Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.
We’re just shy of two weeks from Thanksgiving.
If I had a dollar for each of the “survive the holidays diet”, “3-day ‘pre-detox'”, “wrap”, “cream”, “pill”, “powder”, and/or “shake” messages I’ve seen come across my FB feed, in the last couple of weeks, I would have enough to celebrate Thanksgiving in the Caribbean. …with several of my friends and family members.
I typed, “Survive the Holidays” into Google and netted 28,500,000 results in less than 45 seconds!!
And a “pre-detox”? WTH? Yup, it turns out that really IS “a thing” – I saw it a few times yesterday, AND received an e-mail besides.
First, let me be clear. Many people DO struggle through the holiday season. It’s not a happy time for everyone. Some people are alone and feel isolated. Some are struggling with money, stress, relationships, or any other unless number of things. Some people have lost family members, jobs, homes, or love in the past and the holidays can reopen those wounds, regardless of how much scar tissue has accumulated on top. This may result in a case of the blues, or clinical anxiety and depression. Please don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance from a qualified mental health professional if you’re struggling. That’s not what this blog is about.
I want to talk specifically about the “Survive the Holidays” DIET craziness. Now, it too, began with a basis in fact.
- There are holiday parties, both at work and within our other social groups. It has been proven that we eat more in groups. Everyone else is eating. We eat mindlessly – putting food into our mouths, washing it down with tasty beverages, while we’re talking. That plate of food is gone before we can even muse, “yum. Meatballs! I need this recipe.”
- There are tasty treats everywhere. Pie. Cookies. Donuts. Egg nog. Mashed potato with gravy and sweets with marshmallows. Fudge and chocolates. Hot chocolate (with marshmallows and whipped cream). Cake.
- The days are shorter so we feel less motivated to exercises when it’s dark as we get out of work.
- It’s starting to get cooler – adding that to the early darkness, we feel more like curling up on the couch than going to the gym. It also leads to craving more warm and hearty foods. We drink less water.
- We are under more stress to get it “all” done. We have our regular commitments and responsibilities but now we also need to find time to go shopping, make food for and attend the increased gatherings, and ensure we are actively carrying on family traditions. Stress increases cortisol which can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure, and increase fat storage.
Here’s one thing you might be surprised to find. Numerous studies, conducted since 2000, show that:
Holiday weight gain actually averages 1-2 pounds vice the 5-7 we frequently see reported.
That said, it’s not all great news. Even though it’s only 1-2 pounds, we typically don’t shed that extra weight later. Next year, it’s another 1-2 on top of this, and next year, and next year. The other thing worth noting is that, while there’s less weight change than many report, there may be increases in body fat.
Here’s a question: if studies show the average weight gain is 1-2 pounds, why do we hear higher numbers then? Here’s a better question: where are you hearing the higher numbers from?
Answer: Marketing based on fear that YOU will gain 5-7 pounds and you “shouldn’t”. You’re hearing this stuff from companies that have some type of weight loss or “health related” product to sell you. Marketing 101.
Here’s another question: if you do gain a few pounds, is it a “disaster”? Probably not. Will you be thrilled? Maybe not. Can you mitigate it now though moderation? Probably. Can you change it later though consistent application of reasonable nutrition and exercise habits? Probably so.
Calling it a d.i.s.a.s.t.e.r. might be a tiny bit melodramatic.
The holidays are times when most of us get to see family and friends we don’t see all the time. We take more time to relax, chat, talk, and laugh. They come once a year. Holidays are not something we should try to “survive”.
- Should we eat every single morsel of food we see?
- Do we need to eat everything somebody offers us? Do we need to have one of everything at the office party even though much of it really isn’t that tasty?
- Should we eat as if Thanksgiving (insert your favorite holiday) is the last day food will exist on the earth?
- Should we drink the entire bottle of rum vs just putting a little bit in our drink?
Probably not the best ideas.
- We can (and I do) make modifications to our recipes to lower fat, sodium, carbs, calories, gluten, sugar, or whatever. But do we need to make low calorie, no carb, zero fat, paleo, organic pumpkin pie that even my neighborhood raccoon wouldn’t eat from the trash?
- Do we need to measure every morsel of food we put into our mouths; do a pre-detox three days out; spend all day (and night) Friday in the gym “working off” our meal AND eat one meal a day for the two weeks following the holiday?
How will I survive the holidays?
- I will get some exercise (I have, historically, done a 5K Turkey Trot in the morning. I don’t “have to”. I “like to”. I find it fun. I take family with me so we can enjoy it, and each other’s company. It’s more than just the food.)
- I will make sure I drink some water throughout the day. As I’m cooking and working around the house, that will be my drink of choice.
- I will have my normal protein and carb breakfast (rather than “saving those calories” for later).
- I will focus on the people around me and enjoying limited time with them.
- I will fill my plate first with some type of protein, then with vegetables, and then with starch. I am, though, going to have a little bit of everything that makes this holiday special to my palate. (For me personally, this will mean brazil nuts, cuties, turkey, cranberry, sweet potato, squash, a roll AND pumpkin pie with – a fair amount of – whipped cream.)
- I will stop eating before I fill myself to the point of being uncomfortable.
- I will clear the food and put it away, once we are done eating. If it’s sitting out, I will pick…and I don’t need to. I’m not depriving myself but I’m also not hungry. I’m eating “just because”.
- I will get a little more movement in, in the afternoon. This is when I chase my grandchildren around, we go for a walk, play soccer, or make our way to the playground.
- I won’t act as though Thanksgiving to New Year’s is one continual holiday. On most days, I will make mostly reasonable choices for my meals.
- When I’m eating, I will take the time to enjoy my food. I will sit with it, or at the very least stand in one place. I won’t mingle while munching because I know myself and that turns into way more munching than anything else.
What’s your plan for surviving the holidays?