YOUR SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE HOLIDAY FOOD GAUNTLET

We have officially entered the season of overindulgence, which will provide no shortage of opportunities to test your dietary resolve and bring ruination to your healthy eating plan. Just past was Halloween, replete with brimming bowls of candy at every office workstation, reception desk and, more than likely, your pantry (you bought them for those adorable trick or treaters…right?)!

At least turning down these “fun size” treats wasn’t dissing on someone else’s cooking or hospitality.

The gauntlet ahead: The Harvest Party (pumpkin bars, candy corn mix, s’mores, cider and hot chocolate), Thanksgiving (whipped potatoes with gravy, stuffing, pies), Bowl game parties (little smokies swimming in barbecue sauce, Scotcheroos and nine-layer dip and chips), Christmas parties, New Year’s parties and Super Bowl parties. After a brief reprieve to catch our collective breath (and, perhaps, reorder insulin) we set our face toward Valentine’s Day (did someone say chocolate?) and Easter (marshmallow peeps, malted eggs and jelly beans anyone?).

You don’t want to hurt feelings, come off as a health snob, or subtly induce fat shame on those who indulge. What do you do?

These annual opportunities to lose our way (and waistlines) will merge with birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, work anniversaries and assorted other celebrations that will include foods low in nutrition and high in calories. And with each event comes the opportunity to offend or make yourself a focus of attention because of what you’re not eating.

Don’t get me wrong – I like most of the treats and all of the events listed here. But each successive wave presents dangers to the individual who is trying to make changes that will improve their health.

You don’t want to hurt feelings, come off as a health snob, or subtly induce fat shame on those who indulge. What do you do?

Here are some suggestions to help you navigate these choppy waters, some of which were provided by my helpful Fit For The King Facebook friends:

  • Just say “No, Thank You.” You are not obligated to eat unhealthy foods. Here we need to be honest with ourselves. Are we using the excuse of not wanting to be impolite as a rationalization to eat food we want to eat but shouldn’t? If you feel you need to give an explanation for declining something, here are some suggestions that are both true and kind at the same time:

“I’m currently under some dietary restrictions and will have to pass.”

“I’d love to try this, but it’s not part of my eating plan right now.”

“This looks delicious but I’m already full.”

“I’m reducing sugar from my diet because it’s supposedly causing inflammation. I’m trying to see if it makes a difference.”

Fortunately, in a culture where dietary restrictions are now common, this won’t be as awkward as it might have been in previous years.

  • Increase your calorie burn. While I’m not an advocate for working out so you can eat indiscriminately, increasing your movement knowing that you will be celebrating with family and friends may be the better part of wisdom. The realization that it will take about a half-hour running on the treadmill to work off one slice of pumpkin pie may also assist in your restraint!
  • Eat before you arrive. This could be especially appropriate for gatherings that include hors d’oeuvres or desserts. If this is your strategy, it will be important to remind yourself, “I’ve just eaten, and I’m full and satisfied.” With this approach, you can focus on interpersonal connection and simply tell others “I just ate and I’m full.”
  • Share with someone. Want to cut your calorie count in half? Split your dessert or side dish with your spouse, your date, or your friend. Perhaps what is offered is appropriate for your situation, but the portion size offered might be larger than ideal. Take one serving and split it with someone.
  • Accept what is offered and hold on to it without eating. If you possess a high level of self-control, this might be the ticket for you. One advantage of this approach is that it’s not likely you’ll be offered more when you have something already in front of you.
  • Bring your own healthy option. Few hosts would be offended by the proposition of extra food, especially if it’s masquerading as a host gift. In addition to providing you with a healthy option for snacking, you will also provide one for others who may be seeking shelter in the gastronomical storm.
  • Host the party. Take the initiative to organize or host the gathering and put yourself in a position to influence what is offered. As a host or organizer, you can make sure healthier menu and treat options are available for you and everyone else seeking dietary refuge.
  • Regretfully decline the invitation. If parties have become a snare for you, and you’re not sure you’re strong enough to withstand the temptation to overindulge, the wisest choice would be to avoid the situation. Like an alcoholic who needs to avoid loitering around a liquor store, there may be occasions where, for the sake of your own health and forward progress, you need to stay away. There will always be another opportunity to socialize and make memories that might not hold the potential for unraveling your progress.

Holidays and special occasions are meant to be enjoyed and celebrated, and indulgent food is often a part of these. But the most important thing is the connection with other people.

So what about when we slip, overindulge and make unhealthy choices? It’s critical to remember that God’s grace is abundant, that He’s not surprised or disappointed with our behavior, and that one mistake doesn’t have to snowball into a series of setbacks. The Christian walk is not an “all or nothing” proposition. The good news of the gospel is that God loves us in spite of our imperfections and is eager for us to move forward with Him.

Holidays and special occasions are meant to be enjoyed and celebrated, and indulgent food is often a part of these. But the most important thing is the connection with other people. If we focus on learning about others and drawing them out, our focus will be in the right place. If what we eat as our normal diet is highly nutritious, situations like this don’t have to be filled with deprivation or remorse. When we are at a healthy weight and eating well, less-than-ideal options and desserts can have their place in a balanced, active lifestyle. Whatever the situation, God’s word can guide us in understanding what is appropriate for our circumstance:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV)

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