So you’ve been on a “diet” or have made a lifestyle shift in your eating habits. Whether it’s been watching carbs, going gluten-free, eliminating dairy or nightshades, or maybe you’re on the Whole 30. Whatever it is, it really doesn’t matter because what does matter is that you have been feeling great! Now its November and the holiday train is coming right at you. EEK! You try and hang on to your seat (literally!) as it’s can be wild ride, full of temptation.
For my issues, I needed to commit to different dietary standards Ie. NO Gluten, soy, dairy, and corn products but I LOVE holiday foods! My mother in-law is an amazing cook! Peach cobbler is her specialty and I have been caught in the kitchen polishing off the baking dish as I was “cleaning up “at Thanksgiving more than once. It took me five holiday seasons of feeling terrible from November until March to figure out that in the bustle of family gatherings, holidays, and parties, that I can’t eat the holiday table “regulars”, and that I can’t cheat. How was I going to get through this?
At first I stayed pretty committed to a diet with an occasional cheat that I couldn’t resist. The last time I “fell off the wagon” we were on a trip and I had some soda, coffee and ate the icing off the cake, (really just the icing because it was still “gluten-free”) and a few other “cheats” because it was convenient. When I came home from our vacation, I was having difficulty sleeping, anxiety, gastric issues, weight gain, and fatigue. I also noticed a huge change in my workouts. I had been doing great with my spin class prior to the holidays. I was able to get my max heart rate up to 171 and recover quickly.
After that one week trip with a bunch of cheats, my heart rate wouldn’t go over 140. It took me almost 4 months to regulate my digestion, sleep and return to almost the same fitness levels. After that experience, I decided I had to follow a specific diet. I couldn’t cheat, not even on holidays. I found out almost 2 years ago that I have Hashimoto Thyroiditis. I started GAPS almost 2 years ago with success. I am not willing to risk my health for the holiday treats. GAPS, especially in the beginning, is very strict and limiting.
There were a few months I had to bring my own food with me everywhere. Bar Mitzvah’s, dinner parties, holiday parties, ski days. I am not going to lie, it sucked…Not only can the “diet” aspect be hard, but also the questions, the looks of pity or concern, or that you are crazy! It’s my mom wanting to feed me. My friends inviting me to dinner and trying so hard to cook for me. My family anxious to go grab a bite to eat after a soccer game. As you can see, with the holidays, it’s more than just about the food… yes, there’s, apple pies and Chinese food ( What?! I am Jewish that’s what we eat on Christmas eve) and that all taste great, but its more about being part of the celebration and being included.
Even though I am there, not taking part in the dinner or having to prep my own “special meal” in the corner makes me feel left out. The hardest holiday for me was Passover, I couldn’t have matzo-ball soup… My grandmother and I had made matzo-ball soup many times together when I was a kid, it was very emotional not to eat it with my friends and family. I can’t say I have the holidays 100% completely figured out but have a system that has been working for me.
This tip list has helped me through 5 gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free holidays and 2 gaps legal holiday seasons.
1. Know your WHY. Why are you doing this diet/lifestyle? Is it an allergy, an auto-immune disease, weight loss, or training for a big race? When you have that deep real why, then you can tell yourself that particular food is or is not worth risking it… and sometimes it is worth it (its ok, if its ok).
2. Be PREPARED. If you go to party hungry, you are more likely to eat impulsively what is in front of you. And if your diet is AIP or GAPS (or another limiting diet), most likely there will be nothing you can choose from. Always have food with you.
3. CONTAINERS.Thermos, fork knife spoon set, cute lunch box tote. Find some items you like keep them with you. Looking for something fun? Try these containers.
4. REMIND yourself it’s not about the food. It’s about spending time with family and friends. It’s about feeling good the next day, and that a food hangover that stops you from playing with your kids on Christmas morning isn’t worth it.
5. Pick a FOOD PREP DAY. Cook in bulk ahead of time, so during the craziness of the season you can grab some roasted chicken, veggies, lettuce and an avocado to throw in your fun container or tote bag to take with you.
6. Offer to BRING A DISH TO SHARE to the party. Find a dish you really like, that fits your needs and bring it to include in the pot luck. Vegetable tian, roasted chicken, warm cranberry spinach salad (links below) have been great for me.
7. Find someone who can SUPPORT you, either because they eat as you do or they truly believe in what you are committed to. If you can’t find that person look to a health coach that can help you with accountability.
8. Do your best to ENJOY what you are eating. Look for other parts of the holidays that you can be grateful for, that you may have ignored before. Now is the time to embrace new and different.
GOOD LUCK and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Here are links to recipes I have used for holiday dinners that have proven popular with most everyone, dieting or not!
I would use a ghee or saturated fat (tallow, duck fat, schmaltz, or avocado oil vs olive oil with this recipe)