Here’s a worthwhile homework assignment you can complete any time you anticipate a test of your resolve in the area of food choices. And what better time to give it a try than right before the holidays! You could just make these mental lists, but I believe there’s something powerful about writing things down by hand, and maybe even speaking them out loud – either to yourself or to someone you trust. We are all tempted to de-rail from time to time, and I think one of the keys to avoiding a setback is to prepare intentionally for what lies ahead. Here’s what you do –
Get a piece of paper and write three headings at the top: Worth It Foods, Maybe Worth It, Definitely Not Worth It. If you’re doing this prior to upcoming Christmas or New Year’s celebrations and have a decent idea what to expect, your lists might look something like those below. I’m keeping them brief, but you can make them as long as you need to!
- Grandma’s pecan pie (It’s my all-time favorite and she only makes it once a year)
- A glass of champagne (Servings are small and it feels so celebratory to me)
- Gravy on my mashed potatoes (Does this even need a justification??)
MAYBE WORTH IT
- Whipped cream on my pie (But only if it’s the real stuff. Cool Whip? No, thanks)
- An hors d’oeurve before dinner (I’ll pass on the bread and the dessert)
- An extra helping of Aunt Linda’s sweet potato casserole (If my other portions are sensible)
DEFINITELY NOT WORTH IT
- Store-bought Christmas cookies (They’re a dime a dozen)
- Another glass of wine after dinner (I need to sleep well tonight)
- A donut for breakfast on Christmas Day (I never stop at one, I always feel awful afterwards, and it sets me up for poor choices the rest of the day)
This is all fictitious so far (I don’t have an Aunt Linda and my grandmother never made pecan pie), but here’s a snapshot of what my actual lists DO look like. These are not holiday-related, but just everyday choices I’ve developed over time, and continue to refine.
WORTH IT: The bread at “It’s About Thyme” Restaurant in Culpeper and also at the now-closed Bistro Bethem in downtown Fredericksburg (baked fresh and so amazingly good!), corn on the cob in the summertime (local and in season), some rice in my Chipotle bowl (because I really like it and it seems to agree with my stomach).
MAYBE WORTH IT: Pumpkin bread and a hot chai latte at Starbucks (strong emotional connection to this place and these menu items…I blame it on my husband and three pregnancies), conventional pasta (if I indulge here I go in with eyes wide open about how I’ll feel afterwards), wine (I usually steal a few sips from Tim because I know it messes up my stomach and interferes with my sleep. It’s good, but it’s not that good).
DEFINITELY NOT WORTH IT: Chocolate desserts (they destroy my stomach), coffee and anything coffee-flavored or otherwise caffeinated (same), dishes heavily seasoned with hot spices like chipotle, red pepper, chili powder, and paprika (pure GI misery), store-bought birthday cakes (artificial everything and so.much.sugar), any unfamiliar food – especially ethnic food – at dinnertime (it’s one thing to feel crappy during the day when you can at least distract yourself with other things, but feeling awful AND losing sleep simultaneously is a recipe for disaster in my case).
Developing these lists, and refining them as time goes on, creates a great sense of freedom and self-awareness around food. Options that once tempted you begin to lose their power, and their siren voice begins to fade…to the point that you don’t even stop to consider them anymore. “I know you. I know how you make me feel. And I now have healthier options. Sayonara!”
Wishing you good luck and good health as you navigate the holidays and the new year ahead!