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The Holiday Wars

The Holiday Wars

Gregory Susinger RD

The Holiday Wars

A common theme I hear this time of year is the struggle between meeting health and wellness goals and enjoying the holiday season (and the treats that come with it). I’m not sure why these have to be divergent topics. So often we associate healthy eating with the restriction of deserts and rich food. I don’t believe that this is an appropriate assumption. As we have discussed in earlier topics macronutrients and their prevalence in foods does not directly associate them with health (e.g. high fat foods are unhealthy).

Let me step away from this topic momentarily and come to an issue of values.  Many of us will wrestle with the enjoyment of food and the restriction of foods and snacks we find enjoyable. To be more specific what we struggle with isn’t the consumption of these foods, it's the overconsumption of these foods.

We lose sight of the serving size, chalk up our poor decisions with a fault in character and blow off our original intent of all out restriction. This is the snowball effect at it’s worst. Or as I often see the all or nothing principle.

What can we do to curb this trend all together? First is an honest connection with yourself. What do I mean by this you may ask? Well we often carry an optimistic point of view with our regard to temptation and the omission of foods. People tend to underrate the difficulty of social behavior tasks when presented with future models. What does this mean? We believe our will power will override our temptations with foods we consider enjoyable: eggnog, gingerbread, fudge or whatever may be your holiday treat of choice.

So what can you do to alter this trend? Sounds trivial, but have a plan. If you know you will be exposed to these environments that are less conducive to meeting your wellness goals try different strategies to tip the scales in your favor.

Advantages in your corner include:

  • Being well rested: persons with sleep deprivation tend to make more decisions based on impulse than on higher order or strategy.
  • Minimize stress: perception of stress and levels of anxiety also influence impulse and tend to minimize higher order thinking, utilize relaxation techniques as you can (meditation, breathing, walking, etc.), and work with your family and friends to prevent or mitigate high stress situations. Minimize obligations and plan ahead to prevent last minute crisis situations.
  • Eat: Pretty obvious, but when we are hungry we tend to over consume, so if you are headed to an office party or any other holiday celebration, have a meal or light snack before attendance. This will lower cravings, and provide you with an ability to practice moderation.
  • Enjoy: most importantly, when you take the opportunity really enjoy what you are eating you’ll find satiation occur more rapidly. Rather than chugging, chomping, and gulping, try sipping, snacking, chewing your foods. Embrace your foodie tendency and walk away with each experience coming away with satisfaction and self awareness.

As stressful as the holidays can be, what’s most important is an ability to enjoy the time with friends, family and the traditions you carry.