No More Holiday Guilt!
So October is birthday month in my family. All three of my kids are born in October; as are my father; my brother; and my sister. So every year, it ends up being a major food fest. You would think that after so many years of KNOWING we are going to overdose on birthday cake/cookies/pizza we could just have one big bash to celebrate once and spare ourselves not only the inevitable bloat but the guilt. But no. We persist. And this year, we added Eid Al Adha into the mix. And then we added being in Toronto in to the mix. And then we added my October-born brother-visiting-Toronto into the mix. As a health coach, I’m not even sure I should be divulging all this…
But the reason I am, is because these past few weeks have got me thinking really hard. When was the last time you exercised, ate well, and lost weight over the holidays? Ummm… never.
It’s a tall order, and one that many simply write off since any holiday is designed for indulging, entertaining, and relaxing! The downside: Once the celebration passes, you can end up feeling sluggish and heavier than ever.
So why DO we eat like that when we are happy/celebrating/traveling/… WHY?? Especially when we know without a doubt, what the ramifications are? We know because we keep doing it over and over, year in year out. And not even becoming a health coach has stopped this pattern. It has slowed down, for sure. But eliminated? Nope.
I tried to find a scientific, or at least an objective answer to this. I have not been successful.
Instead I decided to offer you some tips on how to AVOID falling into the holiday free for all. So I started off writing this blog in this way with these “tips”:
Forgo “low-fat” offerings and opt for desserts that feature fresh fruit and good organic fat. Use bran and oatmeal in lieu of white flour in your baked goods. Use walnuts and freshly cut fruit and berries to top pies, and make pudding with avocado instead of milk. Coconut cream is an excellent alternative to heavy cream when you need a delicious whipped topping.
Tip: Everything in moderation! If you’re mindful of what you’re eating, savoring every bite, and really honing in on the flavors, you’re less likely to want to take that second or third piece of pie.
The holidays and decadent meals go hand in hand. But here’s a simple tip so you don’t feel sluggish and bloated after dinner: Fill your plate with more vegetables and keep meat to a minimum; load up on salad and ignore the rolls. Try cooking your meals in organic oils—add a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil to the finely grilled steak or roast for added flavor and a dose of healthy fat. If you crave starch, opt for mashed sweet potatoes, which are high in antioxidants, and cut your portion size in half.
Tip: Eat a healthy meal of quinoa with steamed kale, broccoli, beets, topped with a simple tahini dressing before you head out to eat with family and friends. Your full belly will prevent you from wanting to overindulge.
Then it hit me. I was snickering out loud loll…. Who was I kidding?? I didn’t follow this advice so chances are, most people weren’t either. Plus I probably should’ve given these tips before the holidays..
So after years and years of unsuccessfully giving in to cake and more cake, here is my-realistic-take on all this:
It is true that you are what you eat: You eat junk day in day out, and eventually you WILL feel sick, whether mentally or physically. You will be moody, tired, unenthusiastic and groggy. Eat clean and you will feel energetic, light, optimistic and clear-headed.
But, it’s also true that, for whatever reason, we have been programmed to enjoy and find comfort in food and tradition, especially around family and friends or when are away from home. And no matter how much we learn about healthy food and clean eating, you simply cannot unprogram this part of you. And you shouldn’t try. It’s just…fun. And who doesn’t want to have fun? Or who wants to have fun in moderation?
I can’t imagine that my family and friends and I, gathered around a table to celebrate a birthday or Eid, would be relaxed and laughing hysterically if our meal consisted of green juices and quinoa. (Well, we probably would if that was the meal). You don’t want to be thinking about your health and if what you are eating could or could not potentially be harming you when you are surrounded by your loved ones. The moment is about them and you and the memories you are making. And the memory just isn’t the same without “happy food”.
Here’s the thing: beating yourself up can’t turn back the clock and undo your actions, so don’t. DO cherish the moments and the memories. Then look ahead, remind yourself that this is the exception not the rule and start fresh tomorrow!
Dana Dinnawi is an Integrative Nutrition health coach specializing in empowering women to improve their health and family life. She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she studied more than one hundred dietary theories and a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. She can be reached through her website and Facebook page.