Top Tips for Navigating Holiday Food
– Amy Lassen, MS, CHC
Trigger Warning/Disclaimer: This post is meant to serve as a general resource to provide strategies and forethought for people who struggle with wellness routines during the holiday season. We recognize that a one size fits all approach does not work and this post was NOT written, and wound not necessarily fit for persons in recovery from Eating Disorders. We do sympathize with this common and painful struggle, and acknowledge that it would require additional training to ethically make recommendations for that populations. Therefore, in true 12-step fashion, we ask that you take what you like and leave the rest. Additionally, If anyone reading this blog does have specialized training, we would love to invite you to contribute a specialized blog to share your wisdom and support with our audience. May you have a happy, healthy and balanced Holiday season!
It’s all about balance…..
The holidays can be wonderful, fun, and memory-filled. And at the same time, they sure can be stressful and anxiety-provoking! I hope to offer a few simple guidelines for navigating through the food that will help bring peace and greater emotional stability in the midst of the holiday chaos. My holidays are so much more happy now that I don’t overindulge on sugary, fat-laden treats. I found that it was literally affecting my mental health and my ability to handle the stress around me. Now, believe me, it took me some work to get to that point. But it was worth it! Be patient with yourself as you tackle this. One step at a time.
1. Have a plan for what and when you will eat. Without a plan it is impossible to navigate the food. For example, commit to eating a healthy meal or snack before you go to a Christmas party or somewhere where there will be lots of treats. It will help you to feel satisfied and help to control over-indulging. Just like you don’t want to be ravenously hungry when you are grocery shopping, you don’t want to go to a treat-laden party in that state either. If you do end up wanting to eat something, you will be able to more thoughtfully choose what is worth it to you if you’ve eaten something nourishing for your body beforehand. Another idea for navigating treats is, instead of buying candy for stockings and having it around the house where it’s a temptation all day, buy trinkets. Or if you can’t stand the thought of not having candy in the stockings, buy it at the last moment so it’s not sitting around. Another example is to find other yummy crunchy treats, such as nuts, to put in bowls around the house rather than candy.
One of the most helpful things I did when I was trying to kick the “over-indulging on sugar” habit was to make a rule for myself that I had to eat my sugar at the end of a meal. No eating it as a snack or snacking on it between meals. You wouldn’t believe the difference it made. I didn’t feel deprived because I knew I would be getting my fix. But I had to eat it as a dessert after a meal. After a while of doing this I ate less and less sweets – the cravings for treats just gradually minimized.
2. Find some new recipes for tasty, healthy treats so there are things you can enjoy without the guilt. Finding new recipes is super helpful in the quest to substitute old habits for new. And there are lots of healthy treats you can make that taste good too and that use natural sweeteners.
3. Don’t beat yourself up if you do eat a few treats. In fact, ideally, add a few favorite holiday foods that you can’t live without into your food plan. And if you go outside the realm of what you planned, just move on to the next meal. This may take some practice…at least it did for me. I was an “all or nothing” person. So I had to learn how to be gentle and accepting of myself when I ate something that I hadn’t planned to eat – or when I ate more than I had planned. I had to erase the thinking that if I “messed up” at one meal, then I might as well mess up for all 3 meals. The minute you eat something outside of your plan, just renew your efforts for the next meal. Perfectionism is the enemy here!
4. Center your activities around things and people rather than food. There are so many fun things to do over the holiday season, that it is entirely possible to slowly move the focal point away from food. For example, in our family, there will always be a few things that we love and look forward to eating. But, for the most part, our fun comes from things like the nativity set that the kids play with all season long, decorating the tree, the advent calendar with little trinkets to look forward to everyday, the music, the lights, spreading joy and cheer by helping others, and making connections with people. Making connections with friends and family and focusing on really talking with people and getting to know them, are too often lost if we are over-focused on eating.
Register for our free webinar / Q&A on Monday, November 22nd at 1PM ET for more information on navigating holiday food to help maintain your mental health and wellness over the holidays. Submit your questions in advance and I will address them on Monday – or bring your questions to the live session!