Halloween is the gateway holiday into what I call “The Holiday Binge Season!” The stores are already stocking the aisles with all those highly processed, high fat, high sugar junk foods that contain no nutrition. The vast majority of us can’t eat these junk foods in moderation. From Halloween to New Years Day people typically eat with abandon and many gain weight. It becomes one big sugar high and is socially accepted as the norm. Then come January when people are feeling tired, fat and depressed from lack of nutrition,the stores are stocking the end caps with vitamin and herb supplements and the latest diet foods and diet books. This is absolute insanity!
If you have followed my blog over the years you know that I have struggled with my weight my entire adult life. I have been a serial dieter – going from Weight Watchers (which I belonged to several times) to the latest fad diet. That all ended in February of 2015 when I joined Jay Pea & Chef AJ’s on line Ultimate Weight Loss Program. I had already been eating a plant based no oil diet at that time but I was struggling with losing weight after being diagnosed with hypothyroidism. It was with Chef AJ’s & Jay Peas’s help that I educated myself about eating a whole food plant based diet that eliminates processed foods, sugar, oil, salt, flour and alcohol. I found out that some people – myself included are super sensitive to highly palatable processed foods. Once I learned about calorie density and what the proper foods are to feed my body and my mind for ultimate wellness, I have finally been able to get to a healthy weight and stay there for over two years now. I sometimes feel like this is a miracle!
I saw this saying above on a chalk board at Whole Foods and I took a photo of it and then made it into a little poster. I love inspirational quotes. This one rings so true. I can find a way and the time to do the things that are important to me in all aspects of my life not just in the area of health and wellness. I have had plenty of trials and life challenges to get through in the almost three years since I started this way of eating. I have taken road trips, and traveled by plane to visit family. We remolded our kitchen, had new carpet and flooring installed in our home. My husband had surgery, then about 8 weeks later I underwent major female surgery and was laid up for 12 weeks. I have been dealing with chronic sciatic pain for 2 years years now and 18 months ago our daughter gave birth to our first grandchild! Through all of this I never wavered from my choice of eating a healthy whole food plant based lifestyle. Having sustained a healthy diet is what has helped me get through these big life events!
It’s important as we enter into the “holiday binge” season to remember that there is no junk food, dessert or high calorie meal that can equal the pleasure and happiness that eating healthy, being healthy and being thin provide. Food only provides a few seconds of pleasure – think about it – you only enjoy it while it’s in your mouth for a few seconds! Where as enjoying stable brain chemistry, stable blood sugar, being healthy and being at a healthy weight can be enjoyed 24/7! Which do you choose?
Make A Plan
It’s important to have a strategy for getting through the holiday season without losing your mind, gaining weight and feeling tired. I share below the strategies that have helped me get through stressful times including the holidays, family gatherings, house remodeling, surgery and helping our daughter when she had her baby.
Decide what your goal for the holiday season is. Do you want to lose weight, maintain your currant weight or gain weight. That last option sounds ridiculous but the consequence of our food choices and behavior choices this holiday season can result in gaining weight and losing control of our healthy eating! If you choose to eat the junk food that is going to be around then you are choosing the options of a possible downward spiral of out of control eating. We know from reading The Pleasure Trap by Dr. Doug Lisle that eating the highly palatable high calorie density foods sets us up to crave more of them. It all begins with that first innocent bite and just like that the brain starts wanting more. If moderation worked for us we wouldn’t have found ourselves every having gained weight but for most of us we can’t moderate eating the highly palatable foods. When you choose the behavior you choose the consequences.
Change Your Traditions
First of all we are not required to hand out candy on Halloween! Hubby Tom and I either go out to a plant based dinner and a movie on Halloween or we shut off the lights and stay in and eat a healthy dinner and watch a movie. If you feel you must stay home and pass out treats give things other than candy. Why tempt yourself with sugary treats and seriously do our children need a bag full of candy! Little bags of stickers, pencils, glow sticks and so on can be fun treats for the kids.
I no longer bake the traditional foods of years past and you know what – no one seems to miss them! We now have new delicious healthy whole food plant based foods that satisfy us. Those who want the sugary treats can get them elsewhere and I don’t feel bad about it at all! I don’t want to feed others food that I no longer believe is healthy.
We have holiday meals either at our house or our daughters house. We tell the rest of the family that everything we make will be plant based and if they want to have animal products they are welcome to bring them. It has worked out well for us. Our daughters in laws always go out of their way to make something plant based for us and it is much appreciated. Everyone loves our plant based food. We set up a beautiful buffet and what people chose to eat is a non issue. Everyone gets what they want to eat. We always have a fresh fruit platter as an option for dessert along with herbal hot tea.
If you can’t modify your families favorite holiday dishes to fit into a healthy whole food plant based lifestyle then choose a different menu. You can have an Italian, Mexican or Indian themed meal – why not?
If the weather cooperates we enjoy taking the family out for a walk in nature after our main meal on holidays. It does everyone a world of good. The kids and adults all have fun. We play board games, Bingo, play with SnapChat, look at old photos, watch old home videos. There are so many things to do other than eat!
Practice Saying NO
Learn to say NO! You don’t have to go to every holiday open house and party. Choose the events you will enjoy the most and say no the rest. Don’t take on more than you can handle. You don’t even have to give people a reason why you are saying no. Instead of getting together to eat with people, plan an activity instead. Or agree to get together with some people after the holiday season is over when you are not so pressed for time.
