How to Resist Cultural Pressures to Eat Unhealthy Foods at the Holidays

spooky halloween decorations

The other day, I was taking The Girls for a walk through our neighborhood, and I couldn’t help but marvel at all the amazing Halloween decorations. Houses were adorned with streamers, strings of lights, laser shows, witches, faux skeletons and corpses, coffins. . . you name it.

It occurred to me how much Halloween has grown in its influence and reach over the years. I mean, when I was a kid, we had houses with paper pumpkins stuck on the front door, dimmed lighting, and maybe a Jack-O-Lantern outside on the porch. We’d run up to the door, knock, and wait for some elderly neighbor (whom we’d ignore the other 364 days of the year) to open up so we could chime all together, “Trick or Treat!” and be handed some candy (and boy, did we loathe the houses that proffered only apples).

Back in those days, Halloween wasn’t an “event” that took weeks to build up to–it was simply one night (albeit one that we kids anticipated with great glee) of spending time with friends, walking through the neighborhood, and eating candy.

These days, the Halloween tsunami begins the day after Canadian Thanksgiving (which occurred on October 12 this year). Wherever you go, be it the grocery store, the mall, the drugstore or even the shoe store–you’ll find reminders of the Scary Season everywhere.

And with all the hoopla comes food, of course.

sugarfree pumpkin spice cookie dough chocolate cups recipe on rickiheller.com

[If you DO want treats at the holidays, try these

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cups–totally sugarfree, grainfree, eggfree and dairyfree!]

Now that it’s the 21st century, no one gets through Halloween–or any other holiday, for that matter–without eating. And by “eating,” I mean eating a lot. 

It seems that everything this time of year is converted into a media event, one that revolves around food. Think about it: we celebrate with food and drink for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day. . . the list goes on.

I mean, there are even food-themed parties for football games and the Academy Awards, for goodness’ sakes!

And with all of the hyper-food-focus in our culture, it can be difficult to extricate oneself from all the food fuss, even when we’re attempting to follow an anti-candida diet (or any restricted diet).

Even more than the specific pressures from our family and friends, it seems now we will also be subjected to the farther-reaching cultural pressures, rendering us poor sports or simply social outcasts if we refuse to participate in all the fun and . . . eating. 

So what’s a gal (or guy) to do, when you want to remain true to your candida diet over the holidays, but you’re fairly bombarded with pressures to eat all the unhealthy foods from every magazine, store, television show, social media channel or restaurant around?

cake with meringue and berries

Here’s an exercise I use for myself and with my clients that’s been known to help. 

Step one: sit quietly by yourself, with your eyes closed. Take a couple of deep, grounding breaths.

Step two: think about one of your favorite holidays, and how you spent it in the past. Pick one specific occasion that you consider to be the best time ever; this is the holiday experience that you go to when you think about the ideal holiday, and what you wish you could re-create. Now, take time to actually re-live it in you mind; remember all of the details that you can. Use your imagination to make it as realistic as you can, so that you feel as if you are at that event again.

Step three: Pick out what made the experience so great for you. Was it the food? Was it the people you got to speak with? Was it that walk that you and your cousins took through the woods with the dogs in the late afternoon? Was it playing cricket on the back lawn? Whatever it was, make a list of the key factors that rendered this holiday so wonderful.

Now, if in answer to Step three, you said, “The food! It was that perfect pumpkin pie. It was the eggnogg” that was more important than anything else to make the holiday fabulous, well, I’ve got some news!

You can re-create all of those amazing foods with the Sweet Life Thanksgiving digital cookbook. Only these dishes are all free of sugar, gluten, eggs and dairy–and candida-diet friendly.

So you can have all the same foods as you remember, and you can serve them to anyone so that the entire family can enjoy them together and no one (including you) feels left out.

For most people, though, food isn’t the first thing they remember. Fond memories of holiday events tend to focus on the people who were there, and the human, emotional connections that were made.

father and child sitting in front of the Christmas tree

What do I remember about Christmases past, for instance?

  • The amazing conversation I had with my cousin, who was always smiling and would ask probing, curious questions while he gazed at you as if you were literally the only person in the room.
  • Meeting the wife-of-a-friend at the Thanksgiving dinner, the one who had been teaching Japanese exchange students and houses a young girl at her place for months. Learning about how the girl adapted and became familiar with North American culture.
  • Dancing with the entire gang after dinner when we decided to blast our favorite Disco tunes from high school, rocking and shaking with the best of them, falling in a heap with laughter when we finally tired ourselves out.

For most people, the food becomes a distant memory almost as soon as the meal is over.

Yes, the food might act as a symbol that represents all those things we seek to share–like togetherness, love, family feeling–but it’s not the food per se that delivers these things. It’s sharing the food with our loved ones; that’s how memories are born.

So this year, think about what you want to get out of your holiday. Invite those people you truly care about, then be determined to spend some quality time with them. Yes, of course you want delicious foods that everyone loves. (You can use this cookbook for that).

But more importantly, be sure to plan activities that bring people together. Actually talk to the people you’ve invited, and learn something new from them. Take pictures. Record videos. Be there in the moment.

And I’m willing to bet, if you do all that, you might just stop worrying about what you’ll eat, and instead will be making those memories you’ll want to re-create again next year.

The Sweet Life Thanksgiving digital cookbook contains a full menu from appetizer to dessert, all free of sugar, gluten, eggs and dairy. This year, we’ve added two free bonus pumpkin recipes as well. Click here to learn more and grab your book.

 

 

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