?)