Holiday weight gain is not about the food
The eggnog. It’s calling you. No, it’s tractor beaming you directly into its clutches. Wait, it’s taking you past the cheese blintzes, which spring directly onto your plate, knocking aside helpless radishes and celery. What can you do? The force is strong with holiday food. You have some and then you have some more and, if your Grandma made it, you couldn’t say no even if you wanted to.
It can feel like holiday weight gain is inevitable. The food is special, magical, crafted to push all our physiological and emotional buttons. But I’m here to tell you that this is mainly a story we tell ourselves. Holiday weight gain isn’t about the food! It’s about our state of mind.
You see, there are two factors at work here. You and the food…and the food is not the enemy. It’s just food. When you’re feeling strong and balanced, you can listen to your hunger and make good decisions about what your body needs. You can enjoy a few favorites and balance it out in the rest of your diet. No big deal. But when you’re run down, stressed, ravenous or have had a few mulled wines, you are not in a position to pay attention to your true needs or your body’s cues.
So yes, it’s easier to run a gauntlet of crudité than pass a buffet of pies, but what will make the difference is YOU, not the food.
Here are four of my favorite strategies for navigating holiday foods that put the locus of control back with you, where it should be.
During this holiday season, regularly check in with yourself about why you’re eating. When you tune in before you take a bite you might learn a lot about your motivations. You could be truly hungry. Here’s a hint: does plain turkey or tofu sound good (assuming you like turkey or tofu)? If so, you’re probably actually hungry. On the other hand, you might find that you’re stressed from the holiday bustle or anxious about interacting at a party. Or you might find that the holidays are bringing up challenging emotions like loneliness or loss. If you discover you’re eating to soothe stress, anxiety or emotional pain, you open up the freedom to take care of yourself in other ways.
Mindfulness is not about policing yourself. It’s actually positive and freeing! If you fine-tune your mindfulness skills, there is no need to change lifelong holiday recipes or follow strict dieting rules. Go ahead and have some of Nana’s stuffing in all its fatty-carby goodness and you’ll truly enjoy it, feel satisfied, and move on. Mindfulness lets us savor and take joy in what we choose to eat. We can also ditch the guilt from having mindlessly plowed through a pile of treats to try to manage our stress or feelings only to find that we didn’t even stop to enjoy the experience. That’s the worst!
Prioritize your holiday favorites.
Right now, sit down and make a list of your most treasured holiday foods. The ones you remember from childhood, that amazing challah from the local bakery, your killer cranberry sauce. You’ll know what they are. Maybe even note who makes the best version of your top contenders. Then vow to enjoy them in their highest quality versions this season. Really stop and savor them. Then say no to treats that aren’t on your list, or even to your favorites when they’re second-rate.
Prep before you party!
If you head to a party ravenous, there often isn’t enough mindfulness in the world to stop you from grabbing the first available food you see. What I often do is have a pre-party at home with some veggies and guac or hummus before I head out. This is great for two reasons. First, it takes the edge of my hunger so I can practice choosing the high-quality foods that will truly bring me joy. Second, it makes sure I’ve gotten my veggies that day, in case there aren’t any veggie options at the party.
Winter can be a dry time, and sometimes we mix our signals and eat when we’re actually thirsty and dehydrated. Start with a glass of still or sparkling water first thing and then see how you feel. Rehydrating can help replenish your energy and focus to make the food decisions you want to make.
Here’s the thing. You don’t have to go to every holiday party you are invited to. It sounds counter-intuitive, but if you say “no” to more holiday events and obligations, you may have a more fun and festive holiday season. Think about your priorities and make sure the things you say “yes” to align with them. If they don’t, you’ll start to feel stressed, overwhelmed, burnt out and spread way too thin. And then, you may find yourself back at the buffet, fighting off those pesky cheese blintzes.
Holiday-proof your health with my 6-Week Strong, Mind, Strong Body program. Get the knowledge, mindset and support you need to navigate this stressful food-filled season and finish 2019 strong!
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