Ep. 68 What to Eat This Holiday Season

It’s officially the holiday season! And while that means, hopefully, lots of joy, cheer and spending time with friends and family, it also can mean worry, stress and battles with food. This year, I wanted to give you some tips to navigate this time of year if you struggle with food this time of year. Whether that’s restriction, decision making, or over-indulgence, I got you.

In this episode, I’ll discuss:

  • Stressing over every decision and why we shouldn’t
  • Tools for managing your eating – NOT calorie counting
  • The psychology of holiday eating
  • How to stop trying to control your environment and just focus on yourself in any situation.
  • And more!

If the types of struggles I mention in this episode are really speaking to you, I invite you to check out my Ditch The Diet Drama course, that starting on Wednesday Nov. 23rd is being offered for $40 off as a Black Friday special. To get all the details, FAQs and to sign up, head over to kellybryantwellness.com/black-friday.

Episode Transcript

Welcome back to the Not Your Mama podcast. And I feel like this is a very special episode because this week we’re going to be doing a seasonal episode. We’re going to be talking about eating this holiday season, which for many of you is probably a pretty stressful topic. Let’s go ahead and jump on in.
The first thing I want to talk about with holiday eating in general is that it’s very easy to get into this head space, where we think that every single decision matters, every food choice you make is like life and death, and that’s really not true. So let’s just put this in perspective. Thanksgiving and Christmas let’s count Christmas Eve – it’s three days out of basically like 40 in the next month and a half. Those three days are not that impactful. So, even if you take nothing away from this whole episode and you actually just end up going, absolutely hog-wild on those days, the quote unquote danger of the season is not those three days.

It is all of the stuff that we do in between, because we’ve decided that, oh, well, it’s pointless. I’m going to stuff myself on Thanksgiving, so what’s the point of being mindful of what I eat in the week, leading up to it? You know, There’s going to be Christmas cookies, so I should just eat whatever, because I know that I’m not going to control myself, or there’s no point in trying to control myself around this holiday time? So that is absolutely not the truth. And of course, when I like point it out and say it aloud, yes, that feels quite obvious.

On those three days, there’s no amount of eating that you could do on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Eve, and Christmas day, that would be so detrimental to your nutrition and your overall health, that it is worth throwing the metaphorical baby out with the bath water and not being mindful of your eating the other 37 days.

So that said, I am also going to be giving you some tools for managing your eating around those specific days. And of course, fill in the blank. It can be whatever the big eating or drinking days are in your life. Right. Because it maybe it’s the holiday party at work that you ended up over drinking.

Maybe it’s you, maybe you don’t celebrate Christmas. Maybe it’s Hanukkah. Maybe it’s all of these other, special occasions that happen during this timeframe. New Year’s Eve as well that we want to just take a beat and say like, let’s think about some actual tactical tools for eating well, and I’m going to define what I mean by well, on those days.

So when I say eating well, I don’t mean sticking to a calorie budget. I don’t mean following your macros. Because food is not just energy. Food is not just calories and macros. Food is much more than fuel, it’s cultural, it’s emotional. It’s nostalgic. There’s all of these other psychological things that are tied up in eating and that is especially true around the holiday season.

So, each of us has our own food narratives that have been created by our family of origin or ethnicity, or nationality, our life experiences. All of these things. And so to follow these sort of general rules that are given out by magazines this time of year, like drink a glass of water before you sit down to eat so you don’t overeat. Fill your plate with salad first, before you have mashed potatoes and whatever else. Those things are not going to apply because we all have different relationships with food. And also it’s not even worth trying to follow them because the reality is that these are special times and we do have an emotional relationship to food and that’s not bad. That’s completely okay. It’s part of what makes us human that we have these cultural and emotional ties to our food.

And I would hate for someone to give up a food that gives them a positive, emotional experience, because it’s high calorie, because it doesn’t fit their macros. That is truly a tragedy. And so let’s talk about how do you make meaningful decisions that you like about what to eat during this holiday time without going completely off the rails and eating absolutely everything in sight because it’s the only time of the year that you can. And without pretending that we are just a robot machine who just eats because we need fuel. Neither of those needs to be the case.

