‘Tis the season for indulging. Sweet treats are everywhere! But we all know sugar isn't good for us. It's addictive, causes blood sugar swings and energy crashes, is highly inflammatory, and eating too much can lead to many chronic health problems.
So what do you do when it's all around you? Here are my top 8 strategies for avoiding the holiday sugar monster and staying healthy and energized through the holiday season:
1. Have alternatives.
Saying no to refined sugar doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy desserts. Make your own healthier desserts and bring them with you to parties so you and others have something to enjoy. If you can satisfy your sweet tooth with a more moderate treat, you won’t feel as pulled to eat a dozen sugar cookies and won’t end up feeling deprived. Try my easy Raw Date Nut Balls.
2. Focus on what you get to eat.
Instead of focusing on what you don’t get to eat (that feels like deprivation to me and makes me sad), focus on all the delicious food you do get to eat. That feels exciting and positive! A shift in your attention goes a long way.
3. Don’t show up famished at a holiday gathering.
If you are super-duper hungry, no amount of willpower or mindfulness will keep you from binging.
Instead, focus on eating three nutrient-dense meals a day with plenty of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, and greens.
Eat a healthy snack like an apple and almond butter or handful of nuts before you go to a party. You’ll avoid diving head-first into the cake display.
4. Say “no” rather than “sometimes.”
Rather than worry about whether a little bite will lead to more bites and eventually a binge, I have my absolute “NO” foods that I don’t even waste time thinking about. For me, these are refined sugar and gluten. Anything that contains either of those is an absolute NO.
Other people do well with moderation. You have to find what works for you.
5. Focus on what’s really important about the holidays.
Yes, food is important and gathering around the table with people we love is one of the great joys of life. It was absolutely a big part of my family tradition (I come from a Jewish family, where we were always planning the next meal. And my Grandma Gertie could cook like no one else, right up until age 96.)
But think about the real meaning of the holidays…celebrating and connecting with people we love and taking time to share what we are thankful for. Focus your attention on the people, the conversation, the laughter, and the stories told.
Chances are, if I ask you to recall three favorite memories from holidays past, you will think of some memories related to your family and friends, and not necessarily the exact dishes you ate.
Outside of the tradition of eating pie, think about other traditions that are important and make memories, like going for a walk together, or going around the table and sharing what you are grateful for.
That is one of my favorite traditions! My husband and I share what we are grateful for every night before dinner. It's a wonderful ritual.
6. Fill your holiday with other non-sugary pleasures that are satisfying and fulfilling.
Get a massage. Go see a movie with a friend. Read a great book with the warmth of the winter sun on your back. Take a walk in nature. Listen to an inspiring talk.
When you have some go-to activities on the calendar that bring you joy and pleasure, you don’t need to rely on the instant gratification and fleeting happiness that comes from the sugar hit.
7. Remember how you feel when you feel good and how you feel when you feel icky.
Visualization is a powerful tool. When you want to eat something that you know doesn’t serve you (whether it be sugar, gluten, dairy, or whatever triggers you), think back to the moment you felt the worst and ask yourself if you really want to go there.
Then, think about how you felt when you ate foods that were deeply nourishing to you. Think about how your body felt and how EMPOWERED you felt in taking good care of yourself and following through on your intentions. From this vantage point, you can make a supportive choice.
8. Skip the Guilt.
If you do indulge a bit too much, skip the guilt, ok? Beating yourself up doesn’t do you any good. Instead, mindfully enjoy -- savor -- your treat and begin the next day with new choices that support you.
Happy, healthy holidays to you!