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Holiday Eating: Mission possible

Posted Nov 01 2012 11:24am
For my November column on Iron Girl , I choose to take a different approach on holiday eating "tips". If you google "holiday eating tips" you will likely come across pages and pages of links to eat this, don't eat this, do this, don't do that. Can we all agree the nutrition and exercise tips are out there but not much has changed in the past few years?

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As you know, my approach to the diet and exercise has little to do with the act of exercise and eating but more so with the approach. I believe that in order to change habits, we need to address the habits to be changed, the outcome we will receive when we change them and most importantly, why it is important to change habits. I also believe in changing lifestyles. Changing the way people live life, act and behave.

The other day I received an email from one of my friends and former nutrition athletes who is a mom of a few teenagers. Her son was mad at her for wanting to hand out raisins on Halloween. I laughed because I thought it was a great idea but I could just see myself at 14 or 15 years old, doing the same at my parents "Uggg, you are so embarrassing mom!" hehe


She wanted some "healthier" treats so I suggest dark chocolate Hershey kisses or mini Hershey bars. But I wanted to digress.....

Why is it on holidays that we want to or feel the need to watch what we eat so carefully? Why is it that so many people excuse the office candy bowl munchies that calls your name every around 3pm, 365 days a year? Why is it that many people feel the need to have dessert after dinner, every night, 365 days a year? Why is it that so many people feel guilty when eating something indulging on a holiday or special event (ex. birthday, celebration) but that same "regret" gets unnoticed when eating sweets at home due to mindless eating/snacking, 365 days a year?

If you eat well most of the time, you don't have to worry about the rest of the time.Consider your thoughts before blaming your actions, when it comes to holiday (and daily) eating.

Holiday Eating: Mission PossibleBy Marni Sumbal

If you’ve ever tried to stay on track with nutrition throughout the winter holiday season, you can forget the saying “it’s as easy as pie.” Weight gain, stomach distress, lethargy and poor body image are a few of the many common side effects of approaching the holidays with an unhealthy relationship with food and the body.
Do you feel out of control with holiday sweets? With 365 days in a year and only 3 federal holidays between November and January (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day), consider that your anxiety about preventing the typical holiday weight gain may be a bit exaggerated. Perhaps it is the added stress about an overabundance of seasonal holiday food (much prior to the actual holiday), alongside the unintentional weight gain from January until November, that causes you to feel uneasy about the holiday festivities.
Do you feel better after you eat than before? If so, there’s absolutely no reason to worry about a few trivial added pounds over the holidays. Instead of speaking poorly about your body in front of the mirror (thus forgetting what your body has allowed you to do in life, like crossing finishing lines), find enjoyment as you indulge in your grandma’s cobbler, prepared with love and memories. Whether you are eating a balanced, wholesome diet or enjoying the occasional treat, never forget the importance of mindful and intuitive eating. As you eat for fuel and for health, eat with a plan and a purpose.
Instead of adding to the hundreds of tips available on the Internet on the topic “Healthy Holiday Eating,” here are a few tips to overcome the anxiety that comes with having an unhealthy relationship with food.
Instead of saying……
1) “I shouldn't eat this,” say
“I am so thankful that I have an opportunity to enjoy some occasional treats (prepared with love) with the people who I care about the most in this world.”
2) “It doesn’t matter if I eat that, I already ruined my diet,” say
“I am really proud of myself for being able to regret, reflect and change my past habits, which will ultimately help me reach my short and long term goals.”
3) “I may as well have another because I already cheated,” say
“I am thankful that I have a balanced diet where no food is off-limit. Because I eat well most of the time, I don’t have to worry about the rest of the time.”
4) “I'm being so bad,” say
“Knowing that my daily habits such as not going into a meal starving, eating balanced meals, snacking nutritiously with a purpose, drinking plenty of water and focusing on wholesome foods are helping me to control blood sugar and reduce cravings/overeating, I feel great because I know I will stop eating when I am satisfied and will be well-fueled for my next workout.”
5) “I am going to be so fat after this,” say
“I know that my weight fluctuates throughout the day and not all is lost or ruined in one day or in one meal.”
6) “Uggh, I need to find a diet to help me lose weight, fast!” Say,
“I know that an extreme diet is not a lifestyle. I want to create balanced eating habits in order to live a quality life in order to reduce my risk for disease, to help increase longevity and to improve my fitness. If I cannot address my weaknesses on my own, I will seek out a qualified professional (ex. Registered Dietitian) to help me in my personal nutrition journey.”


Final reminder: If your body is in good health, recovering from injury/illness/disease or if you are overcoming obstacles in your life, spend your energy on being thankful for living another year. Never forget that food should not be your life. Use food wisely and let it enhance your life.



Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, LD/N

Marni works as a Clinical Dietitian at Baptist Medical Center Beaches, is the owner of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition, LLC and provides one-on-one consulting in the Jacksonville, FL area. Marni is a Registered Dietitian, holding a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN). As an elite endurance athlete, she is also a Level-1 USAT Coach and a 5x Ironman finisher. Marni is a 110% play harder, Hammer Nutrition and Oakley Women brand ambassador. Marni enjoys public speaking and writing, and she has several published articles in Runner's World, Fitness Magazine, Bicycling Magazine, The Florida Times-Union Shorelines, Lava Magazine, Hammer Endurance News, CosmoGirl magazine and Triathlete Magazine, and contributes to IronGirl.com, USAT multisport zone and Lava online.
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