Aaaah, the holidays! Most people’s favorite time of year. And yet, the time of year that gives most people 87% of their yearly quota of anxiety (*not scientifically backed but pretty close). Whether that be over shopping, family, or the endless social engagements, the struggle that seems to be the most common is FOOD.
Let me start by saying that I think anyone's fears and anxiety regarding food, drinks, routine, exercise - what have you - are valid and not silly. It would be easy for me to sit here and tell you to not worry about your weight, sticking to your macros, or to tell you to just chill out and enjoy the family time! But I would be a hypocrite if I said that, because I, like everyone, struggle with this time of year. Not as much as I once did, but there are still lingering feelings and anxieties around this time where my daily routine of meal prep and CrossFit gets thrown off, usually in exchange for richer foods and less activity.
In a society where morality is given to foods, we tend to feel guilty for eating or overeating something that we’ve deemed “bad,” that we’ve failed and “fallen off the wagon.” What wagon? This isn’t the Oregon Trail! Sure, there are foods that are higher in antioxidants, vitamins, etc., but there are no "good" or "bad" foods. And overeating isn’t bad. I think it can even be a necessary tool in our arsenal. I’ve overeaten when I’m bored; when I’m having a great time with friends; when I’m upset or anxious; and when something is just really, really delicious. If you can identify why you are overeating (eating to the point of being uncomfortable or sick, having feelings of guilt, etc.) and then use that information to address the cause and your feelings around it, then you can begin to unravel any negative emotions you are associating with certain foods and their quantities. This is necessary year round, but it seems especially important around the holidays, since that is how we celebrate - with highly palatable foods that are usually deemed “bad” and are in abundance.
So, ask yourself: Did you have a great time with friends? Did it affect other activities? Did it snowball into feelings that were less than positive? Identifying those feelings and WHY a food made you feel a certain way is a necessary step on the path to mending your relationship with food and freeing yourself of this good/bad mentality. It will make events and gatherings more enjoyable when you stop labeling foods, and especially yourself, in this way.
(Chill out, Susan!)
Stress is real and absolutely affects how we feel physically. The holidays are a time to be present with our loved ones, with nature, with Netflix - hey, whatever brings you joy! If you don’t feel great, then drink more water, go on a walk, eat more veggies. That’s a simplified approach to feeling better anyway - that doesn’t change around the holidays!
Look, I get it. This blog could be, and probably is, someone’s thesis. There’s so many nuances and variables that come into play with human beings and how food and culture have evolved into what they are now. I could easily go down a rabbit hole on several related topics. But one thing remains true: Relationship with family and friends, and the memories you make, are most important. Nobody is going to remember (or care) that you skipped out on your run to watch a movie with family and friends, nor that you went over your usual calorie intake for the day. But they will remember spending quality time with you and how you made them feel.
Have a second slice of cheesecake. Go on a walk. Or don’t. Just don’t beat yourself up about it. You aren’t “bad” - and you deserve better!
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention, and sometimes other random thoughts.