Let’s look a little bit at what scripts are at play here. And this is something that I dive into a lot in weeks five and six of my program Ditch the Diet Drama.

So here’s a few things that we see. One is food FOMO. So anticipation of future deprivation. If you are someone who goes through this yo-yo every year of January 1st lose a bunch of weight, getting ready for the summer summer, you kind of go up and then beginning of the fall school year, all of that, maybe you get back on track and then your weight goes up, right?

Some version of that cycle. If you are that person who yo-yo’s through weight loss annually, then you are probably living in food FOMO. You know, you are planning, you are expecting that on January 1st, you are not going to get to enjoy any of these things. And so you might as well eat this now because you can’t have it later. Right? This is the same mentality that causes us to go crazy on vacation, because we just dieted for, you know, six weeks or six months in order to get into a bathing suit.

The other one that’s at play here or an other one is special occasion syndrome. So this is where we automatically associate a certain place or a certain situation with eating certain foods. This is all over the place during the holiday season, right? It’s Christmas, I have to have Christmas cookies. I’m going to so-and-so’s house. They’re going to feed me this I’m going home. Right? Like maybe you’re from somewhere that there’s like certain foods that you can only get in your home country or hometown. All of these are special occasions syndrome, and they’re just a different flavor of that anticipation of future deprivation. It is thinking that this is a food that I’m deprived of the rest of the time, because I’m not in this context. And so if I’m in this context, I am going to eat this. Avoiding waste. Right? So this is people who are part of clean plate club. Or finishing your kids’ food, right? They got a bunch of Halloween candy. Gonna finish their Halloween candy. Cause it can’t just go in the freezer. I can’t just throw it away. And so you may be eating something that you don’t actually want because you don’t want to throw it away. Or because so-and-so made it for you. And this is where we get into some of the emotional or relational side of things. And this is what we call food peer pressure. So it’s someone saying, oh, I made your favorite dessert. I made this for you. You, everyone else is having it. You should have it too.
So this is more related to the actual interpersonal dynamics, right? Food FOMO. A special occasion syndrome. Those are internal to us. Those are just I’m in this context. And I have this sort of prerecorded process that I follow. When it’s Thanksgiving, I put these things on my plate. When it’s Christmas, I eat these.

Food, pure pressure is the other side of it. It’s where other people are actually actively telling you, you need to eat this because I made it for you because I needing it because this is what we do. And. These are, I want to just acknowledge these are not just easy to let go of. I’m not suggesting. Oh yeah. Just, you know, just stop doing that. But, it is a scarcity mentality. All of it are different flavors of scarcity mentality. And the reality is that we don’t live in a scarce relationship with food. If you are listening to this podcast, most likely you have food security. In truth. We could get almost any food from anywhere in the world delivered to our door. Right? Like if you were sitting here craving some food from New York City or from San Francisco, you can have it shipped to your door. So we don’t have to eat. X because we are in Y situation. We don’t have to eat something so that someone will love us. That’s another flavor of scarcity that food peer pressure, wanting to feel like, well, I can’t disappoint this person because what? Then they won’t love me. Then they won’t care about me. Then they will not think that I’m a good person. What have you.

So, yes, you can eat something because you like it and you want to enjoy it fully. But if you see, if you can kind of feel the difference in your body between I want this versus I don’t want to be without this right. One feels graspy and fearful and anxious and one feels like excited and positive. So can we feel the difference between that scarcity versus like actually genuinely wanting something?

And the way that we combat that scarcity is two things. One is abundance. One is discernment. Abundance says you can have whatever you want anytime, which is factually true. For most of us, you can have just about anything just about any time. And then discernment says some decisions matter and some don’t. So how do we get discerning about which is which?

