With the holidays fast approaching, I am beginning to see a lot of “holiday survival guides” floating around the internet, where naturally you’ll learn how to protect your diet from the onslaught of pies and cookie exchanges and potlucks being hurled your way in the next five weeks. These guides undoubtedly have a lot of useful information, so useful, in fact, I even set out to write my own holiday survival guide.
And so I started writing it. I started thinking about all the habits that make the holidays a little less stressful. So I began to think about what my own Thanksgiving dinner might look like. I thought about filling my plate how I normally would. For me, that begins with protein and veggies. That’s my foundation, and whatever I decide to add to my plate beyond that, I really won’t fret over (I’m looking at you, mashed potatoes). I know I’ve already got my bases covered by filling my plate with quality protein and volume greens. This will help me make clearer decisions later, like whether I should have a slice of pumpkin pie and a bowl of ambrosia. Even if I decide, YOLO, I’ll know I’ve come to that decision having fed my body and my brain the right stuff to feel good and to make level-headed choices. Level-headed choices such as, heck yeah, I am definitely going for the pumpkin pie as well as the ambrosia.
And I thought about how this could be applied to pretty much any holiday scenario, whether it’s a work potluck, a holiday party, or even a late-night, post-holiday-shopping solo dinner. I don’t think too hard about what I should and shouldn’t eat; instead, I just think about eating consistent, well-rounded meals regularly throughout the day. Suppose you arrive at the office ready to keep your diet on track only to find your coworkers have brought for the annual potluck every doughnut variety imaginable, every casserole known to the Midwest, and every holiday cookie south of the North Pole. Well, I’ll bet if you started your day with a spinach omelet and and a sweet potato with butter you won’t be feeling ravenously hungry by the time those mid-morning doughnuts roll through. Eating whole, nutritious foods throughout the day is a way to “survive the holidays,” sure, but it’s also just your lifestyle, and your lifestyle doesn’t do seasonal work. Focus on the 90% of your holiday schedule that you do have control over, and don’t stress out too much over the 10% you don’t. Maybe even throw a little fun in there, too. We’re fortunate to even get to celebrate.
So although I set out to write a holiday survival guide, I found my manual so sorely lacking any concrete, hard-nosed instructions so much as to hardly be a guide at all. There are no answers to “can I have…” or “should I stay away from…” here. There’s no “survival” gear to shift into. Ultimately, you deserve so much more than to be in constant war over whether Temptation wins the battle or Self-Restraint, and this is true whether the halls are decked or not. The holidays aren’t a fateful time where good diets get derailed, because good diets don’t get derailed. Good diets are lifestyle habits that allow for change and creativity, and they don’t require a unique skill set, as well as a separate armor of self-control, during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. And so although I set out to write a holiday survival guide, I decided it’s better that you thrive.