Raise your hand if you’ve come across an article or an email with some form of these words in the title. (I have both hands raised). I promise if I receive one more email that has a “guilt-free” recipe in the title I’m going to scream. Well, okay, a delete and then a purge from my email memory forever will suffice.
Last year I did a post on All that Healthy Eating Advice and I’m sticking to those thoughts and feelings this year as well. I really dislike the idea that we have to use tactics and trickery to control eating and that a feeling of guilt can enter our minds when we eat a real food we truly enjoy.
Food is part of culture. Culture can often be defined by food.
Family celebrations and holidays throughout history have focused on food. I believe with all my heart that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. I also feel it is dishonoring our culture and traditions to find sneaky ways to avoid enjoying real food and beating ourselves up like it is a failure of character if we do.
I’ve been there. Tried all the tactics myself and am guilty as charged.
Yes, there are some problems with our food culture in the U.S. Not listening to our minds and our stomachs and stuffing until we are sick is not healthy. Stuffing with foods made of heavily processed ingredients isn’t healthy either. Not to mention, avoiding any movement until New Years isn’t the best decision.
There are some very unhealthy habits that surround our holidays, that is true. I’ve mentioned some of them above. But truly savoring and enjoying my mom’s pumpkin pie, the cookies I bake or a rich, delicious appetizer at a party can be one of the healthiest things we do this holiday season, especially if we are in the camp of sacrifice, deprivation, and guilt this time of year.
I know, I’ve been there.
I know, I’ve been there.
You can read all those tips/thoughts/ideas I listed in last year’s post. I only have a couple more to add this year. These are a few more of the ways I am looking at things this holiday season.
Invest and enjoy. If you are going to indulge, make it worth it. Buy real cheddar and not processed cheese food, make your own cream soup and buy a quality chocolate. Break those fake food habits and start eating real food. Yes, it will take some readjustment of your budget and time (we’ll address this in a later post), but when you stop buying the processed stuff you’ll have money to spend on the quality stuff and your body will thank you for it.
Keep moving. You are going to eat and enjoy some delicious foods this season that likely have more calories than what you eat on a normal daily basis. Again, this is okay. Physiology makes it so an increase in calories causes weight gain. Exercise will combat these extra calories and carry you happily through a holiday season. You’ll reduce your stress, the endorphins will be pumping and you’ll feel much more like St. Nick than Scrooge.
Not all the time, every day. Keep your parties in mind throughout your week and lighten up on the days you don’t have one. It’s perfectly okay to indulge in the foods at your friend’s dinner party this weekend, but when you have a chance to cut back this week, do so. Save your intake of cookies and desserts for the cookie exchange and take a break from them a few days before. Don’t take it to the point of feeling deprived, but some checks and balances throughout the season will keep you from gaining a lot of unwanted weight. Along with the exercise, doing this helps. Since the beginning of November, I’m rid of 9 lbs of the weight I gained over the past couple years (all that ex-pat eating experimentation) and I’ve enjoyed A LOT of great food.
And what if you do gain a few pounds?
Accept and appreciate yourself. So you gain 5 lbs during the holidays? So what? The bigger question is – 1. Did you enjoy the foods you ate and avoid mindless munching? 2. Did you enjoy the time spent with the people you love? Give yourself a break and commit to losing it as soon as the holidays are over. Life is so short, don’t spend it feeling deprived and consumed with guilt.
The healthiest thing we can do this holiday season is know ourselves well enough and be in tune enough with our bodies and emotions to choose the foods we want, eat them and savor every bite, appreciating where they came from and the people who made them.
Photo from the Bellagio Las Vegas Dec 2008