Eat by Choice this Holiday Season

Simple Ideas to Honor Your Needs Instead of Eating Them During the Holidays

By Jan Henrikson

What if your family clapped and cheered every time you grabbed dessert at a holiday gathering? With every spoonful of peppermint ice cream, you not only enjoy a burst of sugary flavor, but an instant sense of belonging. Stuffing yourself is as much a family tradition as watching “It’s A Wonderful Life.” So is waking up the next morning cursing yourself, vowing that at the next gathering you’ll be “good.”

How do you celebrate your connection with family and friends and honor your needs for health and well-being at the same time? Family tradition is powerful by itself. Add to that the stress of the holidays and food issues and you’ve got more than the weight of generations pulling on you.

According to Sylvia Haskvitz, author of Eat by Choice, Not by Habit, you can experience a compassionate shift by planning ahead.

Take a moment to visualize typical holiday feasting traditions. What about them gives you pleasure? Is it the food itself? The conversation? The sense of camaraderie? The aura of freedom – eating something you normally wouldn’t?

Determine how to meet your needs in a way that is nurturing not only for the moment, but every moment.

“Keep checking in with yourself,” says Haskvitz. If you associate every holiday with certain flavors, textures, and scents, don’t deprive yourself. Breathe in that cinnamon. Savor that hot chocolate.

“Are you enjoying what you are eating? Do you feel satisfied?” By slowing down enough to truly taste your food, you’ll notice when you’re full and you can choose whether to eat more or do something different like take a walk.

In fact, Haskvitz suggests taking a walk before, after or between the courses of a meal. If one of your holiday traditions includes a brother-in-law who inspires political debate or a cousin with plenty of love life advice, you don’t have to respond by swigging all the eggnog.

“Walking,” she says, “is a way to connect and often leads to deeper and more quality conversation than may happen around the peanut bowl.”

You may even want to introduce a new tradition that meets your needs for nourishment, yummy taste, and healthfulness. At a recent holiday meal says Haskvitz, “My cousin Seekey made a lemon meringue pie, wheat and sugar free, substituting agave syrup for sugar. The pie was gobbled up alongside the pecan and pumpkin pies, no one the wiser.”

If you want people to be the wiser, put a postcard by a healthy dish stating that it is wheat-free or agave-full. “People will ask questions if they are curious,” says Haskvitz. If they like it, they’ll “begin incorporating healthier versions of their favorite foods into their lives.”

Healthy family traditions. I’d clap for that.

Jan Henrikson is a writer, creativity coach and the editor of Eat by Choice, Not by Habit by Sylvia Haskvitz. She can be contacted by email