Let’s talk about abundance first. So abundance, one tool that I want to offer you. So if you walk away from this podcast with like a tool to actually practice. Abundance is a mantra. It can just be something that you say to yourself. When you find yourself piling up the plate on Thanksgiving, you can say to yourself,

I can make these foods again. I can eat this any time. Right? Most of us have a grocery store that has a deli counter, where you could get mashed potatoes and gravy, right? Or a diner down the street where you could get a Turkey dinner. You truly can have these foods anytime. So find yourself a mantra. Maybe you’re someone who your mantra needs to be like. There’s no rush.

Right or I don’t have to finish everything. Choose a mantra that reminds you that you are not in scarcity around food. There is no food scarcity happening. You can eat whatever you want when you want it. Another tool that you can have with abundance, where we’re developing abundance mindset around food is actually putting your mantra to the test, right? So if you have this thought of there, I can have this whenever I want. Maybe you actually have to prove it to yourself. Right? So if there’s some special family recipe that you only have, when you see XYZ family member, make it a point to get that recipe from them, and cook it maybe sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the next month, and then maybe make it a point of like, I’m going to cook this every single month, once a month, I’m going to make this. Or if it’s a product, a food product that you can’t get at home. Figure out how you can have it shipped to you on a regular basis. And actually like put the test to that abundance mantra and proved yourself that you actually can have it all the time. And I would guess that it wouldn’t take a lot of reps in order to find that, oh, actually this food is not that magical. Sure, does it taste good? Yes. Could I eat it? Yes. Am I desperate for it? Do I feel that graspy fearful, anxious emotion around it? Maybe not so much if we actually expose ourselves to it somewhat regularly. The other part of this that you can use to help you make decisions that you’re happy with, decisions that you’re proud of when you’re filling up your plate over these holiday times is discernment. So not every decision carries the same weight. You have to think about what choices really matter. The reality is, this is just an example and everyone’s mileage is going to be different, but let’s say the decision to have one glass of wine versus three glasses of wine. And fill in the blank, I’m a lightweight because I’m breastfeeding, but maybe yours is two glasses of wine versus six glasses of wine, or whatever. But that decision in itself is only a few hundred calorie decision. It’s not life and death. But if you know that you are someone who has those three glasses of wine, and then it’s much more likely to have number four or five, six, or you are someone who has those three glasses, and then completely loses control around food and is going to eat half a pie or no longer than has the the self-control or the emotional wherewithal to turn down someone who’s offering you, then that decision about two classes of wine becomes not just a, you know, few hundred calorie decision, but like a thousand calorie decision that also is going to impact how you feel physically and emotionally, if you’re me for like a week, at this age for a long time. And so we can get discerning about like, that’s a decision that might matter a lot for someone. And again, everyone’s mileage is different. Whereas the decision to have a piece of pie, that’s this big versus this big, you know, like. Two inch diameter versus three inch diameter is probably not as important.

And which decisions are most important for you? That’s individual. I can’t tell you that, but you can. So the, some other things that you can consider, especially as it pertains to our relationship with other people, our food relationships is: how can you pick your nutritional battles? You get to decide.

If you know that you go and have Thanksgiving dinner with a bunch of food pushers. You get to decide is my autonomy or my feeling around food higher priority. Or is people pleasing and getting through this interaction without any friction higher priority, right? Like you actually get to decide that I think that there’s this default assumption that like, oh, you should fight every battle. And that may not be the case. Right. It may just be like a “I get to enjoy my meal more everyone gets to enjoy their meal more.” If I just eat a tiny piece of this pie that someone made for me versus fighting it and having it ruin everything and then maybe going home and emotionally binge-eating later because you were so upset.

So decide which nutritional battles really matter. Consider, can you sample or share things while remaining aligned with your goals? Right? So maybe you talk with your partner ahead of time and you say, “Hey. Before you, you know, when, when mom’s filling up the dessert plates, Before you decide which dessert to have, like, could we maybe agree that like, I’ll get one kind of pie and you get the other kind of pie and then we can each share it instead of, you know, you getting both of them. And then I have to get both of them. If I want to try both?”

