I’m tired of all the blogs and articles on surviving the holidays. It makes what is supposed to be a very exciting, joyous time of the year sound like a horrible experience that you just need to get through while barely hanging on. People survive cancer, wars, famine, and natural disasters. How does surviving get attached to the holidays? Yes, I know that there is a lot of stress around the holidays, and I realize that it is a difficult time of year for many people. I acknowledge that there are certain life events that make the holidays harder, however when there’s a holiday survival guide for everything under the sun, it has to make you wonder what is so bad about the holidays that we just need to survive? I can’t help but wonder- what would happen if we shifted our focus from surviving the holidays to actually enjoying them? What if changing the way we think about the holidays affected the way we felt and reacted too? With that in mind here is my Holiday Enjoyment Guide (it sounds better already):
1. Focus on the reason. The holiday season starts in October and runs through the New Year. With the various holidays, there are various reasons why we celebrate. Keep this reason in mind as you gather with your friends and family. It’s the real reason you are gathering together, enjoying each other’s company and the delicious foods. It’s not about the hustle and bustle, the whos-its and whats-its, or whatever else seems important.
2. Eat throughout the day. This is a must, turns out no matter what we do, our body needs fuel to live and that fuel comes in the form of food. We need this fuel to be provided regularly throughout the day for us to feel good. Even during the holidays. You may be tempted by fashion magazines and media outlets to skip meals or snacks to save for later, but this doesn’t work. All this does is set you up to eat very quickly, not taste the food, overeat, and then complain about it and feel uncomfortable. I don’t know many people who enjoy that and since this is the Holiday Enjoyment Guide – the way to enjoy the holidays is to eat regular meals (and snacks) throughout the day.
3. Eat what you enjoy. Seems overly simplistic, but it’s not. Food enjoyment leads to satisfaction, and according to research, people who are satisfied with their eating, eat less. There seems to be this rampant belief that to be healthy you must only eat healthy foods, but that’s not the case. All foods can fit in a healthy lifestyle and that includes the foods you enjoy (even carbs –gasp). Righteous deprivation is still deprivation and eventually leads to overeating. Instead of rebounding with your eating- having good/bad days or cheat days- include balance and eat the foods you enjoy. Use discretion and think about what would be pleasing to you. Remember eating all cookies (steak, candy, or whatever it is you love) might taste good, but are you really going to feel good? There is balance with matters of taste and matters of nutrition/physiology. If we really think about it, you aren’t going to enjoy food very much that makes you feel unwell and you aren’t going to enjoy food very much that the taste leaves much to be desired. So instead, think balance. Include foods that taste good and make you feel good.
4. Enjoy what you eat. This may seem like the same thing but it’s not. When your friends or family offer you their special holiday food and you feel obliged to put it on your plate, what do you do? Do you have to eat it? If you’re not hungry- then no, save it for later. If it’s something you don’t like- then no, politely pass. If you’re not sure if you want it- you can decide to try it, but if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat more. If you love it and you’re hungry or you just want the taste, then by all means, enjoy. Don’t just eat to please though, enjoy what you eat. And just because you put something on your plate doesn’t mean that you have to eat it all.
5. Don’t fat talk. It seems like the holiday meal isn’t over until one of your family members talks about how full they are, how they ate too much, and about how now they need to do X amount of exercise to burn all the X amount of calories they ate. Part of enjoying the holidays and your food means that you eat without guilt. It means that you honor and respect your body and that means no fat talk. It’s negative, detrimental, and counterintuitive to satisfaction and food enjoyment. So leave it at the door. If your family or friends are fat talking, don’t be an innocent bystander- speak up- challenge their beliefs, change the conversation, or at least leave the room.
6. Handle stress and exhaustion. There is stress during the holiday season, but learn to handle stress and exhaustion without turning to or away from food. Develop good stress management techniques, learn to ask for help from family and friends, and manage your schedule to prevent becoming overwhelmed and overloaded. If you find yourself turning to or away from food, you might temporarily feel better, but then your same problem is still there and you are probably going to feel worse. To feel better, and enjoy the holidays, means that you must take care of yourself, manage your stress, eat consistently, and in a manner that is pleasing in both taste and nutrition.
I’m sure there’s more- what other guidelines could be included with your Holiday Enjoyment Guide?