Holidays can be a bit of a roadblock for people trying to make nutrition a priority. Routine is often the thing that makes sticking to your nutrition goals easy, and holidays can often seem to sabotage your ability to stick to good habits. If you find holiday eating stressful, here are some things to keep in mind regarding holiday food:
1. It can be just one meal
Thanksgiving dinner (or any other holiday meal) can just be ONE meal. You don’t have to turn it into a whole day, or a whole weekend, or party food and leftovers.
2. You are still in control of what goes in your mouth
External factors like social pressure, family obligations, and traditions are just that: external factors. At the end of the day, you get to decide what is important to you, and whether you want to accept or reject food. Of course, it is okay to accept food, but just remember that you made that decision, and take responsibility for your food choices.
3. Consider making a strategy or giving yourself “rules” in advance
If you don’t want your holiday eating to stray too far from what your regular diet looks like, consider making some non-negotiables for yourself in advance. For example: make half your plate vegetables, drink a glass of water before seconds, limit yourself to 1 glass of wine, have appetizers but no dessert, or no appetizers and no dessert, whatever makes sense for you! As always, if you design your strategy ahead of time, it helps to limit the number of decisions you are required to make in the moment.
4. Be kind to the cook
A lot of people feel guilty if they don’t stuff themselves at holiday meals because some loved one went to the trouble of cooking an elaborate and beautiful meal. In some cases, the cook will actively seem upset if you turn down seconds or thirds (my Grandmother would famously ask: “What type of pie would you like to start?”). Most of the time this person is not trying to torture you, but merely wants to feel appreciated for all the hard work they put into cooking! There are other ways to show love and gratitude to a cook: help with the dishes/grocery shopping, rake the leaves, bring flowers, etc. If all else fails, eating slowly will often deter people from pestering you about eating more.
5. Quality family/friend time does not need to have food at its centre
Thanksgiving (and most other family/religious holidays) are not REALLY about food (even if it seems that way). Most of the time the food is just a metaphor. In the case of Thanksgiving, the food represents the bounty of life! There are other ways to enjoy the moment and be thankful for and with the people you love: go for a walk or hike, play a game, make a craft together, etc.
6. Look forward
If you do end up eating way more than you intended and have holiday food regrets, try not to focus on the negative. Reflect, don’t dwell. Think about what caused you problems or where you went wrong only as much as it will help you make different choices next time.
7. Indulge if you want!
All this being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with indulging every once in a while! Savour your food and relax! With nutrition, like training, consistency is king. If you spend most of your days sticking with your good nutrition habits, one meal doesn’t make a much of a difference.