Soon…very soon…the “season begins”. For some with young children “it” may have already “begun”. While it doesn’t have a formal name, you know the season I’m talking about…let’s call it the “Season of Overindulgence”. It starts with the sugar and spice and everything calorie laden on Halloween. Followed by the Thanksgiving day food hangover that has you uncomfortably full and bloated lying on the couch not because you want to watch football, but because you can’t seem to get up off said couch. Next up, the season of jolly ho-ho-ho’ing with too much eggnog and party food, followed by the unpleasant oh-no-no’ing of indigestion and too tight pants. And we cap it all off with end of the year all night appetizers and champagne to ensure we remain completely stuffed and unhealthy all the way into the new year! Whew!
Now, I’m no party pooper; celebrations are an important and amazingly fulfilling part of life! But when the focus of said celebrations centers around consuming enough sugar, fat and sodium to knock our bodies sideways for three months straight, it might be time to reconsider. Just saying…if I have my choice of going through the holiday season alert and energetic, feeling healthy and strong and happy OR going through the holidays bloated and sluggish and tired and overloaded (physically and mentally) I think I’ll take the former!
But how do we begin to create a healthier holiday eating season if all we’ve known is “unhealthy excess”? Most big changes take time…they are a process. So too shifting gears into a healthier holiday season. But here are some steps to consider this holiday season to get you headed in the right direction.
- Create a less tempting environment. Put the cookies and candy away (better yet indulge in the season of sharing and give them away!) and get the fruit bowl out. Set it next to the nut bowl…filled with nuts without the added fat and sodium, you know the kind you get to crack open with the nutcracker! Stock the fridge with seasonal red berries and bright yellow squash. Create a beautiful platter of cut up veggies with some healthy homemade hummus for dipping. Make some jolly red hibiscus tea or some holiday green smoothies. You get the idea. If the seasonal junk is there, within eyesight, we’ll all eventually eat it. (Willpower is a finite resource). But if we are hungry and the healthy food is within reach, we’re much more likely to eat that instead.
- Shift the focus. Move the focus from food to a “together activity”. Time spent together, (without cell phones or any other screens in our faces!) is a precious and rare commodity these days. And if the season really is all about love and togetherness and being grateful for friends and family, then what could be better than actually spending time with each other. From bowling, to a walk out in nature, to card games and board games in front of a fire…find something fun to do together and leave the food behind!
- Re-make a traditional holiday menu item with healthier ingredients. Every family has them; Grandma’s green bean casserole loaded with fat…Aunt Millie’s famous caramel corn with 5 cups of corn syrup, 2 pounds of brown sugar and two sticks of butter… holiday pies featuring oil or even lard and white flour crusts. Fun fact…in most dessert recipes, sugar can be cut in half and still be plenty sweet. Applesauce, bananas, date or prune puree can be subbed in for oil in most recipes (add about half the amount of oil called for). Google it up…I guarantee you there’s a whole food, healthier substitute for just about anything your little holiday taste buds desire!
- Slow Down for “Conscious Eating”. Mindless eating…stress eating…emotional eating…bored eating…all can be a part of holiday eating. Here’s the remedy (at least in part)…take some intentional rejuvenation time. Meditate. (I love the app “Insight Timer” for guided meditations…give it a try!) Do some yoga. Journal. Listen to gentle, calming music…find some music with diurnal beats for extra soothing and relaxation. Take a nap. Have that soothing cup of tea. You get the idea…slowing down, taking time to relax, creates a more conscious you…who can then be more present for “conscious eating”.
- Decide to forgo the overblown fanfare and enjoy the simple, carefree, healthy pleasures of the season. Light some candles. Sing some songs. Prepare a simple and healthy meal together as a family or with friends. Take a warm bubble bath. Enjoy those great big holiday grapefruits and oranges. Dance in the living room. Tell bad jokes. Have an all-day pajama day. Anything goes as long as it’s simple and fun!
There need not be “should’s” or “have-to’s” regarding your holiday meals and treats. You can decide to gift yourself and your loved one’s with good healthy food this holiday season. It’s the best treat for every “body” you love. Raising my glass (of water) to wish you all a wonderful and healthy start to the holiday season.
And for those of you who don’t yet know, I’m so excited to share the news! There’s a new service here at Full Circle Counseling Services! I am now a certified Whole Food Plant Based Vegan Nutritional Coach, offering coaching, combined with mental health counseling, to help you be your healthiest self ever!