Eating healthy at the holidays never crossed my mind when I was a size 28. Holidays were just one big eat-fest. I’d pour over the grocery store and department store ads looking for the best deals on pumpkin pies, candy bags and nuts for pecan pie. I got excited when chocolate chips were on sale because that meant almost unlimited baking possibilities for me.
Of course, I also looked for the best price on French fried onions for the traditional Thanksgiving green bean casserole, and watched for marshmallows to put atop of sweet potatoes. I never stopped to think that I could make better choices; instead I was on autopilot. For Thanksgiving, we always had marshmallows with sweet potatoes, fattening gravy and bread that was loaded with butter. Always.
I’d bake for days before the holiday, eating as I went along. Bake a pan of brownies, eat a half a pan. Bake a pie, eat several pieces. Buy some candy “for the kids,” and eat it all before they could even see one piece.
I felt guilty during the holidays, knowing that I should be trying to lose weight rather than eating as much as I could. Even as I was finishing my fourth roll, I’d wish that I had more control over my eating schedule. I’d alternate between guilt and eating.
This pattern continued for me for the decade I struggled with obesity. Every fall, when the holidays got closer, I vowed in one breath that I’d only make and eat healthier holiday foods, while talking excitedly about the fabulous fattening food I couldn’t wait to have.
The year I finally made positive strides toward getting to a healthy weight was full of changes. One of the biggest changes was how I handled the holiday preparations. That first Thanksgiving, I had lost about 75 or 80 pounds, and didn’t want to gain my traditional 10 to 15 pounds from Halloween to New Years. That year, I wanted to keep losing weight – and I did.
I took a hard look at every holiday food I thought I must have. Gone were the marshmallows on top of sweet potatoes, I halved the amount of French fried onions I used and picked 1 dessert to make rather than 5 or 6. That first new, healthier Thanksgiving was an adjustment for both me and the family, but it was a freeing experience.
I learned that Thanksgiving wasn’t about how many desserts covered the dining room buffet, but rather about who was at the table. Looking around and feeling gratitude for my family was much more important than eagerly anticipating eating the chocolate pie and cranberry pound cake.
As the holiday season approaches, I’d encourage you to believe that you can eat through these eating-focused holidays with your healthy eating plan intact. Decide ahead of time what foods you will enjoy and what foods you can do without.
One of the best parts about making those decisions is the fact that there is no guilt after the meal – just enjoyment from spending quality time with your friends and family.