Hi friends! I wrote Part 1 in this series, called Health & Compulsive Eating: How to Get Through the Holidays, Part 1 a while ago about food and the holidays. This is a series I’m really enjoying writing. All of what I write blends with my personal experience, but this topic is especially important to me because I used to be that person who dreaded the weight gain of the holidays, and who did indeed always gain weight during the holidays, and feel overall pretty awful by the end of them. The holiday season was one where I always felt totally preoccupied and anxious, and in retrospect, I can see how little I really was able to actually enjoy the holidays because of that. And now I have had the experience of what it’s like to have the holiday season hold no fear. I don’t worry I will eat too much, I don’t worry I’ll eat lots of junk food, I don’t worry I’ll gain weight, and — I don’t. I would love for everyone to have that experience. We all certainly deserve it and are capable of it! And thus, it’s time for Part 2!
Planning for Holiday Gatherings
Holidays are notorious for having the most unhealthy food, rich indulgences, and huge amounts of sugar, processed foods, and fat. If you’re a generally healthy eater (whether a healthy foods enthusiast, vegetarian, vegan, or whatever it is), this is often a time of distress. Discussing how to get rid of that distress is the topic today.
This is a good place for me to recommend a blog I wrote called Is It Rude To Eat Differently From My Family and Friends? The material in that blog applies just as much for holidays as it does any day of the year, so please do take a look at that — it addresses a lot of the emotional and social side of things, whereas this blog is going to focus more on planning and logistics. Also note that this post addresses mostly what to do when you’re not currently on a juice cleanse through the holidays–if you are, I recommend checking out my blogs Telling Unsupportive People That You’re Cleansing and Tips For Managing Social Situations While Juice Cleansing.
So back to logistics. Here are the scenarios I’d like to troubleshoot with you:
- What to do when you’re invited to a party or social event that won’t necessarily have healthy food.
- How to navigate family settings where those around you are eating totally different than you eat/want to eat.
Attending Parties and Gatherings
First we’ll discuss when you are invited to a gathering or party elsewhere than where you are living or staying. We’ll divide it into two sections, with the first being a scenario where it is not a potluck and the host has said they will provide for you, and the second being in a potluck situation.
At gathering where you are not asked to bring food (food will be provided by host), it may be unlikely there will be much for you to eat. If you’re lucky, you might feel like you can eat a couple things, but for most people, the options in these scenarios is to either go hungry or eat whatever unhealthy food they may provide. However, the reality is that it’s not self-loving to put yourself in a situation where you won’t have enough food or you have to make yourself eat food that isn’t flavorful or healthy.
If you are in this situation, here’s what you should do. If the host is not already aware, let them know that you eat the way you do, and if they are, remind them. I am not saying tell them they need to make different food for you. My strong feeling about food and social situations is that it is not wrong for you to eat the way you want to eat, but it is unfair to expect others to cater to you. So, tell them/remind them how you eat, and say you’d be happy to bring your own food. They may say, “Yes that would be great”, or they may say “No worries, we’ll make that kind of food for you”. Here’s the thing though — don’t settle for something that won’t be satisfying. If they say, “Oh no I get it! You’re healthy! We’ll put out some veggies and fruit!” and everyone else is eating real meals, don’t accept that. Obviously they’re welcome to put out veggies and fruit, but you still deserve a real meal. Personally, if I’m in situations where I don’t know exactly what kind of food is going to be there, I bring my own. If you are juice cleansing in this scenario, make sure to drink lots of juice beforehand so you’re not hungry and bring more juice with you–more than you think you might need.
If you are in a potluck scenario, the situation is more clear; you should make food that you would eat. Since it may be the only food you can eat, you should make something substantial. In other words, don’t just bring a bunch of veggie sticks yourself (unless you really want that). Bring something you personally will be enthusiastic to eat. Some others may not think it sounds good, but that’s ok — the ones that do will be all the more healthy for your contribution.
Another good tip for both of these kinds of situations is to eat beforehand. You might still bring something for yourself, but it can be better if you are not ravenous when you get there. If the party is about your connection with other humans and not just eating, there’s no problem with you eating less/not at all when you’re there socializing.
If you are feeling like you want to spend lots of time in the kitchen, maybe you’ll make food that you’d eat and have enough to share with others, but even if you don’t feel like that, don’t feel bad about bringing food just for yourself. Again — it’s not loving to fail to provide for yourself or put yourself in a situation where you might not get what you need, and it’s also not loving to expect anyone else to make things for you. And, to add to that, it’s not loving for others to expect you to eat in a way that you don’t really want to (yes, even if they’re the hosts). I would let the host know beforehand though. It would also not be considerate to let them think you’ll be eating what they make, and them account for that in their shopping and cooking, only to have you show up with a different plan and them stuck with leftovers.
When You’re Staying With Family or Friends
I recommend taking similar actions when you’re in a situation where you’re staying with family or friends overnight. My parents and their spouses know a little vegan/healthy cooking, but it’s not enough for me to rely on. My mom is learning some new things, but for the most part I’m still by far the expert in vegan cooking and healthy cooking, and as of right now, I’m the only one who eats they way I do. My brothers, bachelors in their 20’s, also don’t really know how to make any food that I eat. For the most part, if my family makes food I would eat, it’s guacamole or a bunch of fruit, but they definitely don’t provide all my meals. I feel it is actually a healthy dynamic because they don’t put pressure on me to eat like they do, and I don’t feel like I need to (nor would that be taking care of myself).
On the other hand, I don’t expect they provide my nourishment. In many cases I’m the only one in the house of 5 or 6 at a time that does my own grocery shopping and makes my own meals. Everyone other than me cooks for one another, and they all eat that kind of food. They generally don’t try to get me to make them food either (likely partly because they think most of my food looks wierd), and so I don’t feel pressure to make smoothies for 6 or salads for 5. Sometimes if I’m in a cooking mood I will make a big batch of something and offer it to them, but it’s not an expectation they have. And if I offer it to them and every one of them says no, that’s ok with me too. Leftovers! By the way, once I Juice Feasted (my 60-ish day Juice Feast) during Halloween all through the November and December holidays, including my trip home. And I just drank juice while everyone else ate.
However, even if your parent(s) or other family members do insist on cooking for you, and even if they do agree to make it how you want it, you’re still allowed to forgo that and make your own. I’ve known lots of people, for example, who go vegan and their mom says, “Oh I’ll make vegan food!”, and then the vegan food she makes isn’t very good. And in that situation it is also best to make a lot of your own food, and alternatively, provide the family member who really says they want to cook with exact recipes that you would enjoy and feel good after eating.
Many people have associations with being with their family for the holidays and having food made for them. Even as grown adults, many who have living parents want to be able to go home and stay in pajamas all day and have their parent(s) make their dinner. When I first started eating differently, that was a bit wierd for me, too, to suddenly be in this totally self-responsible state. But that is really what this is about: self-responsibility.
You deserve to eat good food, you deserve to eat flavorful food. You deserve to get enough of that flavorful, healthy food. You deserve to eat food that won’t make you feel bad — which is generally the minority of food during the holidays. You deserve to finish the holidays and feel great at the end of it and not bloated and tired and carrying extra weight. And in many cases, for these things to happen, we have to take charge of our own self-care and self-love.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you struggle with eating and the holidays? If not, what is your experience like with the holidays?