It’s already the last few weeks of 2021 and most of us are currently running around trying to balance our preparation for holiday gatherings while navigating the spread of the COVID 19 omicron variant and simultaneously trying to maintain our beloved daily routines and our sanity! (Phew!) The month of December often leaves us busy planning holiday gatherings and booking trips to see friends or family or looking forward to some much needed time alone-but either way many of us forget to take a second to breathe, to sleep, to stay hydrated, and even to stay fueled! It’s not easy, we know, but it’s important to find time for self care during these next few weeks (and every week!). We need to make sure we’re meeting our own needs, nutritionally and otherwise. If we’re hungry because we’re skipping meals to shop, or we’re feeling stiff because we’re not stopping to stretch, we’re going to have a harder time being present for ourselves and our loved ones.
And it doesn’t stop there! It’s important to remind ourselves that this busyness and stress often extends beyond the prep-phase of buying presents, sending cards, and making a dance party playlist for New Year’s. Social events themselves, can bring up anxieties or stressors around eating and can throw us off our day-to-day rhythm. We’ve collected a few of the most common scenarios we hear people experience and have developed some fun strategies to help manage them. See below and ask yourself which applies to you. Maybe it’s one of them, maybe it’s all of them. Our hope is that these ideas can help us directly or indirectly deal with some of that holiday stress and enjoy this time of year more.
My family makes food that I just don’t like to eat.
This is one we get a lot.
When we anticipate going to that same big family/holiday dinner we attend every year and we know the table is going to be full of foods that, for whatever reason, we just don’t jive with. Maybe the beans and brussels sprouts they’re serving upset our IBS, maybe the main dishes are all fried and that doesn’t agree with our GERD, or maybe we’ve recently gone more plant-based and there’s rarely a fruit, whole grain or veggie in sight. Whatever the case is, we can work with it. Not everyone will share our lifestyle habits, and that’s okay. We can add to the joy of the season, and maybe the menu, too! One solution could be to bring a dish (or two) that meets your preferences. Find your favorite winter recipe, whip it up, and surprise your host with something new at the table. This ensures that you are able to partake in the communal ceremony of the feast while still taking care of your needs. Now, we know that some friends and family members may take this sort of gesture the wrong way, but we find that if we focus on our intent to genuinely contribute to the affair, negative feelings fade away pretty quickly. We are bringing food so as not to burden anyone with our particularities and because, hey, we want to party, too! Everybody wins. And, you never know, maybe next year they get inspired to add more of “your” food to the menu.
I’m concerned I won’t find time to work out when I travel for the holiday.
Fitness routines often take a big hit during the months of November and December. Even the most disciplined athletes struggle to dedicate their usual amount of time to staying active. This is compounded by the fact that many of us travel away from our own homes to be with family and those destinations are not always primed for our workouts. Still, the recent pandemic taught us that we can still accomplish a lot inside or, at least, in an atypical setting. So, this holiday, make a plan ahead of time for how you’ll stay active at your mom’s apartment or when your partner’s aunt and uncle come to stay with you. Set aside equipment (athletic shoes, yoga mat, jump rope, etc.), preload your favorite workouts onto YouTube or your fitness app, and let your family and friends know you’re going to take a few minutes to break a sweat. Maybe you have a relative visiting that likes to do yoga or go on runs. Reach out beforehand and invite them to work out with you during the visit so you have a buddy and extra motivation to get moving. That said, you may simply need a break from your usual workout routine. It could be because your competitive season is over for the year or you’ve just been over exercising lately. If this rings true to you, please use this time as an opportunity to relax and to give your body the rest it needs.
I’m tempted to eat foods I would regularly never touch.
For so many people, an overflowing dinner table can feel overwhelming? This year how about trying to flip that feeling on its head and use this as an opportunity to practice letting go of food rules and celebrating everything we’ve accomplished this year! Let’s work on breaking free of food rules and digging into that Christmas lasagna or those New Year’s dumplings. We need food to fuel our bodies, but we also eat to celebrate and for the joy of a delicious-tasting meal. Let’s allow ourselves to embrace the idea of sharing a table with the people we love without wasting energy on macros, micros, and calories. We also understand that, at times, this kind of talk can come off as fluffy wishful thinking, but the truth is that it’s backed by research! Time and time again, studies have shown that at all ages a nonchalant, casual attitude towards eating yields the best relationship with food. Restriction, overthinking, and labeling of foods as “bad” or “good,” ironic as it may seem, usually leads right back to the habits we’re trying to adjust in the first place. So, in our everyday life, and especially at the holidays, let us reframe our thinking and rejoice in all that our holiday meals can do for us—nourish our bodies, delight our taste buds, and bring us closer to friends and family.
Someone always comments on what I eat or how much.
This is another common complaint we hear in sessions with clients. Most of us can relate to a family member or relative who feels the need to comment on everything we do including what’s on our plate or what we choose to put in our mouth. Sometimes it’s a nosy aunt, sometimes it’s a competitive sibling, and sometimes it’s just part of regular conversation. Regardless of intent, when other people take notice of what or how much we are eating we say it is most often a reflection of how THEY feel about what they should or should not be eating and has nothing to do with us. We must remind ourselves that others’ comments should have nothing to do with what or how much we chose to eat or what our body needs. We can always walk away from the situation (if this is someone we may never or rarely see again), or kindly ask the person to refrain from commenting on our choices (if this person or relationship is important to us and we want to help improve the situation long term).
No matter what the comment, we have the right to feed ourselves the way only we know how to, so let us start with that mindset and our responses will reflect it. Staying cool and collected will not always be easy, as it is a very personal matter, but the calmer we can stay around the dinner table, the more we can enjoy everything that’s on it!