It’s that time of year again! For some, the most wonderful, for others, the most stressful. The older I get the more I live somewhere snuggled right in the middle of the two. Not least of my worries is trying to calculate just how many cookies I can eat before getting a stomachache (because avoiding treats this time of year is virtually impossible, and really, why would you want to?). Or how to politely pass on a second helping of turkey and gravy for fear of my pants button popping off and landing in someone’s drink across the room. Take note! None of this is weight related – I am not interested in stepping on a scale or counting calories almost ever. It is in pursuit of making sure I feel well enough to continue to enjoy the company I’m around without distractions of uncomfortable bellyaches or brain fog from all the sugar I just pounded. Or worst of all, guilt about my food choices. My favorite part of the Thanksgiving to New Year season is all the people I get to spend time with, most of whom I probably only see during this stretch each year. The last thing I want is to be distracted during this time. So, if you’re like me and are feeling like you could use a few tips to help you be your most present and fun-loving self, here’s where I will be focusing my efforts this Holiday season:
1. Make a game plan.
First things first, know what you’re walking into and set some intentions before each party or event you go to. I am always more likely to leave a situation feeling good and like I took care of myself if I enter with clear intentions. This could look like eating a nutritious meal before going to that office holiday party so you don’t walk in starving and find yourself making dinner out of hors d’oeuvres and bite-size desserts. Or maybe you want to sign up for a local Turkey Trot or pre-festivities Soul cycle or yoga class to really rev up your appetite before a glorious day of eating. You can always recruit a buddy in the form of a family member, friend, or significant other to help you stick to your original intentions if you need a little extra support day-of. My partner can’t have dairy and I opt for gluten free, and I always find it easier to make good choices when I know we’re approaching a meal in solidarity of our respective restrictions. There is probably a little bit of misery loves company associated with that too, but hey whatever works!
2. Offer to bring a dish to pass.
If you know for sure there won’t be as many “goal friendly” options provided at a meal or party you’re attending, offer to make something! It’s a nice gesture to your host and will help you stick to your plan. Lactose intolerant? Bring a side of vegan mashed potatoes. Gluten free? Bring some stuffing or a dessert to share that you know you can eat worry-free. Last year’s green bean casserole leave you with bad feelings? Try this. Literally nothing green on the table? Get this guy in there. Whatever it is, you can definitely find a polite way to contribute an item you’ll feel good about eating.
3. Practice mindful eating.
Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” Mindful eating happens without judgment of food choices, but instead with curiosity and observation of how those things make you feel. What this looks like for me is making intentional food choices when assembling a plate for myself (the plan you put together will help you make these choices), chewing slowly, and taking time to savor both my food and my company. If I’m at a party, I also try to hold conversations in a comfy place away from the snack table. Generally speaking, if there is a dip nearby, I will park myself right by it and mindlessly dip and chat away. Creating some space between myself and the dip is a nice way to keep from unconsciously (or sometimes consciously) binging. Another mindfulness trick is to wait at least 10 minutes before going back for seconds to give our bodies time to digest food and then properly assess fullness. Overall it’s just good daily practice to take a minute to appreciate where we are and our good fortune in getting there.
4. Drink plenty of water/alternate alcohol and water.
Hydration is always where it’s AT! Water ensures proper transportation of our hormones, helps eliminate toxins out of our body, aids in blood-sugar regulation, and in some cases helps us to not overeat. (Ever think “I’m starving!” and then have a glass of water or two and realize you were just thirsty?) Any sober or sober curious friends out there? These mocktails are cute, festive, and refreshing! I am 100% going to have a couple of these available at my NYE party!
5. Enjoy that P-I-E!
If you are going to partake in some holiday treats, which I truly hope you do, include that in your original game plan for the day to eliminate the mental gymnastics that go on when we see something sweet and delicious but can’t help but also see the words “BAD” at the same time. Freaking ENJOY it! You don’t need to forgive yourself because you’re not doing anything wrong. You don’t need to make a comment about how you “probably shouldn’t go for that second piece of pie” while you place it on your little plate and then take a bite. That guilt isn’t serving you at all, in fact it’s a disservice to you. And to the pie, quite frankly.
Illustrations by Lauren Ward