3 Simple Things I Do to Avoid the Holiday Binge-then-Feel-Remorseful Curse

 Sneaking some sweets to go with my chardonnay. Caught red-handed. Photography: Fyrefly

By Shannon (Gierl) Wintheiser

Ohhh the holidays. November and December (because really it all starts with Halloween candy, right?) are, for even the best and most nutritionally holy of us, a veritable minefield of scrumptious sweets, fat-ladened dishes, and spirits of all kinds.  They are designed (I'm convinced) to make us weak, break us down, and then fill us up with sugar, trans fat, and a heaping helping of remorse.  This way when January comes we are all too ready and willing to shell out hundreds of dollars on fancy boutique cycling memberships, the latest fad diet books, and any online program containing the word "detox" we see as we scroll through our Facebook newsfeed in our food-induced comas. Talk about conspiracy theory.

Now, if you're one of those people who wants to overindulge during the holidays, and takes a no-holds-barred approach to Christmas partying and feasting (you know, the type who actually likes having to go to two houses for their holiday meal because that means twice the food)...then more power to you. You can stop reading right now.

My husband is one of these people, as a slim marathon runner with the metabolism of a 12 year old boy, and he asserts "yeah, I just go ham on Christmas and New Years Eve and then in January I work out twice as hard at the gym to counteract it."  ha...ha...ha. Hilarious. As a woman, I know that no amount of working out in January could fully counteract the damage I could do to my body during these last couple weeks of festivities.  But hey, if that's you and that's what you want to do, and you can honestly stay guilt free and enter 2015 without opening your purse to every diet gimmick and false promise that crosses your browser window, knock yourself out. Of course, as a holistic health coach and counselor of moderation, I don't recommend it. ;)

Now for the rest of us. The less fortunate.  First let's get over our pity party for ourselves ('but I want those blonde brownies they are my grandma's special recipe what if she never makes them again I don't care if they have gluten I want them!'). Ok. I'm done.  I'll be honest. I used to stress over parties, dinners out, and any big holiday meal because I was so afraid of packing on holiday pounds. Sound familiar? Yeah, it wasn't fun. Nor healthy. But I have a secret: you don't have to stress about it, and you can still come out on top (take that, Jillian-Michaels-DVD-you-were-planning-to-play-on-repeat-come-January-1st).  Just take a peak at these three holiday-routine adjustments I commit to every year, and let go of the guilt and calorie counting.

1.  Avoid gluten like the plague

Probably like half of you just rolled your eyes and thought about closing the tab. But hear me out! It's not just the gluten in our wheat supply that makes it tough to digest, disruptive to our gut flora, and for some downright dangerous.  But if you avoid gluten, you'll avoid all that other stuff too. As some of you know, I'm gluten-free 100% of the time, not just during Christmas, and I'll be honest: it has it's advantages. Going gluten-free during the holidays means:  

  • Skip the bread.  It's the most boring part of the meal anyway and you can have it any other time of the year. So NO BREAD. Not even in appetizers.
  • Skip the cakes and pies*.  These are the most evil and hardest to resist components of any holiday party, but you will notice the remorse sets in almost immediately due to the sugar rush and crash, compounded by gluten and everything else terrible in our wheat. So, you get all of like 15 seconds to enjoy yourself. Not exactly worth it.**
  • Skip the cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, and other Christmas morning breakfast baked-goodies. Reasons same as listed above. Have something delicious with eggs or dressed-up oatmeal instead.

If you go gluten-free even for these next couple weeks, you will notice a difference.  If you have IBS, it will likely clear up. If you experience brain fog on a regular basis, say buh-bye.  If you have skin issues or other chronic symptoms you believe are auto-immune related, it's likely they'll fade as well. I won't get into all of the reasons here (see my previous post on Gluten if you want more details), but why not choose your holiday break to start feeling better this year?  What's the immediate benefit to your waistline, you ask? Think of all those calories and grams of sugar you just saved. Take those babies to step 2.

*if you are looking for a naturally gluten free dessert, try most ice creams (unless they have cookies or some types of candy), chocolate mousse, or creme brulee 
**want an almost-guilt-free, gluten free chocolate indulgence? Try my Double Chocolate Cookies with Holiday Spiced Pecans!

2.  Imbibe. No really, enjoy that eggnog. With one limitation.

Ok so I promise this isn't a trick-tip. We are just taking those calories and sugar (which is actually extremely taxing to your liver, similar to alcohol) and applying them to guilt-free drinking (in moderation of course).  If you are really good about the gluten, and can avoid the items listed above, then you earned it baby!  So be diligent. Be honest with yourself. And then fill up that cup, guilt free.

There is only one guideline I use in celebrating with spirits during the holidays, and I suggest you do the same (lest we ruin all of our hard work from #1): Limit yourself to no more than 6 drinks between now and Jan 1st.  Split those up and have 2, 2 and 2 (Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Years Eve) or go light on Christmas and have a few more on NYE.  You get the gist (bonus: you are rebuilding those brain cells with a little first grade math).  This way, you can still get a little buzz on, without going overboard, and without feeling guilty. (I resent those articles that tell you not to drink at all. That may work for some, but I'm all about controlled moderation.)

The reason I put a limit here is that it's really easy to start down that rabbit hole of "I'll just have one more." The biggest danger is on Christmas Day when you're in front of the dessert cart (yes, we have one of those at my parent's house...no judgement) and that one more drink turns into 5 more brownies. Fail. If you go into it knowing how many you are going to have, then you'll be more likely to put the kibosh on the drinks along with the nosh (sorry I had to. 'Tis the season for rhyming, right?).

3.  Pick the one "bad" thing you really want and have one serving

This seems easy enough, and it really is straight forward. There's always more than one terrible temptation at holiday feasts, but usually there is one that you really want. That you look forward to.  Pick that one thing and have one serving. Then fill up the rest of your plate with the lighter options - salad, vegetables, fish, and meat.  That's plenty to go on. And really enjoy that one "guilty pleasure". Just do it guilt free!


So there you have it. Don't stress at your holiday gatherings over every last bite that crosses your lips. Make these three simple adjustments to your holiday routine, and have a healthy and guilt free rest of your 2014! (sorry, last rhyme).

Sending you and yours a healthy, happy, and radiant holiday season and New Year! 

Now, I want to hear from you! What tips and tricks do you use to stay health and on-track for the holidays? Or do you throw caution to the wind and "go ham"? Leave a comment!!

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