If you are on any social media sites you most certainly will have read one or more headlines or articles on what not to eat during this upcoming Christmas season. Every nutritionist, fitness expert and their mother seems to have a list at the ready of all the things you must avoid in order to not gain weight this season. And let's not forget the advice to replace those Christmas cookies with a kale & almond milk protein shake. Seriously? Do these people actually believe what they write?
As a health coach, it might come as a surprise to you that my advice to my clients is the exact opposite. I'm not a believer in forbidding yourself from your favourite Christmas cookie or that special holiday dish your mom always makes. I mean, aren't the holidays supposed to be about joy? For many of us, a part of that joy comes from those special treats. And in many ways food has become the enemy. We have literally taken the emotional and social enjoyment out of meals by counting calories and slicing and dicing our food into fat grams and ingredient lists.
I wholeheartedly believe that our meals give us physical sustenance but that they should also feed our souls. There is nothing better than spending time laughing, conversing, and connecting with loved ones around a table. In a day and age where many of us don't make or have time for this on a regular basis, Christmas can provide that much needed down time to make meaningful meals happen. There should be no room at your table for guilt.
Too often we get so down on ourselves about not eating the way we are "supposed" to eat over the holidays that it can make you feel like a failure. And that can easily cause you to feed those feelings of guilt with more treats to make yourself feel better…which actually does the opposite.
I am not saying that I support gorging yourself on every treat and at every holiday buffet table you belly up to. No. What I am saying is that it's okay to allow yourself those small indulgences ~ just make sure that they are worth it. Think quality over quantity. Give yourself room to savour grandma's secret recipe gingerbread cookies because they bring back warm happy childhood memories. And then skip the mindless nibbling at the chip bowl.
Remember, you are in control. Just because aunt Cindy sets out a tray of jalapeño poppers doesn't mean you have to eat them. Decide what's worth it and forget the rest. Often, allowing yourself a few minutes before digging in can really help. One great trick is to consider how you will feel after eating an item. If you know you will feel guilty, then it's probably not the best choice and you should save that indulgence for something that's really worth it.
It's also really important to keep active during this time. Because of travel, stress and an extra heavy "to do" list, many people scale back on physical activity. This combined with the added indulgences, can lead to weight gain, an overall feeling of guilt and in some cases illness. The best way to enjoy this time of year is to practice moderation and to remain active in one form or another each day!
Here are a few more tips on how to have a healthy, happy & guilt-free holiday
- Practice portion control - use smaller plates and fill them mostly with healthier options
- Choose the healthier options of dips (hummus, non-cream based, etc.)
- Arrive at parties having eaten a healthy meal at home first and never skip meals no matter how busy this season makes you!
- Don't linger near the buffet table