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Keeping the holidays real

by User Not Found | December 12, 2018, 11:05 AM


What do the holidays mean to you? Calm and collected or busy and frenzied? Moderation or indulgence? Scheduled or unpredictable?

Holiday preparations, parties, family visits and epic meals can challenge our preferred eating, exercise schedules and sleep cycles, not to mention, our sanity.

Holiday’s feel like the perfect context for treating yourself to delicious party food. After all, it is that special time of the year and there seems to be no end to the delectable array of cookies, pie, chips and finger foods that appear at every special event from October through January. Our bodies feel the irresistible urge to have just one more bite to satisfy the unending craving. And how often do we keep the indulgence to just one handful or a couple of bites? Most people find that they end up eating much more than they intended to and experience a loss of control.

Why is it so easy to overeat party food and why is this a universal problem? Processed foods are explicitly designed by the food industry to be hyperpalatable and irresistible, both to our senses and our brains. Our food is now engineered in the lab to create flavors, textures and emotionally appealing marketing campaigns to draw us into their tastiness. Imagine eating salt, sugar and fat separately. Now imagine what we call stimuli stacking- combine salt, sugar and fat into a salted caramel brownie and then put a label on it with bright colors and phrases like “you deserve it,” “gluten free,” and  “organic,” and you have an irresistible treat! And while the brownie is certainly delicious and fun to eat, it creates a brain wired circle of cravings, guilt and feeling out-of-control.

These brain wired habits are powerful because these foods now have a positive association with self-care and an allusion of a healthier product which can lead to overeating. Each of us carry our own ideas about what food means. It can be fuel, rewards, punishment, escape, shame, freedom, social cohesion, or a way to isolate from oneself. Identifying potential triggers that lead to eating behaviors can help us learn to replace the food reward with an alternate behavior or activity. I like to think about food as information that shapes your daily life, your health and your function. There is no “good” or “bad” food, just choices. Choices that show what is really important to you right now.

But wait, before you think that I am completely banning all party food, and prescribing kale dipped in lemon juice, let’s keep it real. Holidays are a beautiful time with friends and family, enjoying food and togetherness. So enjoy the holiday foods. Stay present. Stay checked in. Choose with purpose and intention. Mindfully. Joyfully. Because, with the right approach, you can enjoy food, connect with others, and be healthy and fit. All at the same time.

At the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region, we conduct Y Performance Weight Loss classes to guide you through fitness, nutrition and food behaviors. For more information please visit, email [email protected] or call Jamie Clayton at 719.329.7233!

This article was written by Chief Medical Officer Gloria Winters.

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