“But Grandma made it just for you.” “Have a beer with me – one won’t kill ya.” “Why aren’t you having any (insert non paleo food item here).” Yep, it’s that time of year again – time for the seemingly endless holiday parties, gatherings, and holiday celebrations. We’re all painfully aware that the season’s food-laden festivities often result in the ‘phenomenon that is, (insert sound of impending doom – dun, dun, dun), the elastic waistband’. While this is something we’d like to avoid, sometimes that seems an impossible feat due to being ‘guilted’ into eating and drinking things because of those pesky ‘holiday food pushers’ – (seriously, they are VICIOUS!!). I mean really, who wants to ‘strong arm’ Grandma or Cousin Eddie – there are just some things that you don’t do… And damnif that beer, egg nog, pie, cookie, candy, stuffing and hell, even the jello were all a whole lot of tasty. The day after that gorge-fest, however; – um, can you say – EPIC Food Hangover!! This is like a fate worse than death in some cases – think ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’, along with a college hangover headache, and the lethargy of your common house cat… But it happened, and in a few days, maybe next week, and definitely again at Christmas – it’s going to happen again.
Okay, I’m pretty sure that you’re picking up what I’m putting down here – it’s the normal holiday pattern. And while the ‘food pushers’ likely don’t have to push very hard, you do feel a certain ‘obligation’ to eat, drink, and be merry right along with everyone else. I mean, who wants to deal with the questions, odd looks, and total disownment from your family, friends and coworkers. It’s so much easier to just ‘fall-in’ and do what everyone else is doing. But is it worth it?And when do you finally hit your tipping point and start thinking about the havoc you’re wreaking on your health, body and mindset? It’s sort of like college drinking (or high school drinking – when you grow up in Map Dot, South Dakota) – you may not ‘like the taste of alcohol’, or even really want to drink on a given Saturday night. But ‘everyone else’ is holding a red solo cup, and you feel naked without one. So, getting ‘tanked’ undoubtedly happens. The next day you wake up vowing that your drinking days are over – and then the weekend rolls around again and you guessed it…
I’m going to go ahead and risk sounding like your mom for a minute by saying, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” Nothing like simplifying something complicated; thanks, mom. I know- if it were that easy we’d all never have had a hangover, done something we didn’t want to do, or have eaten a Necco wafer (NASTY!!). No, we often (READ: almost always), cave to peer pressure. Seriously, when will we EVER learn!! Now, I know some of you are thinking; “But Amy, I can’t handle the looks, questions, or having grandma hate me because I didn’t eat her special jello.” Well, let me play devil’s advocate here – is your health and the way you feel worth dealing with a few awkward glances or conversations? Or would you rather just cave and suffer the consequences and/or feelings of guilt later? **NOTE: I’m fairly certain that Grandma, or anyone else for that matter, is NOT going to ‘hate’ you for passing on something. Heck, they probably won’t even remember what THEY ate – let alone what YOU did or didn’t. Seriously, don’t flatter yourself by thinking that YOU are their biggest concern. And if someone decides to ‘blacklist’ you for turning down a beer or a scoop of stuffing- uh, I would question the value of their friendship. “Like, OMG; did you see Bob is like, so drinking club soda… I mean WTF? He is so not cool…” Really people, this is NOT junior high. You are a big boy/girl and are completely capable of making your own decisions. And sure it might be ‘easier’ to eat pie and drink beer than it is to deal with strange looks and questions, but I’m guessing you can handle it.
With a little ‘strategery’ you may be able to totally bamboozle your drinking and dining company. Here are some of my favorite tips on how to make holiday gatherings a little more manageable and not come out of the season sporting an elastic waistband.
- It’s the holidays – enjoy them! It’s totally okay to indulge in some of your favorite holiday foods. This doesn’t mean partaking in copious amounts of things you could really care less about. (READ: dinner rolls, Stove-Top stuffing, that damn jello salad…) Choose the foods that only make appearances during the holidays, and pick only the ones that result in ‘a party for your taste buds.’ Really ENJOY your choices, and when you’re satisfied – stop eating. If it doesn’t taste absolutely awesome, then it’s not worth it anymore.
- Don’t get ‘wasted’ or liquid sugar-logged. This is a big one! Many times we mindlessly sip ourselves into trouble – alcohol, egg nog, seasonal lattes, cider, or soda… Is a ‘cup of good cheer’ really where you want to spend your ‘indulgence’? If the answer is yes – then make sure you TASTE and really ENJOY the drink. Mindless sipping, warm beer, and fizzless soda should not be making the cut!!
- Uh-oh! Grandma and the rest of the family have you on ‘dinner table defense’. This is when it starts getting tricky… Let’s say you cleverly avoided the unnaturally green, whip cream, jello, pineapple concoction that is known as “Aunt Susie’s Special Salad”, on the its first pass around the table – but unfortunately, it didn’t go unnoticed. Someone ‘helpfully’ points out to you (and everyone else at the table), that you didn’t have any and they pass it on over again. All eyes are on you; watching and waiting for your hand to grab the spoon and dish up a big scoop of ‘green goodness’. Think fast! It’s time to run interference!! If you find yourself in this situation try this – “Oh goodness, I can’t believe I missed it but I’m SO full from all this other delicious food. Would it be okay if I take some home to enjoy later when my stomach has room for it?” How’s that for some wicked trickery?? The maker of the dish will be flattered that you want to take some home and no one will be able to fault you. In the end you walk away food dye and cool whip free, smelling like roses.
- If the above interference play doesn’t fit your game plan, or ends up in a fumble, here’s a surefire way to recover. Dessert is yet to come, so pull the old “I would love some but I’m saving room for (insert worthy food item of choice).” card. Yep, dessert always wins – no one is going to argue that.
- Just shoot it straight. Be honest about why you are or aren’t eating/drinking certain things. Feel free to throw in words like ‘health’ and ‘diabetes’. Tell them (READ: briefly) about how eating the way you do makes you feel. Sell them on the high points of ‘your way’ – but don’t be overbearing or pushy. Let them ask questions if they want to know more.
- Host the party or meal. I know, it’s a lot of work – but it puts you in control of the food that’s served. If that just seems like a bad idea, or if the tradition is ‘we always go to grandmas on the holidays’, then bring a paleo friendly dish for everyone to share. This way you’ll definitely have something other than turkey to eat… Alternately, see if you can help prepare the meal. Come bearing the needed ingredients and go to town!
- There’s one in every crowd… It’s highly likely that we all have to deal with at least one of those people that just can’t let it go. You know the type. It’s not so much a genuine interest or question, but more of a way to see if they can make you squirm. If you get attacked by one of these smart alecks here’s a surefire way to shut them up and hopefully ward off further confrontation. Sample conversation: Smart Aleck asks, “Why aren’t you having any (insert food/drink item here)?” Instead of going into a lengthy explanation (also known as ‘wasting your breath’), turn the question around and ask them, “Why are you eating/drinking (insert chosen food/drink item)?” While saying this inconspicuously raise your eyebrow – this will confuse them and if nothing else, it will make them pause and wonder what the hell just happened there. This should give you adequate time to head over to Cousin Tom and start a chat about the weather. Best case scenario, you make them think about that fourth glass of egg nog or third piece of fudge. Yeah, they’ll leave you alone…
Well folks, that’s what I’ve got in my bag of tricks on this one. If anyone else has some other clever ideas, let us hear them! The more the merrier. Start putting together your play book now. A solid game plan will help you come out of this holiday season with your health, sanity and social life still intact.
What’s your plan?