Is your holiday mindset: lots of food = good time; not so much food = bad time? Can you exude holiday spirit without accompanying gluttony?
You bet you can, but it isn’t always easy. Celebrations are often intertwined with the need or obligation to cook and/or eat — not just because you’re hungry, but for many other reasons, too. There always seems to be that one common denominator: food – and a lot of it.
Since we all have to eat, it can be a very slippery slope to eat well when you’re surrounded by all that food; family and friends; an encyclopedia of cultural, religious, and family traditions; and a whole host of expectations.
Is Food Part Of Your Holiday?
In the grand scheme of things, the actual content of your Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas meal matters very little. Consistently overeating a few hundred calories will have its effects over time, but the extra calories from one meal has negligible impact (you may feel totally stuffed, but you can work off the one day’s indulgence pretty easily).
It’s the inevitable mindless eating – those bites and nibbles and calories from the treats on the receptionist’s desk, the gift of peanut brittle, the holiday toasts, the second and third helpings, the holiday cookies in the snack room and everywhere else, that are the culprits. If the food is in front of you it’s hard not to indulge. See it = eat it!
Food Has Meaning
During the holidays we wrap our thoughts around food – after all, Thanksgiving originally was a harvest celebration and many cultures and religions have special foods to signify a special holiday. Aren’t there visions of sugarplums dancing in your head?
Food, its meaning and presentation may be interpreted differently – but with equal importance — by people of varying religions, ethnicities, and cultures. Food also acts like a cloak of comfort – something many of us look for and welcome around the holidays.
- But, nowhere is it written that holiday food has to be eaten in tremendous quantity – or that a meal has to include stuffing, two types of potatoes, five desserts, or six types of candy. That idea is self-imposed.
- So is the opposite self-imposed idea: trying to diet during the holidays. Restriction and overeating are both difficult – and often equally counterproductive.
- Winter holiday eating comes during the cold and dark seasons in many parts of the world. Warm comfort food just seems all the more appealing — whether you’re dieting or not — when it’s somewhat inhospitable outside and celebratory inside.
Do You Plan to Overeat During the Holidays?
Think about it. Unconsciously, or perhaps intentionally, a lot of us actually plan to overeat during the holidays. Be honest: do you know that you’re going to overeat? Do you think it wouldn’t be normal or non-celebratory if you didn’t overindulge and eat three desserts at Christmas and nibble on every Christmas cookie in sight?
During the holidays food is absolutely everywhere. It’s there for the taking — and most of the time it’s free (and in your face) at parties, on receptionist’s desks, and as sample tastes while you shop. How can you pass it up?
Most of it is sugary, fatty, and pretty. How can you not try it? Of course, sugary and fatty (salty, too) means you just crave more and more. Do you really need it? Do you even really want it? If you eat it, will you feel awful later on?
Traditions, Obligations, and Guilt
We all attach varying levels of importance and obligation to traditions and we all come with varying ounces and pounds of guilt. Here’s where that may come into play during the holiday food fest:
- Do you gobble down holiday food because of tradition – maybe you’ve been eating the same food at Christmas or Hanukkah since you were a kid? Maybe you don’t even like the food anymore. Perhaps it disagrees with you or gives you acid reflux. So why are you eating it? Who’s forcing you to?
- Do you think you won’t have a good time or you’ll be labeled Scrooge, Grinch, a party pooper, or offend your mother-in-law if you don’t eat everything in sight? Get over it. Do you really think you’re Scrooge?
You can still love the holidays and you can still love the food. In the grand scheme of things overeating on one day isn’t such a big deal. Overeating for multiple days that turn into weeks and then months becomes a problem.
Do you really want to overeat? If you do, fine. Enjoy every morsel and then take a nap – although it’s better if you take a walk. Tomorrow is another day. Just know that you don’t have to overeat. You control your fork and the decisions about what goes into your mouth. Make thoughtful choices and enjoy them along with everything else the holiday represents.