Is there anything more stressful than sitting in front of amazing, mouth-watering food and trying to avoid temptation?
The key is to simply strike a balance. There are two extremes on the holiday-dinner spectrum: (1) “I will avoid ALL unhealthy and tempting food” and (2) “It’s the holidays, it doesn’t matter, I’ll eat and drink whatever I want!” The problem with option 1 is that you’ll end up spending a lot of energy and focus on what you’re eating, what you’re declining to eat and how you feel. Rather than your conversations being filled with happy memories and quality catch-ups, you might end up over-thinking what you’re eating, and over-insisting to everyone that no, you don’t want a second round, and yes, the dessert looks great but you’re really full. On the other hand, option 2 can be tricky as well. If you allow yourself to over-indulge, this might lead to a rather heavy hangover and a few days of regret. Allowing a massive cheat day (or cheat days) can leave you feeling guilty and unhappy for weeks.
So, what can we do? The key is to strike a balance. Somewhere between these two extremes is an option that keeps you satiated and unregretful. Here are a few tips:
If you know you’ll have a few days of big lunches and dinners, commit to a healthy week of eating before and after the holiday season, and book in extra gym days in your schedule. You’ll feel a lot more relaxed about the holiday season if you know that you’re going to take extra steps to undo some of the indulgence over the holidays. That said, bear in mind that you can’t undo calories by exercising more and more. Don’t think “how many hours of exercise will it take to burn off the calories from this meal?” The idea isn’t to undo the calories, it’s to undo the habit. If you know you’ve got a plan to be in shape before and after the holiday season, you can feel more confident that any overindulgence will not really make a difference.
Cut out just one or two things
Rather than considering EVERY unhealthy food or drink at the dinner table your enemy, choose one or two things to avoid. For example, you could skip the bread or share dessert with someone. If you try to avoid anything and everything unhealthy, you’ll end up obsessing over what you eat. Instead, if you just try to avoid one or two things, you’ll set an achievablegoal, and you can let go for the rest of the time.
Eat when you’re hungry
We’ve all been there: you’re stressed, you’re bored, you’re waiting around, so you eat something or drink something to keep active and pass the time. The holiday season is stressful (organising the family, seeing people who you haven’t seen in ages, spending money on gifts) and there is a LOT of waiting around as guests arrive at different times to whatever holiday party or dinner you’re at. You’ll likely find yourself stuck in a conversation with someone you have no interest in speaking to, and a second or third drink is going to seem all the more attractive. Be conscious of when you’re eating or drinking and why. Try to find the balance by eating and drinking when it’s meal time, or sticking to just one drink at a party. If you find yourself eating and drinking because you’re bored or stressed, it might be best to put the plate or glass down.
Healthy weight management and a healthy body and mind is something that occurs over time. Having a few days and nights of eating a lot is not realistically going to make a big difference. That extra slice of cake on Christmas Eve will not hurt you in the long run. You shouldn’t feel guilty, because it’s not going to make a huge difference so allow yourself to give in a little. Of course, know your limits (if you don’t want to be hungover the next day, don’t drink), but ultimately, don’t stress about weight gain or negative side effects. It will pass.
Cliché, yes, but focus on enjoying the day and the season rather than stressing about health. When you start feeling guilty, remember that it is the holidays. If you’ve planned ahead and followed the other steps above, all you have left to do is relax and enjoy. You’ve got time off, you’re seeing friends and family, nothing else is really important!
Overall, striking a balance between regretfully overeating and obsessing over undereating is completely realistic and achievable. The menopause can make everything a little more anxious and a little more difficult, so know yourself, know your triggers and just be prepared. Once you’re prepared, you can relax and just let the rest be. The holidays can surely be stressful, but at the end of the day, they’re meant to be full of love, happiness, and good spirit. Don’t let food guilt takeover!