It’s insane, but completely and utterly understandable, that a period of time in which there are ONLY 3-4 days of legit holidays turns into a solid month and a half of alcohol and food related debauchery, leaving us feeling bloated, lethargic, unmotivated, powerless, and for me in the past, just freaking depressed with jeans that won’t button.
I can’t tell you how many Januarys I’ve approached feeling that way. Similar to the way I travel (which I recently wrote about here), I simply got exhausted of having overindulgent holiday eating rule my life year after year. It took introspection, a re-valuation of the way I truly want to feel every day, getting to the bottom of what holidays are REALLY about (hint: it’s not all food) and the implementation of easy, clear, and practical strategies.
There are a couple tools that help me get through the holidays now, and they’re mainly rooted in AWARENESS of yourself. Remember that you always hold the power in any situation, food related or otherwise. You’re in charge of how you get to feel. And if you really re-evaluate how you truly want to feel every day, I guarantee that overeating isn’t a part of it.
What I really want to come across in this post is that there shouldn’t be periods of extremes. We should aim to eat the same way every day. That’s REALLY the ONLY way to have a sustainable, sane relationship with food. If we honor our hunger and fullness levels no matter what day it is, and choose foods that our body wants (as opposed to our mind), then our food choices and the quantity of foods falls into place naturally. This doesn’t happen overnight, but rather, with steady, committed practice. Of course you can take the easy way out and diet and detox after the holidays. But that isn’t sustainable or fun. Imagine being relaxed around food ALL OF THE TIME. I never thought I’d get here, but here I am, after lots of practice.
So let’s get to it with our tactics of awareness during this stressful time.
First up is food fomo (fear of missing out). I’m convinced that this is the main reason why most people succumb to old habits throughout the holidays. They believe that this is the ONLY TIME EVER that they will be able to have (insert favorite holiday food) so they HAVE TO eat as much of it as they can. There’s a huge scarcity mentality surrounding many of us when it comes to these foods. What happens when we think that way is we overeat, we hoard the food, we eat when we aren’t hungry, just because, in our mind, the thing is available now and only now for the rest of eternity.
This is all rooted in fear of missing out with food! You hoard as much as you can because you think you can only get it right now, and what the hell, you NEED a surplus of it. But really stop and evaluate. How is overeating those foods REALLY making you feel? And also, remember that you CAN eat this stuff anytime you want. You are an adult. And if you want pie or mashed potatoes, you can make the damn decision to choose to eat it whenever the hell you want. On a Tuesday, if you wish. For breakfast. Literally whenever. You can make it yourself, you can ask for a recipe, you can freeze some. It literally will not change your life if you eat one bite of something or if you eat the whole thing. You really don’t need to eat the whole thing. You can, if it makes you feel comfortable. But does it, really?
This goes along with the dieting mentality, in which there are periods of “on” and “off”, which tricks people into extremes of overeating and restricting. People, there is another, much saner way. When all foods are allowed all the time, they lose their charge, and we can reclaim our power and make the decision of what to eat based off of what we’re in the mood for and what our body really wants and needs, all while honoring our feelings of hunger and fullness.
What’s worth it?
Secondly, REALLY evaluate what’s worth it to you. Some people view the holidays as a binge-fest in which they’ve allowed themselves eat EVERYTHING and lots of it. And if you want to, that’s fine, but again, think of your goals, think of how you really want to feel. Be honest with yourself. How will eating that make you feel? Is it worth it?
Food isn’t just food. It’s a vehicle that provides us with sensations far beyond the physical taste. It evokes feelings, nostalgia, love, and HOME. For that reason, you SHOULD eat some of what you really want to during the holidays. But evaluate what is REALLY REALLY worth it to you. Those things that will be able to bring those feelings out and give you the happiness that you desire. I’m sure there are some things on your holiday spread that you feel “meh” about, and you don’t have to eat them if they aren’t worth it to you. Be selective and picky about what you want. Just because you deviated from your usual way of eating by one degree doesn’t mean that you need to do a 180. Be gentle with yourself.
Evaluate what’s worth it. REALLY think about it. Plan ahead and become aware of how you’ll feel before, during, and after you eat it. Pick a couple things that are worth it to you, and stick to them. Remember you don’t have to deviate completely. If you’re not in the mood for them in the moment, then you don’t have to eat them. You’re also allowed to change your mind. Keep in mind that choices should be made on an in the moment, is it worth it mentality.
Law of diminishing returns & PAYING ATTENTION & the one bite rule
The law of diminishing returns is also worth noting, because this really changed my life. I used to be a person that ate everything if I decided to “cheat” on my diet. I would not only eat everything, but ALL of everything, but we know how that makes us feel.
When you choose to eat the thing you’ve deemed worth it, I want you to REALLY PAY ATTENTION TO IT. Don’t let it slide by. It’s like that Ferris Bueller quote. Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t slow down and pay attention, you could miss it. And this happens all. the. time! We think about eating something for weeks, but then when we actually do, we don’t give it the proper attention it deserves, and then we miss the entire experience. Which just leaves us craving more.
When you choose to eat the thing, don’t eat it standing up in a panic and fast. Don’t eat it in a state of anxiety. Don’t be stressed about eating it. I want you to sit down. And I want you to get REALLY ROMANTIC with your worth it thing. Take your time. Savor it. Eat it so slowly. Make time to slow down. Put your fork down in between bites. REALLY pay attention to that first bite. How good was it? Put your fork down. Take that second bite. How good was it? Less than the first, right? How about that third bite? Less than the second, right? The more bites we take, the LESS GOOD each bite tastes, and you’ll start to notice this if you pay attention. This is the law of diminishing returns. The first bite is ALWAYS the best, and then it diminishes from there. Be scrupulous about how each bite tastes and how worth it it is. If you take one bite and aren’t crazy about it, then you can stop eating. This all comes from paying super close attention.
