Third in a series about factors influencing your health in winter
Think about a birthday party – was birthday cake part of the vision? Food can activate pleasure sensors in the brain and when coupled with experiences and emotions, they can be a powerful motivator. This is why food itself can cause anxiety and stress for someone trying to stay on-track during the holidays.
So, what are some strategies for overcoming that pumpkin pie and whipped cream that’s calling your name? One of the most powerful methods is changing focus (or distraction). Urges can come and go very quickly. Waiting even five minutes can ease the desire for something – it may be enough time for the rational parts of the brain to take over and help calm the brain and the body. Finding enjoyment in other activities can also help. For instance, when a food craving comes-up try going for a walk or calling a friend. These distractions can provide support and help move food out of the mind. Other ways of handling cravings include journaling and deep breathing – both of which can also help with stress.
It’s also important to acknowledge that it is the holidays. Planning for favorite splurges is going to be the best option in the long run. If there is a party or special treat that you know you want to enjoy, make sure to save room for it. It sounds cheesy, but break-out the calendar and figure out when healthy and indulgent days of the week will happen. Having a plan for the week can help with maintaining the willpower to prevent unexpected holiday treats. And what about when the unexpected happens? It’s the holidays. Showing some self-compassion is more effective than beating yourself up. Enjoy the splurge and start the next day with a fresh start.
Heather Snively, MS, RD, is a nutrition and wellness manager at Guckenheimer, an on-site corporate restaurant management and catering company. She received her Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Washington in 2011. Heather is passionate about helping others determine the best way to enjoy food and stay healthy. Her food philosophy is simple: moderation in all things, except for vegetables—eat all the vegetables you like.