Typical nutrition advice for the upcoming string of major food-centered holidays is often presented in the language of some sort of fight or struggle in a time of incessant overindulgence. You’ve probably read headlines such as “5 Tips for How to Beat the Holiday Eating Frenzy!”, “Win your Holiday Battle of the Bulge!”, or “Overcome your Holiday Indulgences with these Hacks!” It’s as though we are already defeated before the holiday season begins.
What if we began this holiday season positively with a sense of opportunities instead of food gloom? Could it make a difference for you?
Here are some examples of what I mean:
Reflect and Learn
If you know you have struggled with “indulgence” that has led you down a path of poor sleep, overeating, or lack of exercise, then invest some time now to reflect on the how and why. It could seem overwhelming to mull over the past, but typically it’s not the food itself that is the “problem”. When we carefully think through situations, we often find the contributors to how we handled the food element. For example, we may feel social pressures to go along with the group or we may feel driven to eat due to an emotional state. It is these areas that warrant further examination, and these are our “opportunities”. Try to get into the nitty gritty of those “hows and whys” - you may be surprised at how your reactions and decisions can change for the better.
Say No or Say Yes, but Prioritize Yourself
It is easy to overbook oneself to a schedule full of work parties, family gatherings, happy hours, volunteer activities, and all of the other “have to” tasks that tend to creep in. However, you have the ability to politely decline invitations for the sake of your sanity and what it is you want to reap from the holiday season. We each have a threshold for what is manageable and supportive of our personal goals, which goes along with the “reflect and learn” point made above. Stay true to yourself, but don’t forget that you have the right to enjoy the hoopla of the holiday season too.
Food as a Connector
Although some of us can joke about the holiday season being defined by the number of cookies we can get in the belly, the season is really a time of giving, social connectedness, celebrating our personal faith (in whatever way that is for you), and acknowledging our year of accomplishments while we prepare for the year ahead. Even though you may have food-related traditions, remember that it is not the food itself that really determines a happy holiday season. Rather, it is the connection that food brings, which is often the gathering of loved ones, helping others, or celebrating special occasions.
One Day, or One Meal, at a Time
Perhaps it is cliché, but remembering to slow down your holiday rush so that you take one day at a time can be a powerful (and positive!) strategy. From a food perspective, there’s no race to finish the food on your plate or zip out the door. Take time to enjoy your food and “be with it”. If you have an unpleasant food experience or decision, then remember the reflect and learn tip. Then reset yourself for your next opportunity and go forward.
Here’s to your happy and healthy season ahead!
Dina Griffin, MS, RDN, CSSD, CISSN
The Nutrition Mechanic
Registered Dietitian / Sport Dietitian