This blog post was written by Kristen Peairs, Nutritionist and Meditation Guru at Nivati. You can see more of their content on the Nivat platform and on the Nivati blog. If you want to learn more about Nivati, click here.
Oh, the holidays! With the abundance of new foods, people, and obligations, life can feel extra challenging. If you’re trying to maintain health goals, the added holiday stress might make the idea of giving up sound like a good idea.
Don’t give up! It’s going to be all right.
I know it can be frustrating to go to an event where there is a plethora of food, only to find that none of it supports your health goal. I’ve been there. Food allergies and intolerances, blood sugar issues, weight worries, etc., all require extra attention to what we consume. If we go offtrack, we feel the consequences. Some consequences, such as anaphylaxis, gas, bloating, and energy spikes, may be immediate while other consequences such as weight gain, illness, and fatigue may take longer to manifest. Regardless, who wants to deal with all that if it’s not necessary?
In the old days, before I cared so much about my health, I would pass over the health-supporting foods and instead, sample the whole array of both familiar and novel holiday treats–cakes, cookies, hors d’oeuvres, casseroles–because they looked good, it was a special time, and I thought I might never be able to try them again. Even after my belly was full, I would continue sampling the treats. Looking back, I realize that my snacking was related to feeling anxious. I wanted to please the cook, I wanted to fit in, or I wanted to relax. There was always a price to pay for my indulgences, though. Low energy, gas, bloating, and brain fog would plague me for days afterward.
As the years have gone by, I’ve come to realize that the indulgence is not worth the cost. I’ve had nearly forty years of practice and I’ve decided that I value a healthy mind and body more than I value just about anything else.
Healthy eating during the holidays is possible. Below are my top tips for healthy eating during the holidays.
1. Eat fruits and veggies, first
If fruits and vegetables are present on the holiday food table, eat them first. Even though fruits and vegetables might seem boring, they are highly supportive for keeping the body and brain in top-notch working order. The vitamins, minerals, fluids, fiber, and healthy sugar in fruits and vegetables supply the body with the perfect ingredients to support nearly every person’s health and wellbeing. As an additional bonus, they are not calorically dense, which means a large amount of them can be eaten without worrying about the waistline. Whether you eat fruits and veggies before or during an event, they will help fill you with the nutrients you need to function your best.
2. Pack snacks
The holidays have a way of surprising us with snacks and goodies everywhere we go. To decrease the temptation to consume foods that are misaligned with your health goal, pack snacks and keep them close by. Dried fruits and nuts, granola bars, and whole-grain crackers are all viable options. They travel well and meet most health goals. Having pre-packed snacks available can reduce cravings and provide peace of mind when hunger pangs start.
3. Enjoy treats in moderation
Sometimes, saying no to unhealthy food offerings during the holidays just isn’t going to happen. Food and the ones serving it have emotional significance. Memories of goodies from times gone by can make the craving to eat the treats now irresistible. Favorite family members offering prized foods can inspire feelings of goodness that are hard to pass up. If you decide to eat foods that aren’t aligned with your health goal, eat single bites rather than whole servings. Fill up on the foods that physically support you and treat the treats like treats by eating them in moderation.
4. Care for your mental health
For many of us, the holidays feel tremendously stressful. Whether the stress relates to changes in routine, family dramas, painful memories, or added expectations, it’s easy to use foods and/or beverages to help take the edge off. While the cake and the glass of wine might feel helpful in the moment, these choices don’t address the underlying problems. Depending on what you’re consuming, and the mental or physical consequences of that consumption, you could be substantially increasing your long-term stress load.
Taking time to care for your mental health can make healthy eating for the holidays easier. Daily journaling, quiet time, and meditation can help your brain and body slow down while also providing an outlet for processing what’s going on. Counselors and other mental health professionals can provide deep listening, alternate perspectives, and life skills to help us feel more relaxed and comfortable in all life situations.
5. Move more
Even if we are eating according to our health goals during the holidays, we might still be over-consuming calories. More movement is an antidote to this conundrum. Whether you want to schedule extra trips to the gym or choose the stairs over the elevator, more movement makes a difference when seeking to prevent lasting weight changes from holiday eating. A recent study showed that while people typically only average about one pound of weight gain over the holidays, their engagement in physical activity is a factor that highly influences whether or not the pound is still there a year later.
6. Say “No” with Love
In many families, the provision and consumption of food is regarded as a transaction of love. Saying “no thank you,” when invited to eat a family member’s dessert results in their hurt feelings and your guilt-filled heart. What do you do in a situation such as this? Though this topic is part of a much bigger exploration, let’s focus on a few actions you can take to support both yourself and your family in maintaining connection as you take steps to honor your health.
· Deeply center yourself on the reasons why you’re committed to your health goal.
· Communicate with your family members about your new commitment days or weeks before the gathering happens. Let them know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Ask if they are willing to support you and have a few ideas ready to offer if they say “yes.”
· If you forget to do advance communication, and you get to say “no,” at a gathering, say something along the lines of “Wow! This looks and smells amazing. You are so talented. Thank you for offering it to me. I’m sorry I forgot to tell you in advance, but I have changed my diet and I can’t eat this right now. I’m really committed to achieving my health goal and it’s important that I stay on track.” Then give them a hug and ask if you can help with anything.
Staying committed to health goals can be hard, but the long-term benefits are worth it.
Wishing you a great holiday season!
For more insights on coping with holiday-related stress, check out ‘Tis the Season to Be Jolly… Right?
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