What kind of health coach or dietitian would I be if I didn’t at least mention the holidays this week…or for the next six? We are going to be surrounded by food. We are going to try and stick with our fitness plans. And by all means, we are all going to have fun! That being said, many people get hung up on the “surrounded by food” part. There are so many tips and tricks intended to keep us healthy, thin and “on track.” If this blog post could talk, then you would hear the sarcasm dripping from the last sentence. I mean really, health is relative, thin is an adjective (or is it an adverb…my Grandma would be disappointed in my grammar skills) that has no bearing on our worth as an individual, and “on track” implies that we are going somewhere other than the present moment. In other words, if healthy, thin and on track are what keeps us pre-occupied and up at night, then we are not present people. Let’s all take a breath and enjoy the moment!
So, here is my take on managing our holidays, our waistlines, your blood sugar and your sanity.
- Figure out if you are an abstainer or a moderator.
Gretchen Rubin has created some wonderful work that is apropos to this time of year. (Side note, Gretchen Rubin has no idea I exist and does not know that I have been bingeing on all of her work recently. Perhaps that can give you some insight into my personality.) Abstainers completely avoid a trigger because once they start, they can’t stop. Telling an abstainer to take a small portion of pie or to stop at one cocktail is like trying to dodge snow flakes during a Michiana winter. Moderators, though, can indulge in a little bit without overindulging. One bite is enough to satisfy their sweet tooth. They are like modern Brylcreem ads, “a little dab’ll do ya.’” (Google it, the YouTube videos of the 1950s commercials are awesome…but I digress).I happen to be an abstainer. I am fine if it is out of sight and out of mind, but an entire tray of Erin-friendly cookies is just asking to be consumed all in one night. This means that holiday buffets in the kitchen are the worst way for me to manage my waistline and my blood sugar. Incidentally if I feel that either one of these are even slightly out of whack, then I may temporarily lose the sanity we all work so hard to maintain this time of year.
- Figure out your trigger.
Triggers are often food and/or drink related. A simple personal reflection is in order here. It does not even require a fancy quiz or highly educated professional. What do you tend to enjoy in excess? Do you need to remove the trigger completely in order to manage behavior and honor your health habit? Or, will you feel deprived if it’s gone completely and risk a mini-binge if the temptation becomes too strong without it?My over indulgences are desserts. There are some that I have to completely abstain from and others that I have to work really hard to moderate. I can completely abstain from desserts and snacks like breads, cakes, crackers and candied pecans. In the last year I committed to being gluten-free, dairy-free, and I reluctantly stopped eating nuts and seeds once I saw how these foods were affecting me. Now I do not crave them or cave into them, because the consequences of indulging outweighs the pleasure. Erin-friendly desserts, especially ones with fruit, dairy-free caramel and chocolate, on the other hand are still triggers. I know these will be around in abundance this holiday season. If I try to completely avoid them, then at some point I will over-indulge in a mindless-eating moment. And, let’s be honest, when there is good company, a variety of libations and so many fun festivities, mindless eating will occur. It’s best to figure out how to deal, rather than get caught off guard, feeling like our will-power failed.
- Figure out how to deal with it.
If I may borrow from the work of Gretchen Rubin again, then we understand that some people like plans and strategies that create an internal expectation of how they will respond when faced with a holiday health crisis. Other people need an accountability partner to set an external expectation related to how they will react in a given situation. Still others will likely rebel from any rule-setting, expectation-generating plan, but may be able to manage their holiday habits once they know and accept the consequences of their actions.I am going to totally copout on this one. I do not have the answer for you, and honestly the holiday hacks for cutting calories and keeping you healthy do not work for most people. This is not a bah humbug moment. It is just a reality check, and a moment for me to get a little sickeningly sweet. During this holiday season give yourself permission to not be perfect. You may indulge (which is an event, not a lifestyle) or you may abstain. Either way it perfectly acceptable as long as it is your choice. You may have fun. You may say yes, and you may say no. Let’s spend this holiday guilt-free…not because the cookies are lacking calories or because we ran off last night’s dinner, but because we want to feel good and feel connected to our family, friends and the spirit of the holidays. As Gretchen Rubin’s tireless review of the research suggests, strong relationships are the best indicators of happiness, which is also an integral component of healthy.