Health’s Mistress & Society’s Permanent Resident: Holiday Parties

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. ~Dr. Wayne Dyer

Does the changing color of the autumn leaves represent death or transformation?

Does an obstacle catapult someone closer to success or further from it?

Does proper nutrition represent restrictive food choices or elevated mindfulness?

Perspective, as many have said, is everything. And there is, perhaps, no greater time to discuss perspective than the weeks preceding the holiday-eating trifecta: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  

The mere mention of these holidays conjures a delicious image that threatens to make us salivate on the spot. Halloween is synonymous with more chocolate, caramel, and marshmallow fluff than Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Thanksgiving is a day where dinner ends when the last drop of food is devoured, which, for some, is days later when the scraps of turkey that were transformed into soup and sandwiches are finally demolished. And then there’s Christmas. The mother-of-all recipe-wielding holidays. Christmas is more than a day, and it’s more than one party. It’s the holiday that isn’t complete without Grandma’s cookies, mom’s hot chocolate, Christmas stockings full of candies, neighbors dropping off assorted desserts and a Happy Holidays, and multiple parties piled high with delicious scents and trays of holiday treats. 

And to all of that, I say, YUM!

Healthy living isn’t about restricting yourself every second of your life. In fact, if you really embrace healthy living, it doesn’t feel restrictive at all. The health benefits (energy, healthy digestion, glowing skin, stable moods, a clear mind, strong bones, etc.) make healthy choices addictive. A bonus of a healthy lifestyle is that understanding proper portion sizes, drinking plenty of water, and knowing when you’re full becomes second nature. These are things that help you survive the holidays without increasing your waistline and decreasing your energy level. 

If you’ve been practicing healthy habits (proper nutrition and sleep, for example) all year round, a piece of Granny’s pumpkin roll or Aunt Diane’s homemade cheesecake isn’t going to instantaneously require you to buy larger pants. An issue only arrives when you treat every day or party of the holiday season as if it were your one and only time to splurge on sugary avalanches of perfection.

Instead of looking at a holiday party as a free ticket to gorge yourself, look at it as an incentive to eat healthy during the days leading up to the party and to contemplate which party food is going to satisfy you most. It’s an opportunity to pick the most delicious treat first, so you don’t feel compelled to return for a second and third round of goodie-grazing. Mindfulness isn’t only for picking healthy options. It can, also, allow us to choose what we crave first. Just remember to keep the portion size modest, eat slowly, and enjoy it. 

Instead of looking at holidays as health’s mistress, tempting people to undo their focus and commitment to good choices, think of food-centered holidays as an opportunity to pick one item from the food table that will evoke enough memories and make enough taste buds dance that a return to the food table won’t be needed.

Another strategy for surviving the holiday trifecta is to resist the urge to eat while you’re walking and talking. Between watching where you’re going and trying to engage in conversation, you’ll eat your food with little memory as to how wonderful it tasted. What a waste of calories! Sit down and step away from the dessert and food table. If you can, sit with your back to the food so that once you’re done with the food of your choice you aren’t tempted to go back for second and third rounds. 

Holiday parties aren’t a punch to people’s health because they make them think about food too much. Instead, I’d argue, it makes them think about food too little. 

Author: Evelyn Lindell
Certified Health & Wellness Coach