It’s around this time of year that we start to see headlines, posts and blogs all about “getting through” the holidays. A negative and foreboding feeling has grown around the holiday season, one that thrives on guilt and stress and deprivation.
But I don’t want you to feel like you have to miss out to feel good going into the new year. This should be a time when we can enjoy family and friends, traditions and even holiday treats.
If we bring mindfulness into the festivities, we can fully enjoy ourselves while not setting ourselves up for the guilt and shame that too often are their own holiday tradition.
To “treat” or not to treat, that is the question…
Just like I’ve said I don’t want you counting calories, I don’t want you counting how many “treats” you are “allowed” to have at a holiday party.
Instead, take a moment to ask yourself if you are actually hungry for that peppermint bark. (If you are hungry, peppermint bark probably isn’t the best option anyway.) Is a meal going to be served later and you just happen to be standing and chatting near the dessert table? Instead of nibbling absentmindedly while you talk, wait for the meal. If after you’ve eaten, you would like to take part in dessert, go for it and enjoy! You are much less likely to go overboard.
Gratitude Gratitude Gratitude
Some people use Thanksgiving as a chance before the meal starts to share what they are thankful for. But this concept can and should work every day. It allows us a moment to be in the present before diving into our meals and can even help us be aware of the thankfulness we can have for the food we will eat.
Take that time to think about where your food came from, who grew or raised it, how it was prepared and presented. This goes a long way for switching our bodies out of fight-or-flight mode and into rest-and-digest mode, allowing our bodies to better digest and absorb what we give them.
Holiday drinking can be one of the more stressful issues for some people this time of year. Is it best to stick to wine? Clear liquors? Perhaps one of the best answers is also one of the more cliched ones: moderation. Nursing one drink over a long dinner or party will help you keep your senses while also preventing “empty calories.”
But whatever you do, pick a drink you actually like. Yes, brown liquors tend to be higher in sugar than clear ones. But don’t force yourself to drink a gin and tonic when what you really want is an Old Fashioned. That’s just another form of “empty calories.” You could potentially end up drinking more from feeling unsatisfied with your choice! Drink what you like, but enjoy and savor it over an extended period.
Many families have holiday food traditions that may not fit into how you currently aim to eat. This doesn’t mean you have to offend your Great Aunt Flora who always makes a jello mold. It also doesn’t mean you have to throw your previous choices out the window.
Offer to bring a new dish or, even better, offer to bring a new twist on an old dish. If you supply the mashed potatoes but add cauliflower, or hot chocolate made with coconut and almond milk and real cocoa powder instead of the store-bought packets, you may actually win over some family members.
That dreaded GUILT (and a little empowerment!)
If you’ve made dietary changes over the last months or years, you’ve probably been asked, “So, you CAN’T eat this?” while someone points accusedly at a dish of sugar-coated ham. This is your chance to explain that you CAN eat anything you want, but that you CHOOSE not to because when you don’t eat that (or you eat something else instead), you feel better.
But even when you do choose something that perhaps leaves you feeling a little less than fabulous (and you know it’s going to happen!) try to release any guilt or judgement about it and yourself as soon as possible! Do not let it define you or send you into a shame spiral, subsequently eating all-the-things just because you “messed up” once. CHOOSE to move on, making the very next food choice one that you know will make you feel good!
And that’s what it’s all about!
And that is what the holidays should truly be about: feeling good and wanting others to feel that way too.