Hey! We’re nearly there!
The holidays are upon us and it’s almost time to hunker down with family and friends for a time of communing and feasting.
Perhaps you’re already in the midst, downed a few, gained a few, and wondering what the heck the next few days are going to bring.
I’ve been doing this a few years now and I can tell you that, at the beginning, after decades of doing the holidays one way the idea of doing them differently was like a dream. Like watching a snow globe after you’ve given it a shake – nice and fuzzy and all, but not very likely.
I used to eat six kinds of pie for my dessert, you know. I am not kidding. I wish I were. So my goal at my first paleo holiday dinner was to make and eat one paleo pie…along with the other five kinds of regular pie I normally ate.
I am pleased to tell you I exceeded that goal. Not only did I eat the paleo pie, but so did everyone else; it was proclaimed the winner!
(I did eat the five other kinds as well, though.)
Now I’m experienced enough to have this paleo thing down to a fine art. I do not live around other paleo people. My family have to do as I say (and do!) at home but once we move our of our “golden love bubble”, we’re swimming upstream.
Living counter-culture at any time can be a challenge especially, as with all things, if it’s your first time. And so it is with the holidays.
You are not alone
This holiday, I want to replace the phrase “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” with “Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels”.
Here are my suggestions for a paleo holiday with a guilt-free after-party. Trust me, it feels so good to have eaten well, kept to limits and still (despite what people will tell you) enjoyed a good time.
1. Get some decent sleep. There is no excuse – even if you have little kids and stay up late on Christmas Eve because it’s the only night of the year they fall down asleep to order. Just for the next few days, go to bed early. Your body will be rested, the cortisol spike that occurs when you aren’t rested won’t occur, your body won’t crave surges of energy in the form of sugary food, and your judgment won’t be impaired through lack of sleep.
2. Send ahead. Let people know of your restrictions and find out what’s on the menu. From there you can work out what you’re going to eat. Offer to bring your own food to widen your choices and support your host. Helping relieve the burden of your host is very important, and will win you friends so show your consideration and, at the same time, take charge of your own choices.
3. Start an exercise habit. Use this time to create a ritual of easy-to-do workouts or exercises. It is amazing how adding a small ritual, especially a healthy one, will spur you to other greater acts of health over the holiday season. Do a set of T-Tapp hoe-downs before bed, or walk for an extra half-hour. Start an exercise habit before the holiday, not after. Make it daily and make it small. Get over the inertia and the ball will start rolling.
4. Realize excess is just that: excess. It doesn’t add to our enjoyment of the occasion over a certain amount. I used to tell my kids that “Christmas” was a mispelling of the word “chocolate”. The ingesting of chocolate was huge over the holiday period in my family. Chocolate drinks, chocolate tree decorations, mountains of massive chocolate boxes, chocolate stocking stuffers. It went on and on. And one Christmas, I just pulled the plug on them all. And you know what, we didn’t miss it. Not a bit.
5. Earn your treats. Make sure you do some exercise before the main culinary act gets underway. If you’re with family, go out with them and take a good hike before lunch – they will thank you. It just needs someone to take the initiative, be the role model. Be that person.
6. If you’re into intermittent fasting, skip breakfast. Or skip lunch if you are eating in the evening. In my family, we like to eat the main meal around 3pm. I’ll make a paleo breakfast of eggs, bacon, green smoothie or juice, and berries. We’ll then ride it until we eat mid-afternoon. This year, we’re eating earlier and will have recently changed timezones. I don’t like eating breakfast at what feels 1am in the US, so hubby and I will skip breakfast entirely.
7. Eat before you go. This was a revelation to me when I heard of it! It is much easier to keep to reasonable portions if you are already satisfied.
8. Use your “joy filter” to make decisions. Don’t do a bunch of things that bore you – life’s too short. Plus you may overeat to compensate. Avoid parties if you hate them. Take some alone time if all the company is overwhelming. Don’t sit at Aunt Joyce’s end of the table if she pushes food on you and won’t take “No” for an answer. For all your decisions, run it through the filter and you’ll be engaging the decision-making part of the brain rather than the impulsive reactive one. You’ll make better decisions and you’ll be more relaxed. And if something makes you excited, go do it!
9. Take your own food. Or host. This way you can be sure of something to eat that is fine for you. Make enough for other people, though. Many times, paleo food gets demolished by non-paleos – the taste and lack of guilt could be relished by your companions, so be prepared. Also take a pocket snack for emergencies or any time you want to make a substitution.
10. Visualize and practice. If you are expecting a challenge, anticipate it. Go in to warrior mode and work out your defensive moves and your attacking play pieces. Don’t sit next to the buffet table. Take a book in case you get bored and tempted to eat six types of pie (that’s what I do). Keep busy in the kitchen, entertain the kids, or play a game to distract yourself. Practice saying “No, thank you”. Watch others who do it well and model them if you have trouble.
11. Avoid the skeptics. Disengage from anyone who is too interested in your food choices and not in a friendly way. Don’t get into an argument and spoil the day.
12. Enjoy your food. Whatever you choose to eat, enjoy it. If you are eating Cousin Joan’s pecan pie or Grandma’s thrice-soaked Christmas pudding, relish it, savor it. And swallow. 🙂
13. Forgive yourself. If you do nibble, eat or mow your way through a non-paleo feast, move on. Tomorrow is another day. There is no failure; only learning. You can learn a lot from your experience. Analyze what happened and how you may do better next time, assuming you want to. If you must compare, compare this holiday with last year and see how you did.
14. Focus on the bigger picture. Work out the meaning of the holidays for you, whether it be the gathering of loved ones, the pleasure in time spent together, or something else. Ask your family what they most appreciate about the holidays. Remember those who are no longer with you and who may not be around for too much longer. Appreciate your children will be completely different next holiday so make now count.
Connection and family, love and gratitude
My family are flying to London to spend the holidays in my home country, and I can’t wait to have all those I hold dear all together in one room. We’ll be seeing shows, visiting friends, enjoying long walks in the country. The boys will experience the holiday like I did as a child.
And we’ll be eating. Oh yes, we’ll be eating. If I cook it will be paleo, but often it won’t be. And that’s how it is. We’ll make the best choices on offer.
I am taking a break from blogging for a couple of weeks and so from my family to yours, I wish you a most wonderful holiday season. Enjoy all the good this time has to offer and I’ll see you on the other side. 🙂
For even more advice, click here to read this holiday article and click here to find out what the biggest paleo bloggers suggest. And follow all the links on this page to great articles (if I say so myself) about quick and easy ideas that will guide you to success.