Why is it that the holiday season and a lack of self-control seem to go hand in hand? We overspend, overeat, and just downright overindulge all in the name of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. What an oxymoron. It actually started with Halloween. The candy brought into the home and office gets the ball rolling. The smartest parents take the leftover candy to the office to “share” with unsuspecting co-workers with sweet toothes. The innocent co-workers (read: suckers) fall for it, and the non-stop seasonal nibbling begins. Next up is Thanksgiving, the official annual day to eat yourself into a coma. Who has the mindset to be thankful when you’re suffering from brain fog brought on by food intoxication? By the time Christmas rolls around, some of us could be rolled around.

The retail industry absolutely loves this time of year. We are being completely driven toward a lifestyle of overindulgence in eating, drinking, and shopping from Halloween to New Year’s Eve. We are most susceptible to food intoxication and excessive spending during this time of year. While the retailers benefit with fatter bank accounts, we are simply getting fatter. We then enter the new year guilty, possibly heavier, and expecting to resume or start a new healthy lifestyle. The problem is we have not been practicing healthy habits. So by February, we give up and face the reality that the poor lifestyle habits gained during the holiday season are not going anywhere without a fight.

Here’s a little guidance to keep the holiday spread on the table and off of you.

Attend the potluck with a plan

potluck-resizeAn online study conducted by toggl.com showed that office productivity drops by 52% between December and February in North America. Everyone is working less in the name of celebrating the holidays, or so it seems. When you peel back the layers, what’s really going on under the guise of celebrating might actually be just plain old overeating. Perhaps you’ve been invited to some of the many office potluck celebrations. You know, that wonderful time for coworkers to show off and share what they can, or think they can cook? These happen right in the middle of the workday, taking away from normal office productivity hours with eating, drinking, and endless mingling. You can avoid this unnecessary calorie fest by acting like you forgot about it and just don’t participate. Perhaps you can eat beforehand so you won’t be so tempted. Another effective method is to mentally convince yourself that the people who prepared the food have very poor kitchen hygiene. How’s that for appetite control?

Leave the less than worth it items on the table.

The company holiday party never has good food, and you know it. It usually takes place at a hotel or somewhere that serves the typical menu: Green beans from a can, dry chicken breast, and that same old rice pilaf is what you’ll likely get if it’s a seated dinner. Stuffed mushrooms and other frozen and heated finger foods are offered on trays at receptions. The buffet table will always have a cold cut platter, a vegetable tray, some store-bought desserts, and if you’re lucky, a carving station with a succulent roast turkey or medium rare garlic and rosemary crusted prime rib. Either way, you’ve had it before and nothing has changed. My mantra for you in this situation is “I am not a garbage can.” Repeat that to yourself every time you feel the urge to eat something that you know is not worth the time and effort it takes to digest it. Be selective and go for the best of the best, like that carving station I hope your company blesses you with, along with the fresh veggies.

Food gifts are made to be shared, re-gifted, or tossed

fruitcake-resizeFood gifts are difficult sometimes. When someone gives you those chewy, buttery, molasses-and-ginger-laced homemade cookies that you can taste with your eyes and know are amazing, keep them. As much as I enjoy good home-baked goodies, I would be wrong to tell you to re-gift them. However, before you even open the package, decide who you will share them with and cut your calorie intake at least in half. On the other hand, any sweets given to you that are less than excellent, like the fruitcake that can double as a doorstop, re-gift it. Or if it’s that bad, toss it. I remember a pastor’s wife saying she had a garbage can named Spot. Whenever a church member asked how she liked the cake or pie they gave her family, she replied “It hit the spot.” That may sound cruel and even ungrateful, but you cannot let someone else’s decision to feed you determine what you’ll eat. Once you realize all the love expressed through pie and cake gifts is making you fat, as the pastor’s wife recognized, you’ll see my point. The same mantra you’ll use at the company holiday party applies here. “I am not a garbage can.”

If all else fails, preserve your health.

If none of this is seems doable to you, think about how you’re feeling. Runny nose, coughing, and sore throat are all common this time of year. Have you ever considered it could be related to changes in the diet? This is the time of year we consume more dairy, sugar, and wheat, all known to increase inflammation which manifests as cold symptoms. Increased mucus is a sign that your body is trying to get your attention. Whatever you’re feeding yourself, when these symptoms arise, it’s a sign that your body is attacking it with increased mucus production. The candy, cookies, cakes, and pies that we consume so frequently from October 31 to December 31 are guilty of adding to the increased occurrence of what seems like the common cold. Instead of cold medicine and chicken soup, try abstaining from or cutting down on the sweet and starchy treats. You’ll feel better and avoid the holiday spread.

The holiday season is not a green light for abusing your body with food. 

It’s ironic that we celebrate the holidays by being greedy and lacking restraint. We take good health for granted a few weeks out of the year, at a time when we should be doing the opposite. What ever happened to temperance, one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23)? What if we celebrate what we have been blessed with instead of how much abuse we can get away with? If we remember the reason for the season, just imagine how much healthier we would be upon entering the new year. Let’s be appreciative of good health while we have it by living a lifestyle to preserve it all year long. Then there will be no need for the January weight loss panic, and certainly no threat of a holiday spread.

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