Again, apply that. However it’s relevant for you. And keep reminding yourself no one meal really matters in the grand scheme of things. So pay attention, whether it’s more important to just enjoy the time with your family, enjoy the time with your loved ones and get by, versus flexing your self determination and showing people that this is who I am, these are my priorities. This is how I want to be treated, and this is how I want to eat, and I don’t have to do things to make other people happy. Right.

Some things to keep in mind as you’re handling possible comments about your food. Nutrition is not a zero sum game. What you eat has no effect on anyone else and vice versa, eating healthier or more indulgently – healthier in quotation marks – or more indulgently doesn’t make anyone better or worse. So if you feel triggered by other people’s food choices, ask yourself, why that is. And know that it’s not your job to police when anyone else’s eating. Nor is it anyone else’s job to police yours. So if people are finding it triggering that you’re choosing not to have everything that’s on the table, that’s their problem. That’s not your problem.

Last, but not least. I want to touch on this idea of managing yourself versus managing situations. One reason that we get into this sort of fervor of food scarcity and all of that sort of coming out around the holidays is because often we use managing our environment as a tool for controlling what we eat.
So we focus on, I’m not going to let that food into my house. We don’t, you know, I don’t go down that aisle at the grocery store or what have you, versus actually managing our own decision-making internally. And then when we get to the holiday season, that’s taken out of our control, right. We go to a potluck or our kid is given XYZ candy and so it’s in the house. And so we will always find ourselves in situations, surrounded by. Trigger foods or trigger people or more indulgent options and managing yourself is knowing that you can and how to make choices that you like regardless of the situation. So some things to try are consider how foods are going to make you feel when ordering at a restaurant this holiday season, or filling up your plate.

So think about, do I want to feel really full? Do I want to feel sleepy? You know, or would I rather feel 80% full? Would I rather You know, do, do I care if I’m going to go have a nap on the couch? Like maybe you don’t care. Alcohol plays into that as a big part of it. Like, do I want to spend Thanksgiving evening feeling kind of hung over cause like I had too many glasses of wine at two in the afternoon? Watching your fullness throughout a meal, regardless of the food isn’t very easy. If we’re in that scarcity mindset to kind of just like black out and plow through our entire plate and then go, woof, like I am full.
Slow it down. Make it a point to sit next to someone who you want to have a conversation with so that you’re putting down your fork and engaging. And then check in with your cravings, hunger, energy, and fullness throughout holidays, just like you would any other time. So. it can get really difficult with like timed meals and outings and activities to like, make sure that you’re actually responding to your cravings and your hunger, or having a little snack. If you feel low energy or grumpy, we can keep those behaviors in place. Even when we know that we’re going to eat a little more indulgently at the next meal. Again, the extra calories at a meal or two here and there is not what makes a difference in your long-term goals and your longterm health.

What matters long term is how you talk to yourself, how you think about food. And whether or not you decide that, oh, because I had 400 calories extra at this meal, I might as well eat everything in sight for the next month. So all of that said, I want to invite you. I’m going to be running a very special black Friday promo. On my Ditch the Diet Drama course. So I’ve referenced a lot of the material from today’s podcast episode in Ditch the Diet Drama, we get even more tactical and like really drill down into specific tools to use, specific behaviors to practice. It’s a self-guided course that you can complete basically from Black Friday to New Year’s Eve.

And you can feel like you’re keeping your nutrition on track without dieting and without going like completely hog-wild off the, off the bandwagon. And then hopefully go into the next year feeling balanced feeling like, oh, I don’t need to go on a diet. You know, January 1st, because I’ve been eating normally just been eating like myself, and that can really be an amazing way to sort of kickstart a new relationship with food. So I would love to invite you to make sure you’re on my newsletter list. If it’s already black Friday, then you can hit up kellybryantwellness.com/black-friday/ or go to the link in the show notes to get a super, super, super discounted access to Ditch the Diet Drama.

Share this post

Wellness Delivered

Get my newsletter filled with tips on how to live your best life (without spam).