It’s that time of year when festivities centered around food pop up at every turn: the office party, a neighbor’s winter gathering, and family meals non-stop for weeks. In addition to being beautiful occasions to connect and celebrate, these parties can also provide unending temptation of decadent treats.
While allowing ourselves the flexibility to revel in the season - and to participate in social events without feeling limited - there are some steps we can put in place to enjoy the holidays fully, celebrating through December and staying on track with our goals in January.
1. Create a rating scale
Make your goodie choices count. When you arrive at a function, scope out the food situation. Assign everything available a numbered rating from 1 to 10: 10 being your favorite thing in the world, 1 being complete dislike. Then, assess your options: go for things you’ve numbered with only a 7 or higher. This means you’ll get the enjoyment of the things that come but once a year, and not fill up on things you don’t love (plain tortillas, anyone?).
2. Bring a healthy option
Be the person who brings something delicious - but something made from real food. Whether it’s a grain salad, a healthy dip, or a naturally sweetened dessert, bring something you know you will love and that others can feel good about eating, too.
3. Don't be too polite
Saying yes to seconds and thirds, just because Grandma insists, isn’t doing anyone any favors. Instead, courteously and patiently explain that you have been immensely satisfied with your first plateful and that you’re enjoying the company. If she insists, ask if you can take some home.
4. Be kind to you
Check in with yourself throughout a gathering: are your choices in line with your goals? Are you making decisions that are truly kind to you? If no, reassess: what needs to change in this party situation to make you feel more comfortable and more in control of your decisions?
5. Be kind to your digestive system
The human stomach can hold about a liter of food. Keep that in mind when the second trip back to the kitchen calls you. Could something else fuel you instead?
6. Focus on what’s really important about the holiday
At its heart, are the holidays about desserts? No, not really. Bring yourself back to the reason you’ve gathered with these people: what do you bring to each others’ lives? What are you celebrating? What do you enjoy about this moment, right now, that would be unchanged if the table of food went away? Breathe deeply and return your focus to what’s really important to you.
7. Bring a clutch or gum
Put a step of contemplation between you and the food by chewing gum or holding a clutch. The moment it takes you to remove the gum before taking a bite of something, or the wrangling you must do to balance clutch, glass, and cocktail napkin provides an opportunity to check in: is this the best decision right now? Is there another option here that will best support my goals?
8. Be flexible with yourself
As with the rating scale above, give yourself some space to play. Which of grandma’s treats do you love more than anything? Is there something celebratory and joyful in a second glass of wine with good friends? Being flexible - as long as it aligns with your health goals - is perfectly reasonable.
9. Give thanks
Appreciate what is happening around you. This is a beautiful time of year, and we’ve much to be thankful for. A full heart can one of the most filling treats there is.
10. Give up on the fear of missing out
‘Christmas comes but once a year’, right? It’s understandable, then, that we might try to fit in all of the celebrating (and its accompanying food and drink) possible. It can become a bit of a dangerous race to the finish, though, as we cram months worth of Christmas longing into a couple of weeks, justifying that it’s the time of year when ‘this is okay’ so as not to miss out. If this sounds familiar, tap into what’s really going on for you here: what are you afraid of missing out on? If it’s food, remind yourself that food will be there next week, too; if it’s a special treat, what about that treat is so important - the love or sentiment baked into it? Consider, instead, where else that feeling available to you. Getting clear on what underlies a fear of missing out can be a powerful way to rise above and still enjoy every moment of your holiday presently and positively.
Have a wonderful holiday!