HOLIDAY HABITS—AND BEYOND

“I can resist anything except temptation.” –Oscar Wilde

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are once again upon us, and the time of year is rich with tradition. Decorations go up, carolers go out, shoppers show up in stores and online, and delicious holiday food appears in the office, in the magazines, on television and on our holiday tables. Too often, it ends up accumulating in the wrong places on our bodies after the holidays are over.

Instead of condemning this too-frequent result, let’s take a look at its positive attributes.

Eating is a form of social bonding. When we share good food with family and friends, we are sharing something more: community. We come together as social beings to partake of delicious treats; some nutritious, others not.

This is a good thing. This is what memories are made of.

Our senses of taste and smell have more power to imprint memories on our brains than the other senses do. The tastes and smells of holiday food can quickly take us back to a place and a time, and usually these are good memories. It is one of the great pleasures of life to enjoy tasty food, and we should not take it for granted. We should simply enjoy, and be grateful for the joy it brings us.

We should, however, keep it in moderation.

**

But what exactly is moderation? How do we define it? That’s a tough question, and the answer is different for each person. A diabetic will have a drastically different answer than a person without diabetes will. A person with food allergies will have a much different answer than does a person without.

The best answer is, perhaps this: you just know. Our bodies—and our brains—have infinite wisdom surrounding those things that are good for us, and those which are not. However, too often we don’t listen. We override good judgment and common sense and listen to emotion, desires, cravings and feelings instead of reason.

But we know. Deep down, we know.

**

At this point in our adult lives, we have many, many holiday seasons under our belts—figuratively, and literally as well. Perhaps you are in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s or beyond. That equals decades of holiday seasons, decades of behaving in a certain way at a certain time of year. It is tradition, yes, but traditions, at their most basic form, are habits. Patterns, if you will. And these patterns can rule our lives if we let them. We have engaged in them for so long, we no longer have to think about them. We simply know that when fudge shows up in the office, we eat it. We know that we will likely have a large plate of rich foods at the office holiday party, preceded by several drinks, and followed by several desserts.

We know that we will purchase and drink eggnog throughout the season. We know that we will bake Christmas cookies with the children and/or grandchildren, and we will eat both the dough and the cookies after they are baked. We know that the neighbor brings us homemade candy every year, and they know what we like. We know we will simply eat it.

We know all this so well that we don’t have to think about it anymore. It just happens. We are on automatic pilot when it comes to these treats. We just do it.

And this is not a bad thing. It is a tradition, and traditions are good things. However, moderation should perhaps be given its due if your wisdom and intuition tell you to slow down on how much you eat; how many cookies you consume; how many drinks you drink.

Just listen, for a moment, to that little voice that may be whispering to you to Please take only one cookie, I can’t handle any more than that. One drink is enough, thank you. I know the fudge is delectable, but one small square is better than three. Please stop picking at the dinner as you prepare it; you will be full by dinnertime.

Just make a conscious effort to listen for a bit.

Our brains are infinitely wise and wondrous organs. Yours will tell you what is right, how much is enough; when to stop. You simply need to listen. For most of us, however, this breaks with our tradition of eating to excess, eating until we are miserable. Our traditions typically involve neglecting or ignoring that little voice of wisdom, and partaking until we are past the point of feeling satisfied in a healthy way.

It is possible to do both: honor traditions, and enjoy yourself. Again, it takes a little moderation in the form of listening to our bodies instead of our emotions and impulses, and paying attention to what we know is best for us. We do all know this, but too often, it is overridden.

But how? What are some simple things to remember at the moment when indulgence seems imminent? That moment when we feel we simply must have another cookie, piece of candy/cake/pie or drink?

It is hard, but it is simple too.

  • Just stop. Take a little break. Walk away from the food. Give your brain a minute to do its job of reasoning with your emotions and impulses. Tell your impulses to just wait a minute, and then you will indulge them. Treat them like a small child, because that is how they behave. They want it now. They don’t yet have a voice of reason, so you have to be that voice. See what happens. Perhaps in that one minute, your powers of reason will override your powers of impulse. Just stop for a moment and see what happens.
  • As crazy as it sounds, talk to yourself. In your head, of course. Repeat some very simple, yet positive and powerful phrases like I am happy with a little bit. I can walk away. I am stronger than this. I don’t need more. Telling yourself these positive things will dramatically increase your chances of resistance. The voice of negativity says I can’t resist. This is so bad for me but I can’t help it. One more serving won’t matter. I am weak. Here I go again. I feel the pounds going on. Listening to that negative voice will only keep you on that road.
  • Go get a large glass of water, and spend a few moments drinking it. You likely need to drink more water anyway—especially at this time of year—and it fills you up, decreasing your cravings. Snacking on vegetables or fruit will have the same effect.
  • Take a moment and think of something—however small—you can do for someone else at that moment. Perhaps you could send a kind text to a friend or family member to let you know you are thinking of them. Perhaps you could go write that check to the charity you were considering. If you are not cooking, ask the cook if you can help them cook or clean up the kitchen.
  • Go outside. Look up, look down; look around. Breathe deeply. Take in the awe and wonder of our natural surroundings. If the weather permits, walk around the block, or even further if you can. If you can’t make it that far, just walk down the driveway and back. Anything to reset your impulses.
  • Find a mirror, and first find something you like about yourself. Maybe your eyes or your new haircut. Ask yourself if this indulgence will add to, or take away from your appearance.

**

First and foremost, and by all means, enjoy yourself. This is the season of glad tidings and joy, not negativity and guilt. Don’t beat yourself up over another indulgence. Simply pay a bit more attention to those patterns, those habits that you engage in without much conscious awareness. Just take a little look and decide if you can make a small change or two, or perhaps many small changes that will make a big change in the end.

These patterns, these habits we engage in without thinking create our overall behaviors. How we live our days is how we live our lives. Each moment of every day is a part of a larger picture. If you are happy with that picture, that is great. If you are not happy with that picture, start by making very small changes, like walking away from the indulgences.

No matter how you choose to live your days, make sure it is how you want to live your life.

Be mindful of your Holiday Habits.

Have a blessed, enjoyable, healthy and tasty holiday season.