The Holidays and Your Nutrition by Niki Carr
The holidays can be a difficult time for many folks. There may be a lot of burden on someone to make this time of year feel extra magical for others. We may be missing those loved ones who are no longer here to celebrate with us. Some experience financial strain, between the cost of gift-giving and loss of income from extra days off. The biggest complaints I hear as a Nutritionist is a fear of messing up their diet or shame over enjoying the food traditions present during the holiday season. In fact, I see very few people between Thanksgiving and New Year altogether. I would love to take this moment to extend a little compassion to those who are struggling with food during this season. Read on for some practical tips to manage these feelings when they come up.
Myths and Facts
First off, there is a pervasive myth that everyone gains 5 (or more) pounds during the holiday season. This is simply false. A research study, published back in 2000, followed folks from September to March, and noticed only a single pound difference in that time. Our bodies are really incredible at maintaining their set point (or biologically determined weight). For instance, in that 6 month period of time, if, on average, your body needs 2000 calories to maintain its weight, you would consume approximately 360,000 calories. A pound of fat roughly contains 3500 calories. That means if there is an increase of one pound of body weight that you ate the appropriate number of calories for your body more than 99.99% of the time. I hardly do anything with that much precision!
The Ingredient You Don’t Need
Please please, from now until forever -remove guilt and shame from your ingredient list. Food is delicious and makes us feel good. We include food in countless traditions and celebrations to enhance the experience and build connections with each other. When we mix guilt and shame with our eating, we tend to not feel as satisfied afterward and we may actually crave those treats more often. On the other hand, when we eat with gratitude and mindfulness, we have a deeper connection with our food and with those around us, and we feel more satisfied. The detrimental effects of stress on our health touch every body system, by increasing our risk of high blood pressure, stroke, depression, digestive issues, respiratory problems and so on. Be forgiving if you indulge more than you expect – the stress caused by eating the treat is likely going to cause you more harm than the treat itself!
Back to Basics with Your Nutrition
During this season, don’t forget your basics – You still need to eat regularly and stay hydrated. Your body needs calories throughout the day, even if you intend to have and enjoy treats outside of your norm. “Saving up” calories for an indulgent meal is a disservice to your body and mind. When we are starving, we are more likely to reach for calorie-dense foods to make up for our calorie deficit. This could lead to overeating.
Bring mindfulness with you to the table. Focus on intuition, instead of impulsivity. Impulsivity looks like grabbing a cookie off of the plate because it’s in front of you without giving it much thought. Intuition, on the other hand, involves a pause and consideration. Do I actually like this cookie? How will this make my body feel?
Have a Plan This Holiday Season
Last but not least, when you do overindulge – have a plan. Physically, incorporate some leafy greens into your next few meals. Leafy greens provide tons of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber, which will help keep your metabolism and digestion working smoothly. Drink some extra water to help flush out any excess waste. Get some movement in – eating rich decadent foods can sometimes leave us low on energy, but a brisk walk can raise your energy levels back to normal and give you a dopamine boost. Emotionally, check-in with curiosity instead of judgment. Were you hovering over the snack table at the work party bc you didn’t want to talk to anyone and snacking felt safer? Are the holidays a tough time for you and food is one of your coping strategies? Did you keep going back for more eggnog because it is scarcely available the rest of the year and you wanted to make sure to get it while it was around? Find your why, extend compassion for how you coped in that moment, and then let it go.
I hope this provides you with some peace with food during this season! Happy Holidays and a joyous New Year’s too. If you find yourself needing additional support, reach out for an appointment.