First, I am not a fan of the term ‘Diet.’ To me, a diet is a temporary thing. My personal opinion is that your nutrition is the cumulation of your dietary decisions, not a 30 or 60 day routine (perhaps a topic for another article).
That said, I am well aware that people are sometimes hyper-aware of their dietary choices during the holiday season. With pressure from family and friends (sometimes even self-imposed) to eat whatever is put on the table, we should be mindful of a few important things.
Be Transparent with Family
Time and time again, I hear concerns from people that they are worried about the head chef of the family forcing unhealthy food on them. Here’s my first thought: Be transparent with whomever is the one who typically pressures you.
The conversation can start like this: “Hey (Loved One), I always enjoy your cooking and am grateful for this time with family, but I’ve been working really hard toward my fitness goals this year. It is important to me that I don’t fall too far off track during the holidays. Please be understanding if I’m a bit selective when it comes to dinner. I really appreciate your love and support, especially this time of year.”
Done deal. People tend to equate food with love. Trust me, I grew up in a household where food was directly correlated with love. The matriarchs and patriarchs of the family love to provide for us, and that includes delicious food. Meals bring us together, we start conversations, we share time with one another. Your loved ones care about you and they hopefully want you to be healthy – be strong and ask for their support.
We all have our favorite dishes. One of mine is Waldorf Salad (mmmm). Contrary to popular belief, not all salads are healthy – especially Waldorf Salad. The dressing is typically made out of mayonnaise and can be very rich. An easy, healthier substitute for mayo is Greek yogurt. This provides a similar taste and consistency with far fewer calories.
This is a simple example of how you can tweak some of your favorite dishes to be healthier. As someone who enjoys cooking, I think it can be fun to take a delicious (but overindulgent) meal and try to create a healthier version. Sometimes your head chef will appreciate the challenge. However, don’t impose unnecessary expectations on the meal. The holidays are meant for relaxation – there’s no need to bring undue stress into the kitchen. Simply, do your best to make/find healthy alternatives within reason.
One Meal Won’t Ruin You
Whether you are celebrating Christmas, The New Year, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, or the Chinese New Year, I would encourage you to relax and remember that it is the holiday season. A meal or two outside of your plan isn’t going to keep you from your goals. If anything, consider it ‘hitting the reset button’ and get ready to get back to work!
We know that a few cheat meals won’t change your body composition much in the grand scheme of things. You already know you shouldn’t over-indulge on a regular basis, so have something delicious once in a while and then get back to your routine.
While I would consider discipline one of the most fundamentally important characteristics to human success, I also plan to eat anything I want at our Christmas dinner. Practice your dietary discipline throughout the year so that when you want to splurge, you can! Some of the things in this article may seem like common sense, but I know that people struggle with their choices this time of year. If you’re going to have some extra gravy or eat a slice of pie for dessert, don’t feel bad about it – enjoy eating what you want, knowing you’ll have the discipline to get back to your nutrition routine when the time comes.
No matter which holiday you celebrate, I hope you have a blessed one.