Am I the only one who gets down around the holidays? I think it might be a combination of the days getting shorter, the lack of sun, and the general malaise of colder days. The holidays tend to shine a light on things in our lives, mostly our family connections and our waistlines. While these two things seem mutually exclusive they really aren’t. These are the two things that contribute to making us feel the worst. Relationships with our families are tricky and I am saying this even though I love and feel very close and connected with mine. There is something about those you love knowing all about you. They can make you feel like you are the most special person on the planet or the worst in an instant. Food is kind of the same way. I love to cook and feed those close to me, but over indulging or drinking too much can make me feel depressed and guilty about not taking better care of myself.
So here is to food and family - the best and worst of the holidays and my advice on how to make it through in one piece
Traditions - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous
Growing up we had a lot of traditions around the holidays. For Thanksgiving it was the type of food everyone was expecting, such as turkey with the mashed potatoes, or the candied yams, or, God forbid, the weird green casserole made with canned beans and fried onions on top. I have to say, some of it I loved, but some of it I wouldn’t touch any other day of the year. So why are we feeding ourselves things we wouldn’t normally eat? My dad grew to dislike turkey and it wasn’t until several years ago we chose another meat dish to go along with the traditional bird. Why do we torture ourselves with things we don’t like, or even worse why do we get so disappointed when we don’t have something we expect? If we don’t open ourselves up to new things, how will we form any new traditions or experiences? I say the tradition should be to experiment every year with something new. This year, we may be having Tamales for dinner. YIPEE!!
Eating - Too Much or Restricting
If you read my blog, you know I love food and cooking. This time of year brings a smile to my face because I get dirty in the kitchen. I pop open the wine, play the tunes and start cooking. I eat as I cook, I eat during the meal and I go for seconds because it’s good, right? Then I lie on the couch and beat myself up. I feel so horrible. Why did I do that? It’s the epitome of the binge - the food binge.
There are two sides to this as I see it. Binge and get over it. Don’t beat yourself up but give yourself a pat on the back for indulging in your favorites. Or the second is, don’t over do it at all and use your best will power and focus only on you, not everyone else. Over eating tends to be done is social settings, so while uncle Jim is going for his 3rd helping doesn’t mean you have to. Choose the one that is easiest for you.
If you binge, just do it for that day don’t keep it going. Don’t go on a holiday bender. Choose the day, have fun and don’t beat yourself up. No one is going to gain ten pounds in one day. You have to over eat for several days or weeks to put on the lbs. So if you go back to your normal life style you will be fine.
I can attest to this as this is my technique every year. If you choose will power, don’t complain and don’t make others feel bad for your choice. Find something to occupy your mind, choose healthier options and still enjoy. Surround yourself around those who might be on this same path.
Family - Love and Hate
I have a client that says she doesn’t look forward to the holidays because the dinner conversations tend to get gross. There is always that relative, that either says wildly inappropriate things, drinks too much and acts obnoxious, or brings up politics or bad family drama. I think dinner conversation is an art form and the canvas for the art is the people that are there. You aren’t going to paint a colorful landscape if all you have are charcoal pencils. Be mindful of the people around you, their quirks and their personalities. Be kind even if you can’t stand the person. Allow yourself time to enjoy and leave when you feel it’s too much. Lastly, if it’s really that bad, choose to surround yourself by others. It’s not the end of the world if you skip a holiday with family and find some friends you enjoy hanging out with. In my family we like to play music and sing while getting dinner ready. It helps get us all in a good mood and keeps the conversation light.
The Spotlight - Not Always a Good Thing
Every year it seems like someone is on the hot seat, either with some family drama, some illness, job, etc. There is something uncomfortable that makes us not want to spend time with family and friends. In recent times I’ve felt that weight on me. The spotlight can be great if it’s an engagement, a new baby, a new job. Everyone is all smiles and wants to congratulate, but sometimes the spotlight is not so great, divorce, separation, illness, death, etc.
For this I will repeat the advice my mom gave me when I was 10. “You are the only one that is in charge of your feelings, no one can make you feel any way you don’t want to.” I repeated this to my 8 year-old son just the other day and even though I think this concept might be beyond his grasp, one day he will understand. I did and I remind myself when I feel the heat, that I am standing proud and tall and that I am in charge of my feelings, my choices, and the people I surround myself by.
So take charge this Holiday season, eat, be merry, have fun, and enjoy!