Thanksgiving marks the start of more than five weeks of festivities and activities that all have a common denominator: food. Whether it’s preparing the food yourself or attending a holiday gathering with friends and family, you may find yourself surrounded by a multitude of food choices.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and fall into habits that negatively affect our health: eating till we’re overfull, not getting enough sleep, eating to please others, or neglecting regular exercise and time to ourselves. If we’re not careful, this opens the door to feelings of guilt and shame over how we eat and take care of ourselves.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. By shoring up our defenses, we can enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, and all the days in between, with grace instead of guilt. Here are five principles we can all use to navigate the holiday season with grace.
G – Get rid of the diet mentality
Too often we approach holiday eating with the idea to eat anything and everything right now and then fall back to a diet come January. But diets don’t work; and giving into that type of thinking just sets us up for failure. We know in the back of minds that a time of restrictive eating is coming, so we tend to ignore our satiety cues and, instead, eat in excess. That can lead to unwanted weight gain, guilt, and not feeling good about our choices. So just say no to diets, now and in the future.
R – Remove the food rules and regulations
While rules can be helpful at times, overly restrictive food rules may be hard to follow and backfire on us. Once we tell ourselves a certain food is off-limits, that food then often becomes the food we really want. It’s another set-up for failure and we find ourselves giving in to temptation and breaking our own rules. We eat the food only to berate ourselves later for being weak. Sound familiar? Rigid food rules and restrictions are effective and need to be removed. If diets and rules are helpful, what can we do?
A – Adjust your mind-set
Think about things other than food. The holidays should be a time when we connect with others and deepen relationships or encourage new ones. While much of that occurs over shared meals, don’t let food be the focus and spoil the time spent with family and friends. Focus on the people you’re with and have gratitude for the food available
C – Create a flexible plan
That said, planning ahead is still important in taking care of ourselves, even more so during a hectic holiday season. Here are three planning tips:
- Plan holiday meals with food you and your family enjoy, seeking a balance between occasional indulgences and more nourishing foods like plant-based dishes.
- Plan for regular exercise that you enjoy. It’s good for your body and is a wonderful stress reducer, so don’t let a busy schedule crowd this out.
- Plan to not skip meals. It may be tempting to skip meals or snacks when we know we have a holiday gathering later in the day. The problem is we then arrive at the function cranky and over-hungry, and are actually more likely to overeat and less likely to enjoy our food. So, don’t skip
E – Eat intentionally and enjoy your holiday choices
Take note of what you eat, where you eat, and how full or satisfied you are. When you first arrive at a function, take a look and consider what options are available to you. Select the items you enjoy the most. Take small amounts, savor the food, and really enjoy it. Stop eating when you start to feel full and satisfied. Remember, you can always go back for more if you’re still hungry, and you can always leave food on your plate if you’re full.
This holiday season nourish your body with lots of plant-based food, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. Give yourself permission to enjoy the foods you love and don’t leave the door open for guilt to enter in. Instead, navigate the holidays with grace.