Food Freedom Friday Edition 61

Keeping it Together Over the Holidays

The last few weeks of the year are inevitably the most exhausting and energy draining. December is the month during which you generally take care of all the holiday details: shopping for gifts, party commitments, visiting loved ones and special activities of all kinds. These extra activities can seem like nothing more than another layer on top of your usual overwhelm of tasks and responsibilities. Onto that add celebrations, vacations, meals, sugary hostess gifts, and all the treats that mark the holidays. The unfortunate consequences often result in you feeling off balance, bloated, and too burned out to enjoy the festivities and traditions that mark the season.

Yet this is supposed to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, and no one wants to be feeling awful and lacking holiday spirit. It might be time to shift the way you approach that year-end to-do list.

Keep it simple—no new programs or anything extreme that will sound like yet another item on your already impossible holiday agenda. Instead, implement some strategies to support you a little more while you celebrate. Strategies that will allow you to feel great now, tomorrow and even after the last New Year’s party is over. 

1.        Skipping meals

When going to a party or other food-centered occasion do not skip meals in anticipation of eating at your destination. Arriving famished will lead to poor eating decision-making and overindulgence. If you are left feeling bloated, tired, and out of sorts, especially after a celebratory event, you might be eating more than your share of sugar and other undesirable ingredients in the form of party food. Worse, a continued starve-gorge pattern can add up to weight gain by the time the New Year is underway.

Before you go out, make sure to ‘eat before you eat. This will then set the stage for you to continue to choose healthful protein, fat and fiber every few hours to keep energy high and cravings at bay, as well as avoid digestive distress.

2.        Feeling down

Sadly, the holiday blues are all too common. Special days often spark reflection on the past, and not always the happy or pleasant past at that. Everyone else’s hectic activity and busy-ness can fuel a sense of missing out, making you feel isolated or reinforce your dissatisfaction with the here and now. Stress can also in turn trigger secondary problems like out-of-control eating.

Be aware that, at this moment, you are yourself creating this sad and lonely reality. You can change that mood of defeat by reawakening your self-esteem and inner strength. Turn towards the people and activities that best reinforce your best sense of self. Focus on those first.

It is also smart to keep in mind that this year is just about over. You can build hope with curiosity about what the New Year will bring.

It might also be wise to, as much as possible, minimize your contact with negative, bah-humbug types, and make a point of reconnecting with outgoing, upbeat friends and family instead.

3.       Deplete all your resources at once

When many activities place a demand on your physical wellbeing, you face a real risk of running out of steam - dashing to parties, drinking, eating, shopping, baking, and juggling tasks at work to meet end-of-year deadlines along with all the other responsibilities and interests that are also attracting your attention. Your body and brain need a break, and they may not be getting it any time soon.

Keep up that breakneck pace and you are sure to wind up overwhelmed, empty, and stressed, which is harmful to your immune addition to your physical wellbeing, your emotional self also takes a hit when activity is constant. Where is your happiness and sense of fulfillment when every bit of your mental energy is on doing, doing, doing?

Do your best to prioritize your activities, and then eliminate those that unnecessarily drain your reserves. No needs to wait until you feel tense and desperate. Take this critical step today! Which means you must avoid…

4.       Not saying NO

A major energy zapper is the inability to recognize your personal limits. Sometimes it is good to acknowledge you have had enough. It would probably be better to prevent the burn-out before it happens by turning down an(other) holiday invitation, refusing all those treats offered by home and office ‘food pushers,’ maybe declining that second, third or more drinks andsending polite regrets to parties when your schedule is already maxed out.

Of course simply declining, just saying no, would be better.  You owe it to yourself to do so.

Knowing and respecting your personal boundaries is essential to navigating the holiday season in a healthy, balanced way. The same will apply in the year ahead making this year; this season an ideal time to practice those skills.

Saying ‘no’ to unnecessary alcohol will also help you say ‘no’ to overindulging in general. That’s a win-win.

5.        Unreasonably excessive indulgences

One highlight of the holiday season has to be the food – in sheer quantity, that is—not nutritional quality. Everyone’s favorite treats—cookies, cakes, candies, chocolates (oh!)—you name it, are excessively abundant and available in all your homes and workplaces/

You know what? Go ahead and have some. Good holiday eating is not about deprivation. Planned indulgences are about mindfulness and balance, eating in a way that proves to be rewarding now as well as later. The key is, to have a plan or structure and not overdo it. Check out the bounty before you take a bite, and then select one or two items. Remember, too much sugar now will take a toll on your energy later, not to mention increase continued sugar cravings.

I recommend that both at home and at work, when not in party mode, keep those yummy treats out of sight. That will go a long way to help curb mindless snacking and temptation. And after the occasion, thwart further temptation by tossing or sharing any leftovers.

I encourage you to go out and enjoy yourself even as you maintain your sense of self-control—not to mention sanity!—among all the buzz and bustle. By caring for yourself now, you will be setting a solid foundation and heading into a brand-new year with more energy and wellbeing than you might have in any previous fresh new year. There truly is no expiration date on beneficial attitudes and habits, not in ordinary daily life, and not during the holidays, eithe

Michal Ofer