An Enjoyable and Important Aspect of the Holidays

November 15, 2016 in General, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

My grandparents raised me during some fairly formative years of my childhood. Their influence seems to have left long-term thinking processes and scraps of knowledge that would not normally be mine. I loved hearing stories from my grandmother’s childhood, growing up on a farm in Indiana; a fairly innocent and bucolic life. Many other stories of her life were a result of my grandparents raising five children during the great depression. Those stories were neither innocent, nor bucolic. During the 1920s they built their home in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of Los Angeles; and began raising their children.

Among the stories that she shared was Herbert Hoover’s 1928 promise of “a chicken in every pot.” Dare say, that promise didn’t really work out. The great depression, which started in 1929, when my mother was five years old, lasted for about 10 years. Those stories were of struggle and scarcity. I’ll only share one today; it is of a day when my grandmother had nothing left but some onions, some grease and some bread. The family was grateful for the fried onion sandwiches that she created.

Fast forward to today’s world. I’m not oblivious that there are people around the world suffering from insufficient food. Nor am I unaware that there are people in our very country who are defined as food insecure. But in the America of those days it was so prevalent that there were scarce resources when food was insufficient. In today’s America, by far, the majority of us have a surplus of food. There’s a chicken in almost any pot that we want to put one in; most families could have chicken seven days a week if they desired. Our problem is a different one, a problem of over-abundance. We not only have enough to nourish ourselves at each meal; but in addition, there is ready year-round access to treats. Pie, for example, is not just for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the county fair; but is generally affordable as regular fare. Candy is not just something for a special treat, or found in the Christmas stocking, but is persistently available at the gas station, or at stores’ checkout counters.

For many, the holiday festivities often begin with the Halloween candy supply; and don’t end until D-Day (Diet Day), generally about January 2nd. The holidays offer a genuine minefield of occasions to overindulge. As a result of this sort of abundance, many of us nowadays face the holidays as a daunting challenge of getting through without excessive weight gain.

Denying oneself of favorite foods can actually backfire and lead to overeating. So today I’m going to share a couple of hints of how to enjoy holiday eating, without excessive weight gain.

One of the most effective ways is to be selective; that is, to choose your very favorite and skip those items that aren’t your passion. For me, as an example, stuffing is the highlight of the Thanksgiving meal. I don’t care much about mashed potatoes and rolls. Each of you will no doubt have to select among other preferences. The technique of being selective increases our satisfaction. It’s not an issue of missing nutrients. You’re not going to become malnourished from one day’s eating. If the buffet line includes, store bought items that you can have any day, do you really want to include it on your plate? Thinking about your favorites and planning ahead are key in successfully being selective.

One of the benefits of giving yourself permission to enjoy your favorite foods is to feel that you have the power over the favorite food. That is, you’ve given yourself permission to enjoy your favorites. This type of decision reduces guilt, which unfortunately is a powerful trigger for overeating for many. Not allowing oneself special holiday foods is like making those foods the forbidden fruit and the allure seems to only get stronger.

The idea is to maximize enjoyment; take pleasure in what you decide to eat. Defeat the guilt of some arbitrary rule, that you shouldn’t eat a certain food. Take some time to reflect on the foods that you want to include, enjoy them, and move back to your regular eating habits immediately after the event.

Another counter-productive eating behavior is that some people skip meals before a holiday event that they know will be tempting. Unfortunately, this almost always backfires. Combining primal hunger with an abundance of holiday offerings is likely to lead you to excessive eating. You don’t need to eat big meals before the big event, but eating small ones will give you greater control at the holiday event.

Last, don’t forget to get enough sleep and exercise – care for yourself. Sleep deprivation interferes with hunger and fullness cues. Certainly, it’s challenging enough to get through the holiday season without gaining too much weight, but adding sleep deprivation is like adding oil to the fire; an out of control eating event.

If you’re interested in learning new techniques to controlling eating you may be interested in the fields of mindful eating and intuitive eating, which both embrace enjoying favorite foods.

I am grateful for the continuing research in weight management and how we can use it to manage our holiday eating wisely. I am also grateful for the bounty, which so many of us enjoy, and intend to enjoy with wise selectivity.