Merry Christmas, my friends!
The holiday season can be the most fun, celebrated, joyous time of year. It is filled with special indulgences, vacations, and reunions with loved ones. It can also be a time of pressure, tight deadlines, and to-do lists as long as CVS receipts. It is the combination of all of this - excitement, happiness, stress, and fatigue - that makes the holidays so tiring!
The good news is that smart, healthy food choices can help you feel better and manage stress through the craziness. Oh, and the other good news is that life also returns to normal routine, pretty fast. Savor the fun crazy while you can!
Austin friends, I bleed purple and gold, but you know I love UT too!
Why Food Can Make You Feel Bad
Keep in mind that food can make you feel better or worse, depending on what you eat. The great news is that, unless you are 5, you are fully in control of what you eat. (More about this below.)
It can be tempting to throw willpower out the window and attack the buffet with wild abandon, but remember chances are, you won't feel great after. Is it worth it? Likewise, if you end up driving through a fast food restaurant and fill up with junk, you won’t feel so hot either.
Confession: I love fast food fries and chocolate shakes. (Frosty anyone? Delicious. I know that will gross some of you out, but I can’t lie to ya!) However, I have them rarely and in small amounts because I hit a wall about half hour after I eat fast food.
Besides just making you feel stuffed and sluggish, the problem with quick, non-nutritious food is that it often leaves you feeling hungry soon after. If you pick at pretzels, popcorn, or cookies, but neglect to get a sufficient amount of protein and fat, you’ll be hungry again in no time. Those calories will add up without actually adding vitamins and minerals, and they’ll leave you unable to focus because you’re hungry again 15 minutes later. I don’t know about you, but I find that super annoying.
Regular Days Around Holidays
During the days around holidays, when you are gift shopping, grocery shopping, planning parties and celebrations, take a few extra minutes to plan your meals for the day. If you don’t have time to cook ahead, at least take time to plan where you can eat healthily.
For example, if you know you’ll have a tight turnaround between the post office and heading back to your workplace, think ahead about where you can get a healthy, quick meal. Almost every restaurant, including fast food places, has a grilled chicken and salad option these days. Quick options:
- burrito in a bowl at any burrito or taco place
- chili’s or grilled chicken at Wendy’s
- ready to go meals from a grocery store. You can often find healthy options.
When you don’t have enough time to sit down at a restaurant, look for the nearest grocery store or large convenience store. Convenience stores are starting to have a healthier section, which includes prepared meals, fruit, cheese and meats. Grocery stores also have options galore. Try:
- cheese sticks
- beef jerky
- Greek yogurt. Pro tip: keep plastic spoons in your vehicle.
- sushi pre-made at grocery stores. Pro-tip 2: HEB has the best sushi. Texans, try this. No affiliate link, ha ;) I just love their sushi.
The Big Meals
After all the work is done done, you’ll find yourself at the big party, the family holiday or meal with friends. This is the fun part, where you should finally be able to relax and enjoy! I don’t want you to have to think about what to restrict or what you can’t eat. Instead focus on filling up with the healthy things first: protein, vegetables, and water. Then add in your indulgences: extra dinner rolls, sides, desserts, and drinks.
If you begin your meal by eating what your body actually needs, you will find you don’t binge as much with a fuller stomach after. Additionally, you can truly savor the indulgences that you have less often. (You shouldn’t feel guilty about food anyway, but especially not when you’ve preceded it with healthy foods.)
I sat down with Erika Lopez at KVUE to discuss this exact topic: healthy eating through the holidays. You can see this quick Exercise Minute by clicking here.
When Others Challenge What You Eat
Food and meals are usually social events, so people often discuss and share their food preferences. This is part of relating and learning from each other, but it becomes trying when people force their preferences on others.
I haven’t figured out exactly why, but people are extremely dogmatic about their food preferences, like they are about politics and religion. This is unfortunate when people pressure others.
If someone makes a neutral comment on your food choice, the easiest thing to do is lightly acknowledge it and move on.
“Oh, another cookie?”
“Yes, they’re delicious! How’s your new job? Are you enjoying it?”
Boom, cookie philosophy crisis averted.
For that acquaintance that just doesn’t get the hint, bless her little heart, you can be a little more direct. Your boundaries are yours, and you are entitled to your own choices. Let’s say you are going to pass on desserts this time.
“You won’t want a cookie? They’re my Aunt Betty’s recipe and you really should have one.”
“No, thanks so much!!" You don’t have to explain your reasons.
“Come on, one won’t kill you.”
“No. I won’t decide what you eat, and you don’t get to decide what I eat.”
Repeat as necessary, and move on. Don’t feel like you have to give an explanation or bend.
Remember, life is to be enjoyed! Family and friends coming together is something to be celebrated! You won’t have them forever, and soon enough, you’ll go back to your regular life.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!