It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The excitement of time spent with family. The anticipation of giving the perfect gift to someone you love. Witnessing the innocence and love in a child’s face when Santa has eaten their cookies and replaced them with colorful packages, wrapped beautifully and adorned with their name. But this time of the year can also bring busy schedules, added stress, and anxiety over holiday meals and eating. The holidays can often present mental health issues as many people struggle with the balance of their nutrition goals and enjoying their favorite meal or snacks that come around this time of year. We see cookies and candies, sweets, treats and specially made foods just about everywhere we go. What many of us often forget is, one meal- or even a few, will not derail us from our nutrition and health goals long term. While one may experience symptoms of GI distress, or mental distress over their choice to indulge, the time will quickly pass and you will be back to your healthy self. To help minimize the added stress, go into the holidays with a PLAN! Write out your goals on paper before you head into a holiday event. Being prepared not only gives you a guide, but it mentally prepares you for the moment you face the buffet table at Grandma’s. Here are a few ideas for navigating your way through a healthy holiday season:
· Give yourself permission. Don’t set yourself up for failure when you decide to enjoy something you don’t on a daily basis. Instead of framing something as a “forbidden food”, go into the meal or event knowing you give yourself permission to enjoy that particular food or drink and don’t look back or shame yourself after.
· Rid yourself of guilt or shame. Have an intuitive mindset to listen to your body when full, and don’t shame yourself for enjoying the food you love at this once a year meal.
· Don’t head out to do your holiday shopping on an empty stomach! Every corner is lined with fast food and tempting treats. Fill up before heading out with nutritious and healthy foods.
· Keep away from the munchies! This is a tough one, but can be overcome. Find something to occupy yourself such as playing a game with the kids, helping the host with last minute gifts or cleaning, offering to make drinks or grab something for others or find a comfy spot on the couch and enjoy a holiday movie if one is playing.
· Sit next to a fellow healthy eater. If the person next to you skips the hearty helping on mashed potatoes and gravy in lieu of the roasted brussels sprouts, chances are, so will you!
· Keep mints or gum handy. Popping a mint or piece of gum before and after the meal will aid in preventing overeating from the snack and dessert tables.
· Don’t skip meals! Deprivation in “preparation” for a large meal often backfires as it can leave you hungry and tempted to overeat once food is presented. Stick to your normal eating routine the day of your holiday meal to best combat overeating later.
So remember, make a plan for yourself, do your best to adhere to it, don’t shame yourself and enjoy your holiday season. -Jill Simon