Here we are again. November marks the beginning of tree trimmings, parties, and a hunt for the light strand’s faulty bulb. If all goes to plan, Pinterest will manage to induce seasonal suffering caused by holiday baking fails. Let’s be honest, our gluten-free, vegan, paleo-approved chocolaty peppermint bark, sprinkled with angel dust, candied mistletoe, and pulverized candy canes never looks like it does in the picture.
This time of year also marks the start of us sabotaging the intended sweetness of the season by over-committing, over-indulging, and gifting beyond our means. This level of holiday brutality is antithetical to the spirit of the season, and is not only unnecessary, it’s avoidable.
There needn’t be such a disparity between celebrating the holidays enchantingly, and maintaining self-control. We really don’t need to choose between stuffing ourselves into a food coma, and being the party pooper who only snacks on the carrot sticks. Believing we can’t celebrate somewhere in the middle is illogical. We are meant to enjoy the richness of the holidays, without always having to choke down the hair of the dog.
I know this all too well, because historically I couldn’t function without the corrective next day Bloody Mary. During the last two months of the year, I was the yes girl. Yes to spiked cider! Yes to peppermint martinis! Yes to pumpkin and apple pie, and the frosted shortbread!
I indulged weekend after weekend until New Years day, when I could be found hammering it out on the treadmill, turning all shades of green from intoxication and guilt. I’d announce, every New Year, that anything resembling cheese, pie, or champagne was off limits. Stir-fried broccoli and tofu was pretty much all I would consume in Q1.
It’s absurd what we do to ourselves in the absence of consistent mindful action. Pushing the boulder up hill is avoidable when we live moment-to-moment being in control of our choices, rather than letting circumstance do the choosing. Let the boulders of seasonal health control roll downhill by implementing the following:
1. Choose the type of holiday you want to have.
Do you want it to be rich in social events? Do you want to attend all the parties, dress up, show up, and shine? Or, are you looking to have a subtler, more reflective, and nurturing holiday season with nights by the fire, dinner parties at home, and restorative time to yourself?
Simply getting clear on our holiday intentions helps us to operate thoughtfully rather than letting mindlessness direct our course. Sealing our intentions by writing them down, and then sharing with others deepens our commitment to the intention.
2. Receive without the impulse to force gifting in return.
Heart-centered gifting originates from pure desire. Nothing is wanted in return. Giving in order to receive negates the entire intent to share. Similarly, receiving without grace undermines the sweet gesture of the giver.
This season, when someone joyfully shares with you, accept the gift with simple gratitude rather than thinking about what you’re now going to get him or her in return. Similarly, if you give, do so with pure intention, and not as a coaxing to receive.
3. Restrict the urge to restrict
A powerful instigator of seasonal shame is restriction––the act of feeding ourselves nonsense, and establishing boundaries with no room for pleasure. Do you know how many people say ‘no’ to social events out of fear they will eat ALL THE SHORTBREAD, or bitterly drag themselves to a party knowing they are going to be the party pooping carrot stick muncher? There are a lot. Perhaps you’ve been one or both. I know I have, and I’ll be the first to say either scenario is absurd.
Let’s face it. We like to celebrate, and are blessed with pumpkin-spiced everything only once per year. So why would we avoid, or attend a celebratory event restricting with so much conviction that we compromise pleasure?
Isn’t it possible to have a glass or two of wine instead of downing the bottle? Can’t we have a slice, rather than the entire pie? Can’t we choose to taste Aunt Tess’s stuffing that she slaved over for three hours, and pass on the less interesting potatoes? We can. And we must. Restricting our indulgences to the degree of resentment causes us to instantaneously combust in frustration. We throw all moderation to the wind, overindulge, and end up with guilt running down the sides of our mouths.
4. Don’t kick yourself if you’re already down
If an innocent child were to over eat, or do anything that would make them feel bad, how would you react? You would probably comfort them with words of encouragement, and tell them they can always do better next time.
You wouldn’t belittle them, and shame them for something they already feel bad about. So, why should we treat ourselves any different? Too often, we kick ourselves when we are already down, fanning the flames of guilt. Every moment is a chance to start anew. So, if you do end up downing all the nog, or snack all night on the cracky cheese log, be kinder and gentler with yourself. Honor the fact is tasted fantastic, and commit to doing better next time.
1. Go out to connect with people, not to connect with food.
2. Never go hungry to a party.
3. If something of the spread really appears to you, have it. Don’t shame yourself for eating the pumpkin tart. Always eat slowly enough to genuinely taste. You’ll eat less, and be more satisfied.
4. Never waste your palette on food that is mediocre.
5. Before you consume anything, ask your inner self if it’s worth it. If so proceed. If not, you may still proceed, but will at least be doing so with total awareness.
6. Say yes when you mean yes, and no when you mean no. Obligatory attendance of holiday parties rarely results in healthy decision-making.
7. Have a glass of water for every adult beverage you consume.
8. Roll with punches. You may catch a cold. Your flight might get delayed. Your peppermint bark might look laughable, but none of these things are worth you losing your mind. Breathe through the hiccups and you’ll enjoy your holiday season so much more.
9. Remain in touch with the spirit of the season. It’s intended to be a sweet and reflective time, when we wrap up the year in gratitude, and ready ourselves for the year to come.
Get more guilt-free guidance by tuning into my Healthy Holiday Interview hosted by Stephanie Pederson of High Impact Health.
Happy Healthy Holidays!