Healthy holiday eating (it’s not about the food)

Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I like to think of it as the kickoff event to a 6-week eating marathon. Cookies and brownies will start to magically appear in your office kitchen, your kids will come home from school with candy canes and you’ll receive invites to holiday parties with endless buffets. Everywhere you turn you will be surrounded by all the food you have been told is bad for you, is going to make you gain weight and feel miserable.

Are you nervous?
Does the thought of being left to your own devices around cookies
make you sweat?

Are you already strategizing how to make the healthy choices at every holiday party you attend (like making a promise to only drink water while you’re there or sneaking raw almonds in your purse)?

I know you’ve seen all the articles in magazines, the newspaper, your Facebook feed and maybe even emailed from your friends that say things like “17 Healthy Holiday Tips,” “How to Eat Healthy at Holiday Parties,” or “The Best Holiday Weight Loss Tips.” In my opinion those articles are NOT helpful at all. On the contrary, they are telling you that you can’t be trusted around pumpkin pie and are going to blow up like a balloon by 2015. Unless you remember all of their 17 tips that is……

Total baloney, I say! (Don’t eat baloney…that’s gross 😉

In the past the holidays had me fraught with anxiety too. What am I going to eat? Those cookies are loaded with sugar! That dairy is going to make me congested. And the bread! Oh the bread! That is going to make me all woozy and bloated! Gah!

I would attend every function and event with a knot in my stomach, so obsessed about the food that I probably missed out on some of the fun going on around me. (And, some amazing cookies!)

Health Holiday Eating Banner
So now I’ve adopted a new approach to holiday eating that has nothing to do with the food. Instead, it’s about listening to my body by using these 3 simple guidelines.

1) Take it all in: The holidays start earlier every year, come on quickly and then are gone in a flash. We are resistant for them to begin (what, Christmas music on the radio BEFORE Thanksgiving?!), sad when they are gone and whatever happened in between is a total blur. This year I am totally welcoming the holidays, savoring every little bit (even the early Christmas tunes…in moderation) and making time to be present with my friends and family. Instead of feeding my soul with food I want to feed it with love, gratitude and lots of smiles…..and then some of my mom’s German dumplings.

2) Honor your hunger: When we are constantly surrounded by food it can become hard to identify whether or not we are truly hungry. As in, the stomach growling kind of hungry. So when the Snickerdoodles start to flow it can feel impossible to stop because we weren’t really hungry in the first place. Now, that is also not the only kind of hunger there is. There is also something called Taste Hunger which is eating simply because something tastes good or there is a celebration/holiday that calls for it. In nearly every culture food plays an important role in celebrations and there is nothing wrong with that. However, we tend to make Taste Hunger a trap. If you go into every holiday meal telling yourself “to stay on track I can only eat ONE cookie” and then end up eating two, you will feel guilty, throw in the towel and eat every cookie that crosses your path. Yep, I’ve been there too! Instead, I’m going to eat according to my actual hunger and not create strict rules around eating but rather savor and enjoy whatever food is part of the celebration that I want.

2) Listen and trust your body: We have been told by fad diets, magazines, social media and society that we can’t be trusted around food. At. All. That when given a choice, we would choose to survive on brownies and artichoke dip instead of brown rice and sweet potatoes. So, we hold back, we don’t honor our hunger (see #2) and can’t take it all in (see #1). See the cycle? Let me tell you a secret. Biologically your body will not let you subsist on potato chips or chocolate chips. Trust me. However, since we’ve been told to not trust our bodies, we end up not listening to what they really want, ignore any cues and just eat the chips anyway. I am going to listen to my body and sometimes she will tell me to eat the salad and sometimes she will tell me to enjoy my mom’s cranberry bread. Both are ok.

These guidelines might seem scary at first and yes, incorporating them takes some practice. Nothing and nobody is perfect. But, if you can loosen your grip on your holiday eating rules I bet you will be able to savor every bite without gaining a pound or an ounce of guilt.

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