I was flipping through one of the many holiday catalogues that clog up my mailbox this time of year and gawked at page after page displaying enormous, scrumptious buffets of extravagant dishes, candy dishes, boxed chocolates, all adorned in bright colors of cheer and joy.
As I started to get all warm and fuzzy inside, a thought crossed my mind, “What if I couldn’t eat this stuff?”
Millions of people can’t and there are billions who truly shouldn’t eat this stuff (including me). Whether it’s high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, inflammatory diseases, high cholesterol, digestive disorders, obesity, and much more, many people get through a holiday season eating their “joy” and severely exacerbating their health issues.
If you’re a client on a NuSpecies rebuilding program, you probably have a list of foods you cannot eat or a list of foods you should be eating that definitely won’t be found marketed in any of these holiday catalogues.
So...what do you do?
Avoid Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is “the anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like.”
You may have gotten through many previous holidays telling yourself, “I can’t eat these foods, they’re bad for me, but it’s just for the holiday season and then I’ll straighten out in the new year.”
You accept that these foods aren’t going to have a positive impact on your body and at the same time convince yourself that because it’s temporary, it won’t matter.
IT DOES! Everything you put into your body has an impact. It either makes your body stronger or it makes your body weaker.
Plan for Success
You can have a joyful holiday season, even if it looks different than the past. You have to plan to make it that way. Don’t count on those around you to shift their tectonic plates to align with the direction yours is drifting. You need to build a bridge.
Here are some suggestions:
“I Don’t” instead of “I Can’t”
I have to thank Marie Forleo for this concept.
Saying, “I can’t eat pie” is taking away your agency. It’s making you a victim of your health condition. It creates a mindset that you’re not in control and that you’re not intentionally directing your own life.
Saying, “I don’t eat pie” is owning your situation. It’s reinforcing the mindset that you understand what your journey is right now and that journey doesn’t include pie.
You’re facing the very real consequences of diabetes or cancer or major hormonal issues, etc. and excessive sugar consumption is only going to damage your body further.
“My goal is to heal from this condition and live a long, prosperous life. Eating pie won’t get me to that goal. I don’t eat foods that take me farther from my goals.”
Your goal has to be more powerful than any fleeting craving or passing emotion.
If your diet is very restrictive due to risk of stroke, heart attack, or other very serious consequences, then exceptions are not on the menu, literally.
What do you like to eat?
There are many fruits and vegetables that can be whipped up into delicious whole food, filling meals. Look up WFPB (Whole Food Plant Based) recipes and start experimenting from now. By the time your first holiday event comes up, you can bring your own meal. And if you’re the host, then make yourself something separate to eat.
Don’t forget dessert! They’re are many delicious, WFPB desserts you can make too! You don’t have to be left out of the joy that eating with your family can bring.
Don’t cook? Don’t be shy to ask a friend or family member that likes to cook to help you try out some new recipes so you can improve your health AND enjoy your holiday. It is possible to have both.
If your diet isn’t as restrictive, but you still need to be careful, my suggestion is the same, but you can also plan in advance for the exceptions you’ll make. What is your absolute favorite main dish and dessert? Plan to have a small portion of only those favorites along with the delicious food you’ve brought.
Attending multiple holiday events from November through December? You can’t make exceptions at all of them or they won’t be exceptions anymore. Decide in advance which events will have food that is most meaningful to you. For example, my office holiday party with store bought, processed junk food is not a worthy cheat compared to your mother’s home cooking on Christmas Eve.
By planning in advance, you gain a super powerful advantage: You have the time in advance to eat as healthily as you possibly can from now until the holiday season starts and in between every gathering. This may help your body to tolerate your “cheat” days at your holiday events. Also make it a regular practice to move your body and burn the energy you’re consuming.
It’s more motivating to eat healthy and exercise now knowing the pay off: it may afford you the opportunity to enjoy your holiday season guilt free. Compare that to desperately trying to turn things around in the new year when you physically feel terrible and you’re beating yourself up for overindulging for months. No brainer.
Make a List
What brings you joy other than food? I know, shocking. How dare I ask?
Sometimes I think to myself, “If there wasn’t a table full of delicious food at this event, would I want to be here?”
Make a list of all the people, things, and experiences that bring you joy around the holidays that don't involve food.
What are the aspects of the holidays that would bring you joy that typically get overlooked because everyone is so focused on food? Can you bring those ideas to life and invite them into your holiday traditions?
Visualize It to Realize It
Close your eyes and imagine yourself eating a colorful, delicious plant based diet for the next three months. You’re drinking smoothies, crunching on salads, drinking fresh juice, walking, stretching, dancing and giving your body positive energy to heal itself.
Then imagine yourself cooking delicious, healthful food and carrying it with you to a holiday event.
Imagine yourself laughing with the people you love while you eat that food, telling stories, playing games, and feeling the warm steam from your mug of tea on your face.
Hear the music, take a deep breath into your belly, and as you release that breath slowly, feel the deep satisfaction that comes from being stuffed with gratitude, not food.
This article is not a replacement for the advice of your doctor or nutritionist. Please consult with your doctor to ensure that you’re eating foods that are safe for your health condition.