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Conquering the Holiday Food Scaries
By Gutenstein Family ISJL Education Fellow Becca Leaman
When it comes to the winter holidays, most people’s first thought is family and food. Both of which can add unnecessary stress and worry, or even guilt (you may have gotten a bit of a preview of this at your recent break-the fast). There are some things you can do to not only avoid feeling gross but also to avoid feeling guilty.
First and foremost, never feel bad for taking a little time for yourself during the holidays. With all of the chaos of family, cooking, shopping, and more, it is often a time that we let ourselves fall through the cracks. A way to keep yourself as accountable to your alone time as you are with others’ is to schedule that time. I have found that I am far more likely to stick to something if it is written down on my schedule. Even finding 15 or 20 minutes in your day can get you more centered and take your mind off the stress of the season.
There are also a few relatively simple things that we can do to ease some of the worries that come from knowing how much food is waiting for us this holiday season. When eating a big meal that has a lot of different dishes (say, for example, Thanksgiving dinner), start by surveying the options before you start to fill your plate. This way, you will know what is coming, and you can plan accordingly instead of just taking a little bit of everything. Additionally, if you start by taking vegetables or salad first, you can make sure most of the space on your plate is occupied with healthy options. A fairly simple rule that I try to follow, regardless of the setting, is to aim to have half the plate be full of vegetables, a quarter be grain, and a quarter protein. I have found that even keeping this in the back of my mind, my plate ends up with a similar makeup without me even trying.
When we know that a big meal is coming, it can be easy to think that maybe the best option is not to eat a lot the day leading up to it or to skip meals altogether. In reality this can lead to overeating at the actual meal; instead, try going for lighter things throughout the day. For example, if you know that you’re going to get Chinese food for dinner on Christmas, maybe have a salad for lunch or something a bit healthier than you usually would have. I operate under the mindset that it does not do any good to cut out foods entirely because they are unhealthy (also, I’m just unwilling to cut out some of my favorite foods). However, if you enjoy those foods in moderation, you will still curb that craving while avoiding the feelings of guilt that can come along with knowing you “shouldn’t” be eating something.
The last tip I will leave you with is one that I came across and thought was genius—because it’s so simple: If you find a place to stand at your holiday event away from the food, you are much less likely to munch mindlessly. This task can be a difficult. Trust me, this is coming from someone who once finished an entire cheese platter at a Chanukah party. However, the simple act of finding a different place to stand and merely taking a small plate of whatever you want will do wonders.