Friends, I’m excited to have this month’s conversation with y’all now that the holidays are in full swing which, by the way, how is it already mid-November? Yesterday I walked into Target for a simple refill on basic toiletries and walked out fully embracing the holiday spirit thanks to their amazing décor, fall scents, cheery music, and candy. Speaking of candy. My current mantra is: enjoy it. But only if you actually enjoy it and it makes you feel good. I’m fresh off three weeks of back-to-back personal and work travel, and my rule on the road for how to stay healthy is a rule I plan to carry with me into the holidays too: enjoy really great food and drink, but only if it makes you feel good. If not, skip it and move on. I realize that’s easier said than done—especially when Grandma’s got a pan of her prized cheesy potatoes waiting for me, or someone ordered Gjelina’s pot de creme. And please don’t get me started on Josephine House’s seasonal pumpkin scones…
Here’s the thing. About a year ago, I ditched the notion of being obsessed with “eating the right thing,” or calling food “good or bad.” This shift happened after I did the Whole30 and followed the founder, Melissa Urban on social media.
It was really eye-opening when I realized how much I fixated on every single thing I ate (or didn’t eat) and how I labeled those decisions, especially around the holidays or during travel.
And even more alarming was realizing how much I rarely enjoyed what I was eating in these social settings or special occasions. Whether I went for the random cookie on a tray at a party, had part of an appetizer that someone ordered at the table, dove into the bread basket just because it was there. Or worse yet, sipped a pre-mixed concoction called the “Jingle Bell Rock” that looked good (because the host was trying to be cute), but instead it was way too sugary and totally not my jam. You get my point—you’ve likely done the same.
In my more obsessive days, I’d stress out about the holidays, because to me they meant being surrounded by a lot of food, over-indulging, and “eating bad,” which was immediately followed by several shame-filled workouts. Now, I have a wildly different approach—and if you remotely struggle with eating during the holiday season, I hope you find these tips as helpful as I do.
featured photo by by Kate Turpin
photo by tracey ayton
Drop “good food” or “bad food” from your vocabulary.
Not only is this statement entirely subjective, but it’s unnecessary to label food as such. Have you ever been around someone that said, “I’m being totally bad and having this cookie?” How do you respond? Does it make you feel awkward, or think about the cookie you just had?
For me, the holidays are a time to connect with friends and family and share a lot of love and laughs. It’s been such a long and tiring year, so let’s talk about things that truly matter and connect as humans vs. giving our food labels and potentially making for awkward and unnecessary conversation. I want to know what people are looking forward to in the New Year, or what they’re proud of from 2018, not whether or not they’ve decided to eat the cake only because it’s paleo-friendly.
photo by hannah haston
How will this make me feel?
This is a question I ask myself all the time. What I have planned the next day or so dictates what I’ll eat the day prior. Whether it’s an early flight the next morning, or a big meeting where I need to be on, I always think about how something I eat or drink will make me feel. I know that a heavy meal past 8 pm means I won’t sleep well, and a sugary dessert makes me really hungry the next day. Similarly, I know amounts of things I can have and how that affects the hours and days to follow. Once you get to know your body and how it performs from certain foods and drinks, you’ll likely make decisions that set you up for success.
Do I really want it?
For what it’s worth, this doesn’t apply to holiday parties and treats. I think I already know the answer, but ever finish an early meal and you find you’re a little bored so you reach for something more to snack on, before even letting your meal digest? This is me with Moon Juice’s dried mango. I don’t even have to be hungry, and I’ll grab for it because it’s that good, and it’s an easy snack. I’ve done this at holiday and cocktail parties—I’m not entirely hungry, but there a tray pass situation passes me, and I grab for it because it’s there or I’m bored. Not kidding, eight out of 10 times, I don’t even really want it. Try asking yourself if you actually really want it, or are just eating it to eat it.
Move your body
This isn’t about burning off your holiday calories (another thing we can ditch from our vocabulary). This is for keeping movement a top priority in our lives, keeping the heart rate healthy, and the blood and oxygen flowing. I started moving for 30 minutes every single day this past July and haven’t really skipped a beat. Having a scheduled workout whether on the road, or during the holidays helps me make better eating and drinking choices, point blank. Give it a shot—commit to movement during the holidays when you have more leisurely time and take your family along, too for extra bonding (or go solo if you need to get away, haha).
You overindulged, now move on.
Congratulations, you are human. It’s probably going to happen. It happened to me in NYC last month during a 10-course tasting menu (and a once in a lifetime dinner experience) where I probably had a little too much wine, and didn’t need the last course, and guess what I did the next day? Literally nothing different. It was a fun night. No regrets or shaming needed. No hardcore workout to burn it off. Next time I know my limits. Hopefully, if you’re keeping the rest of your decisions relatively moderate and balanced, this will be no big deal and will pass. One night of indulging won’t derail what you’ve got going on. Several nights of indulging and not feeling good is another story.
The point is folks, the holidays are a time to enjoy yourself from start to finish. From the company, to the conversations, to the food and drink. If something isn’t going to make you feel good—don’t have it, or don’t do it. If you feel you need help with these kinds of decisions, please know that this is completely normal, and you’re not alone. Therapy is a huge help, and I couldn’t speak highly enough about it.