Nutrition Education

Holiday Eating Challenge

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Judging by the title, you might be thinking I’m going to challenge you to eat “clean” or “healthy” or “whole” this Holiday, right? Wrong. This is a different kind of challenge.

My eyes have been opened to the struggle that many people experience during the holiday season. Food is such a large part of our festivities that we sometimes forget that not everyone can physically, mentally, or emotionally eat the way we do. Some have legitimate health problems that prevent them from enjoying many foods (diabetes, kidney failure, celiacs, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, to name a few). Others are recovering from an eating disorder and holiday parties trigger their disordered eating behaviors. Some are trying to lose weight while others are trying to gain. Some folks might be nauseous due to pregnancy or medication. There are a slew of feelings and emotions surrounding why we do or do not look forward to eating during holiday parties and gatherings.

As hard as it is for me to admit, my personal struggle with food is my comments about it. The mother-nutritionist in me is always making comments to my children and husband about their food choices. Those comments might sound like, “that’s way too much ice cream,” or “you’ve had enough,” or why don’t you eat some REAL food?” So there you go. It’s out! I try so hard to let my family eat intuitively the same way I let everyone else, but I struggle. I am not perfect at allowing the people closest to me to be their own person when it comes to eating– particularly sweets. Even we dietitians and nutritionists have a few things to work on.

Herein lies my motivation for this year’s Holiday Eating Challenge. With all the hard stuff our society has to go through, food should not be one of them. So this holiday, I am challenging myself to let this go. Let go of the comments about treats and holiday foods. Along with that, I am going to spend more time making memories instead of hovering in the kitchen. And, when another treat shows up on the doorstep from one of my (amazing) neighbors, I am going to let myself and my family members enjoy as much as they want–without guilt.

Now, does this mean I am encouraging a free-for-all junk food frenzie at the Andersen household? No way. I am still making all the same meals I have outlined in my weekly meal plans. I will still make my family a balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner. You better believe that for the parties I am hosting there will be plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables offered. But, when it comes to all the holiday treats that come home from school, work, church, family, neighbors, parties– mum’s the word from me.

As I have been challenging myself the last few days, I have already noticed a few things. First of all, it is really hard to watch my kids eat so much candy between meals and, in turn, eat smaller portions of their meals. However, as the day rolls along, they have asked for fresh fruit or vegetables. That tells me their bodies are already craving nutrition after not getting much out of the junk. So, maybe this will be worth it? Surely, just letting my family enjoy the holidays without a food-nazi Mom will make this challenge a success.

Has anything I have said here inspired you? Or are you totally disgusted with my challenge? (I promise I wont be offended if you are feeling the former!) However, if this sounds like a challenge you would gladly take on: DO IT WITH ME! Comment here or on any of my social media outlets (facebook, instagram, twitter) on what you are learning or experiencing as you try to 1) Focus on making memories 2) Refrain from commenting on what is/is not on another person’s plate, and 3) Enjoy your favorite foods without guilt. I will anonymously publish your comments and we can enjoy helping each other along until January 1.

Let’s do this!

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