This time of year can be challenging to say the least if you are working with a restricted diet. You may know in your head that to support your thyroid, your digestion or your emotional health, it is important not to stray to the dark side but your heart may be yearning. First, it’s important to ask yourself if you are being overly restrictive… as that can create other stressors and issues. Once you’ve determined which foods and beverages you absolutely need to avoid, you can adopt a few strategies to keep you feeling content and grounded in a temporary world of overindulgence. In fact, some people feel relief to have an excuse around the holidays to avoid that giant holiday hangover in January.
The best way to create an environment in which an occasional splurge is okay is to mostly stick with your routine. The rituals that you normally adhere to like a protein-rich breakfast, daily exercise and adequate sleep are essential to keep you supported during this time and create a foundation for occasional indulgences.
1. Rethink traditions
Many traditional holiday rituals focus around food and drink which can be ripe for unsatisfying experiences. That cookie swap, holiday brunch, or cocktails with friends can be draining when you are constantly refraining. This year, think about a group yoga class with the girls followed by a smoothie. Or how about buying and wrapping gifts for kids in need instead of the cookie fest? It can take some persuasion and creativity but there are more of us out there that would appreciate the suggested detour from indulgence than you might imagine! If there are events or activities that you just can’t change, try to channel your sense of grateful giving. Perhaps you are baking a batch of cookies you can’t eat… you can still stay in the flow of holiday giving and receiving by focusing on the gift you are creating and the people receiving your gift.
2. Focus on what you can enjoy
Take a moment to make a list of all the things you enjoy about the holidays. Looking at your list you might find that many of these do not involve food and drink. You might enjoy singing, visiting with certain people or writing out cards, watching kids open gifts or the warm glow of a candle or firelight. An indulgence is defined as a “desired pleasure” and you might find that many of your holiday indulgences don’t require food or drink. Most do, however, require the awareness and presence of recognizing and finding meaning in those moments.
Perhaps you can create a few acceptable splurges for yourself this year. How about a leisurely holiday bath with a new bath oil and scented candle? Alternately, you may wish to create more meaningful moments that can provide some helpful perspective on refraining. How about visiting with a lonely neighbor or volunteering at a local animal shelter before attending that holiday event? Filling yourself up with self-care and moments of meaning will reduce if not remove the disappointment that may accompany saying "no" to that beloved holiday dish, cookie or alcoholic drink. How can you redefine holiday joy this year?
3. BYOF – Bring.Your.Own.Festivities
When all else fails, you can bring your own fun… or dish… or drink… to enjoy. Most hosts and hostesses appreciate an offer to add to the festivities, especially if you explain that you have a great dish you enjoy and you’d love to share it with others. I love this amazing cranberry-orange quinoa. Or for a sweet treat you can try this incredible dark chocolate holiday bark.
Or when you travel, consider bringing along your yoga mat or a special soap or fragrant tea that can help comfort and bring self-care. Or bring a fun game to a dinner that all can play and enjoy and take your focus off the food. I've been known to bring jars of my own soup, regularly introduce new card and board games and carry along lavender room spray and scented oils in my overnight bag. And I rarely show up to party empty handed - this queen of kale loves to rock people's idea that healthy can't be delicious!
And keep in mind that many of us feel at least some sense of loneliness, depression or anxiety around the holidays. Maybe you can find another “refrainer” with whom you can laugh and kvetch. And know that it will pass in a few weeks… and you will be one step ahead of all the overindulgers!