The title above comes from one of the Secrets of Adulthood created by author Gretchen Rubin, who specializes in research on happiness and habit change. When the holidays come around, many people are tempted to abandon their healthy eating patterns because they can’t perfectly maintain them throughout the season. I want to encourage you to change your perspective about holiday eating. You don’t have to eat “perfectly” during the holidays. Instead, plan to eat “good enough” so that your health status, including your weight, is maintained and January dietary regrets are avoided.
Abstainer or Moderator?
Rubin suggests that people can be classified as either abstainers or moderators. Abstainers do better when they totally avoid a food they will potentially overeat. They are the ones who would fail the “betcha can’t eat just one” potato chip challenge. In contrast, moderators do not have difficulty in eating one cookie or a small portion of a high calorie treat. Those who are abstainers will do best by avoiding their trigger foods entirely at holiday parties. Moderators can have a small dessert or one glass of wine and not blow their healthy eating plan. Analyze yourself. If you realize that you are an abstainer, then figure out what those “no” foods are for you, then plan to avoid them entirely when you are in tempting situations. If you are a moderator, you should still be aware of your potentially problematic foods, and then plan to limit the amounts you consume.
One simple planning tool is to eat smaller than normal breakfasts and lunches on days when you will be eating a large evening meal. That way you will naturally moderate your calorie intake. I have a severe gluten sensitivity, so when I dine out, I plan ahead by previewing restaurant menus online to make sure that gluten-free options are available. If I am going to a private party, I contact the host ahead of time to see if I can eat gluten-free. I also offer to bring one or more dishes that I can safely eat to the event. If neither of these is possible, then I eat ahead of time and then go enjoy the event without eating.
Especially during the holidays, food should be consumed with a spirit of gratitude. Hosts have spent time preparing the food and want it to be enjoyed. Try and savor your eating experience by eating slowly and using all of your senses – sight, smell, touch and texture, hearing (crunchy foods), as well as taste. Holiday meals were not designed to be eaten in a hurry. They were meant to foster a spirit of thanksgiving.
Use a Plate and Sit Down
At cocktail parties it is easy to grab bite-sized appetizers and eat while standing at the table talking with people. Instead, plan ahead how much food you want to consume at the event, put that amount on your plate, then sit down and eat. In this way you will eat much less food and enjoy it more because you can concentrate on enjoying the food instead of wolfing it down without thinking. In the same way, plan how much alcohol you are going to consume. Women are advised to have only one alcoholic beverage per day for best health.
Try to sip and savor that one drink slowly. After that, consume sparkling water with lime or lemon for the remainder of the evening.
Don’t begin January 2017 as Anthony Bourdain said, “I lurched away from the table after a few hours feeling like Elvis in Vegas – fat, drugged, and completely out of it.” Instead, if you eat too much food or the wrong foods (for you) at one event, learn from that mistake. Don’t tell yourself that since you were not able to eat perfectly, you won’t try at all.
Be intentional at the next holiday event and adopt one or more of the strategies listed in this article to improve your eating pattern. Eating should be a joyful experience, especially at the holidays. May you remember December 2016 as one with many joyful experiences!
Try this recipe for a low-sugar, gluten- and dairy-free treat you can make easily this holiday season.
- Makes 20-24 balls, depending on size.
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup shredded unsweetened
- 1⁄2 cup cocoa powder
- 1⁄4 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
- 2 tablespoons raw honey or maple syrup
- Pinch of sea salt
Melt the coconut oil in a pan over low heat. Combine melted coconut oil with the vanilla, coconut, cocoa, honey and salt in a medium bowl and stir well to blend. The dough should be fairly stiff. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the dough by tablespoons, preferably using a melon baller, onto the cookie sheet. Chill the balls in the refrigerator for 2 hours, until firm. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container. Enjoy!
Ginger Hudock is a holistic nutrition consultant in Aiken, SC. Her business, Nutrition with Ginger, helps clients discover the power of personalized, whole foods nutrition to prevent and heal from many chronic health concerns, especially food allergies and sensitivities. She is a graduate of the Nutrition Consultant Program at Hawthorn University and is also a Certified Gluten Practitioner. Prior to beginning her career in nutrition, Ginger was an educator and college administrator for thirty years, most recently as the Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance at USC Aiken. To sign up for nutrition consultation sessions or her newsletter and blog where she gives more nutrition news and recipes, visit Ginger’s website at www.NutritionwithGinger.net, or call 803-640-4381.