I have never regretted deciding not to eat something! Think about that – the opposite is usually true – we decide to indulge in something not on our food plan and immediately we have regret, guilt and feel defeated. When you leave an event having eaten according to your healthy lifestyle there is so much joy, pleasure and pride in that. When we choose the behavior we choose the consequences. Choose wisely.
Non – Negotiable
Make a list of foods that are going to be non-negotiable before the holiday season arrives or before you attend a family function where there will be temptations. Once you decide for instance that you are not going to eat sugar, flour or alcohol when you are faced with these foods sitting in front of you there is no debate to be had. That little sugar addict in your brain doesn’t get to convince you to dive off the deep end and indulge in unhealthy eating because you have already decided ahead of time that you are not eating that junk! I learned this technique from Jay Pea and Chef AJ and it has been a game changer for me.
Start stocking your freezer with healthy food right now. Every time you make veggie burgers, chili, soup or stew double the recipe and freeze the extra for future meals. These made ahead meals will save you during the busy holiday season. You will always have something healthy to come home to that will reheat easily. If you can’t handle having certain foods around then don’t allow the family to bring them into your house. All year long I batch cook ahead enough soup, stew, chili, veggie burgers and so on to put some in the freezer to last us for weeks. That way if the unexpected happens we still have healthy home made fast food ready to heat and eat.
Make Sure There Is Always Healthy Food Available
If you are invited to a dinner at someone’s home take at least one dish to share that fits into your food plan. Even if the hostess insists that you don’t need to bring something you don’t take no for an answer! It’s a wonderful opportunity to show others how tasty a whole food plant based diet really is. In addition to a plant based entree or side dish a tray of fresh fruit is always nice. Everyone is on sugar overload and other people will appreciate the simple pleasure of fruit. Instead of taking a box of candy for a hostess gift take a fruit basket. A bag of clementines in a basket is an economical gift that everyone would enjoy.
I learned this strategy years ago from a Weight Watchers meeting leader. So many parties are later than the time I usually eat dinner so I will eat something healthy before going. That way I don’t arrive starving and I can skip the appetizers that are not usually something vegan friendly. I might even eat a sweet potato in the car on the way to an event!
Make sure your daily schedule allows time for exercise. I have found that exercise helps me emotionally, spiritually as well as physically. It makes me feel powerful and in control! My morning walks set the pace for the day. When I start out having done something so healthy for my body I want to continue that trend through out the day. Its one of those non negotiable habits I have developed.
I am fairly new to meditation but I must say that it does the body and the brain so much good! There are free smart phone apps that make this really easy. I always have my phone with me and I can carve out as little as a minute almost anywhere and use my app for a little calmness. Insight Timer is the free app I have been using and it works well – you can choose from a wide variety of meditations and find the ones that work best for you.
Put Your Needs First
As a people pleasing female this is a difficult one to do! As a daughter, wife, mother and Grandmother I want to make everyone else happy and can often feel pulled in so many directions. It’s so important to put our own needs first. We must do what is best and healthiest for ourselves first. This helps us to be healthy and strong and then more able to give and care for others. Ask people for help if you need it. Don’t let yourself become over committed. Do only the things that you really want to do with a happy heart!
Have A Support System
We are greatly influenced by the company we keep. Therefore we need to have people in our lives that think the same way we do and who can support our healthy lifestyle choices. Hubby Tom is my biggest supporter. He is all in with this way of eating a whole food plant based diet and living a healthy lifestyle. We keep each other on track. In addition to him our grown children understand our food choices and they also have adopted a plant based diet and we support one another.
I belong to Chef AJ’s Ultimate Weight Loss Program and with that we have access to a private facebook group of like minded people. There is tremendous support there from an amazing community of people who have the same challenges that I do. We share our triumphs and our challenges, recipes, lectures, you tube videos and we cheer each other on! I am also in the UWL Mastery group and we have a private facebook page where we have a close knit community to support one another. I text, email and talk on the phone with women from my on line communities that I have become close with. You don’t have to live in the same town to support one another.
Outside of my on line support I have a local group of women that eat the same way I do and we get together weekly for a walk. We actually met on line. We text each other through out the week to support one another and share how our weeks are going. We get together for pot lucks, go to movies and attend local seminars and plant based lectures together. We found our local vegan society is quite active and they host various events that we find enjoyable. Check out a website called Meet Up and see what local groups are in your area that might be a good fit for you. You can find something related to your hobbies, fitness, lifestyle, work and so on. Make an effort to find a group of like minded people to spend time the rewards are incredible.
Get Enough Sleep
When we are overly tired we are less likely to stick to our healthy habits. If we don’t get enough sleep our brain starts to send out a message to eat carbs! We don’t usually reach for the healthy ones when that happens. Try to stick with a normal healthy bed time even during the crazy holiday season. If you need a Saturday afternoon nap – take it.
How I felt in the photo above is how I intend to feel come January 1st every year!
I wrote the original blog post last year but updated it to post again today as the information is a good reminder for me of how I have navigated the holidays the past two years and on January 1st I can wake up proud of how I navigated the holiday season and start the New Year on a very happy note!
Happy Healthy Holidays,
Feel free to share you tips and comments for surviving the holiday season in the comments below.