“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?
I liked the article, but the holiday isn’t a problem. I’m cooking for Thanksgiving and my son, who got me started with Paleo, is doing Christmas. My problem is with the daily hassles of living with someone who is only Paleo to the extent that it allows him to eat meat. That means there are chips, cookies, rolls, pie… in the house all the time. Mostly I manage to ignore them and he does try to pick things I don’t want anyway. Wheat is no problem–negative feedback works wonders–because I get sick when I eat it. But sometimes at night when I’m extra tired and supper wasn’t quite satisfying, I can’t quite fight off the impulse to eat carbs. Any suggestions–this is literally a matter of life and death.
I hesitate to get into medical issues, but I feel the same way when my blood sugar is crashing after a meal (reactive hypoglycemia). If supper doesn’t quite hit the spot, you might need to add a little extra zip to it. Or failing that, keep Paleo-friendly treats in the house to snack on. It is easier to resist the lure of chocolate or chips if your favourite healthy snack is right at hand.
As for Robb’s list of holiday health traps (and the relatives who just can’t leave you alone) it occurred to me that it is easier to fool people than argue with them. Or maybe that is just my relatives? A glass of sparkling water with lime looks fancy, as does cut veggies with (healthy) dip. And a heaping plate, eaten very slowly, will deflect people from offering you more even if you only eat the good stuff.
Glen PDQ says
Perhaps you could examine your ratio of fat/protein/complex carbs. I do not get urges to snack between meals. It took about 2 or 3 weeks after switching to high fat & protein/low carb paleo for the snack urges to totally disappear. From my own experience it is important to include enough fat and meat at mealtime to provide satiety and tip one over into some level of a ketogenic metabolism. You could try upping fat intake until you achieve satiety and can wait 4 or 5 hours between meals with no snacking. Good luck to you.
Fitness Wayne - Paleo and Exercise says
Great advice thanks for the article. Among my friends and coworkers I’m known as the health nut so I actually get more strange looks when I eat a piece of pie or drink soda than if I refuse those things, everyone has been very understanding with me.
I’m also already known as the health nut.
And I just told my MIL that, while dairy and grains don’t immediately make me ill, they will if I have “too much.” In other words, I have the “too much” card to play FOREVER now. Yay!
And this gives me incentive to stick to my guns now, too, since I can’t overindulge in dairy-based or grain-filled dishes with my in-laws nearby or risk scrutiny. Double win.
I can’t believe grown adults would try and guilt me into eating something I clearly do not want. They better not because contrary-wise, I do not push my agenda down their throats either (pun intended). They have enough respect for me (they better!!) to accept my reasons for changing my diet to a healthier one. No way would I let someone try to coerce me. Maybe Gail could try some walnuts – I’ve been there.
I don’t eat cake at the office, and because I’m quite thin and run a lot, there’s one guy who just can’t let it go and always makes ridiculous jokes like, “ohhh come on you’ll run it off… It’ll only be an extra 5 kms” etc etc. usually I just ignore it and let him babble on without saying anything (nobody should be deterred from choosing not to eat cake if they wish, and I’m lactose intolerant and gluten free so eating cake would suck- but I also just don’t think I should have to justify this to some over- carbed, beer gutted middle aged man). One day I got fed up, so I looked him in the eye and said, “no, I’m not having a piece of cake today and for that I don’t have to have a reason and nor do I have to give a reason”. I said it with a smile, in front of a few others and he hasn’t annoyed me about it since. So my advice: don’t stutter around it, don’t make excuses which lead to more questions (unless its a good friend or loved one or someone you want to talk to it about) and you don’t need to justify it. And thin people, stick to your guns…. The paleo lifestyle’s not just for weight loss.
HOLY JESUS! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? WHAT IS THAT PRIVATE PYLE!
sir! a jelly donut! sir!
A JELLY DONUT?!
sir! yes sir!
HOW DID IT GET HERE!
sir! my grandma gave it to me sir!
ARE DONUTS ALLOWED ON THE PALEO DIET PT PYLE?!
sir no sir!
AND WHY NOT PT PYLE?!
because our ancestors did not eat them sir!
THEN WHY DID YOU HIDE IT IN YOUR FOOT LOCKER?!
sir! because i was hungry sir!
BECAUSE YOU WERE HUNGRY! YOU ARE A DISGRACE TO THE TRIBE PT PYLE!
The good news is Thanksgiving can be mostly paleo – I just choose to fill my plate with all naturally paleo dishes…turkey, sweet potatoes, squash, cranberry sauce, and no one notices or cares that I skip stuffing. I made an almond flour chocolate coconut pie, and everyone loved it and didn’t even notice that the crust wasn’t “normal.” The best news about my family is they love to hunt, so even though they don’t eat “paleo,” we always get elk or venison on our table, along with the traditional turkey.
Family and friends are easy if you have already converted them to Paleo.
Indulging a little too much in red wine festivities brings nasty hangovers though.
I just started Paleo a couple days ago so this upcoming holiday season will be my first on Paleo. I actually looked up this list this far in advance because I am that concerned about dealing with family (mostly my pushy grandmother). It’s weird because I have over 200 pounds to lose, so they have got to know how important weight loss is for me. But every time I make an attempt to lose the weight, all I hear is things like, “Just a little bit won’t be bad”. Um, yes it will. Anyway, thanks for the helpful tips!
Oh, and I would KILL to be known as a health nut. 😉