By the time we get to the tenth bite, we aren’t really tasting that thing anymore. Most of the time, we don’t even want it. We just finish it because it’s there, because we said we could, because it’s the freaking holidays and I deserve it and I am allowed to do this. But that second that you feel like you’re done, just STOP.
It can be so easy to stick to your food plan if we lived in a bubble with yourself, your table, and your kitchen. But that isn’t real life. I hear from a lot of people that the reason they can’t stick with their food plan is because of the people around them, social gatherings, and pressure. This is really hard to navigate, especially around the holidays, when your grandma makes the potatoes and pie and stuffing and sweet potato casserole and threatens you by saying if you don’t eat them it means you don’t love her.
In actuality, the holidays really are about social connection and loving one another. It’s not about the food. We think it’s about the food, but it’s really not. It’s about cherishing the time we get to spend with those we love. Most people really are not paying attention to what’s on your plate. Don’t walk into a gathering and be like “I’M NOT EATING SUGAR TODAY BECAUSE I AM A MIGHTY PERSON!”. Just don’t make a big deal. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Be quiet in your choices. If people have issues or question what you choose to eat, that is ALWAYS their own issue, not yours.
I cut out a lot of things from my diet a long time ago that make me feel like crap, and I literally never eat them. Yet, they are in a lot of my holiday dishes. I could be scared about offending people, or I could be true to myself. I used to be petrified about speaking up, and then I’d feel like crap for days and resent the person who pressured me to eat the thing. Now, I choose to put myself first. And I am not scared about saying no to things I do not want to eat. Because no is a complete sentence. Maybe you can be nice and say, “no, thank you.” You don’t need to explain yourself at all. Not one bit. YOU choose what goes inside your body, even around the holidays. Your love for someone has nothing to do with whether you eat their food or not.
You can bring food if you need to. If you have preferences, let the host know and see if they would be able to accomodate. Do what you need to do, unapologetically, in order to make the day work for you.
Game day plan
The day of, don’t starve yourself. Don’t attempt to save your calories. Don’t go into the meal ravenous, because then you’ll binge. The day of, you need to eat a complete meal with protein, vegetables, and fat. Feel good going into the meal. Don’t eat three meals of junk, be selective about your worth it foods.
When there’s leftovers, you don’t need to gorge yourself again. Remember the day is really about family, but don’t let this become a several day thing that will leave you feeling defeated and terrible, physically and mentally. Remember the way you truly desire to feel, every day. Remember to stay present. Remember to love those you love. Remember to stay true and strong with yourself and to be AWARE of yourself, the way you feel, and how you want to feel the day after.
I’m not saying to not eat leftovers. Eat them. They’re one of the best parts of the holidays. I’m just saying to not let eating the leftovers derail you into a 45 day binge of holiday foods. Turn right back to your normal eating, exercise, and move on with your life.
Sometimes, I think about my future self when it comes to my food choices. I ask, “Is my future self going to be ok with this? Will that self wake up tomorrow feeling good?” Sometimes we just say fuck it, but it’s worth noting that the future self is much more equipped to make informed, in-the-moment decisions.
Lastly, I really feel like I need to mention booze. Because this is what’s thrown me over the boundary of feeling good to horrible in the past. Since I used to have the dieting mentality, I used the holidays as a time to not only overeat, but get sloppy with over-drinking. It was my goal to feel buzzed all throughout the holidays and holiday parties. But then, I’d end up overeating more food, giving myself not only a hangover but a food hangover. My strong place of awareness gets diminished with each sip of alcohol that I take. It’s super hard to be both vigilant about your intuition and what feels worth it while you’re drunk.
Now, I hardly drink because it isn’t worth it most of the time. I will drink over the holidays, but I’ll be super selective about what I decide to drink. It’ll be a really good wine or a port. It won’t be something that I’ll drink just to get drunk. I’ll enjoy a couple sips and be good with it. Also, I’ll choose to not drink at every single holiday related gathering. It’ll only happen a couple times, because the repercussions outweigh the desire to be buzzed. I also feel more comfortable in my skin than I ever have, so the second I feel tipsy, alcohol loses its appeal. I never thought I’d say this, but I like being sober more than I like being drunk.
Try to stick to just a couple drinks. Make sure you eat before. And make sure you hydrate. Try not to drink a lot of sugar with your alcohol. Try to make what you drink really, really worth it. Try to stay aware. Also try to have SOMETHING in your hand, whether it’s a water with lime or whatever, because some people have big issues when they see people not drinking. Don’t make a big deal about it.
Remember the holidays are about having FUN. And overeating and feeling like crap isn’t fun. If you do overindulge, remember to be compassionate and gentle with yourself. Remember to stay in your power. Pay as close attention as you can, in both what you eat and in the love that’s happening around you.
We cannot make sustainable change with food, our bodies, or our surrounding habits until we honestly explore and get curious about our relationship with each of them. Mindset change is not easy, but so, so worth it.
Being healthy starts with learning to cook simple foods in easy, delicious ways with approachable and practical recipes and techniques.
Our health begins with properly nourishing our bodies with nutrient-dense foods. I believe in bio-individuality: each person requires different types and amounts of food to feel their best. Learn how to eat intuitively for the rest of your life!