I hope you all are surviving the Holiday season. In my previous life as a retail manager this time of year was THE WORST. I was stressed with work (so many seasonal holiday associates to hire and train, cranky Holiday shoppers, increased traffic in the mall and on the roads) and stressed with all that I "needed" to get done at home. Just this year, three years after my retail career, I am able to hear Christmas music and enjoy listening. When you hear non-stop Christmas music from October-January it messes with you. I started thinking about all of the "needs" that we have created for ourselves over the Holidays. We need to bake cookies, purchase presents for everyone that we know, drink lots of sweet sugary beverages, send out Holiday cards, decorate our homes and the list goes on. I like traditions. The nostalgia and comfort that comes from repeating activities that bring us the warm and fuzzies. What happens when those traditions no longer bring us real happiness? When we spent a whole year eliminating refined sugar from our diets and the spiked eggnog and sugar cookie induced coma you have found yourself in is not worth it any longer. Also why do all of our traditions seem to be built around eating unhealthy foods? It's often easier to see things retrospectively. Think back, start at Halloween. How has your nutrition been compromised since then?
I listened to an interesting Hidden Brain Podcast recently about the psychology of social and cultural eating. They studied spicy foods. Why is it in Mexico chili peppers are used like salt? Children under the age of 3 or 4 rarely liked the spicy foods. By the time they hit 5 years old though they were eating it just as frequently as everyone else. The taste hadn't changed but the child understood the social and cultural standards. We all start with innate tastes for certain foods. Spicy foods, stinky cheese, and bitter foods are not good to us as children. Yet we acquire these tastes as we get older. Why do we want to acquire a taste for stinky cheese? We have officially evolved once we enjoy stinky cheese? No thanks!
The reason that people eat things that they know they should't has everything to do with the way we want that food to make us feel. We want to fit in with the group around us eating all of the Christmas sweets and drinking eggnog. Spicy food gives us a real thrill but without too much pain. Sugary foods make us happy. As a child how often did you get a sweet treat (ice cream) after doing something well. We have all of these expectations about how certain foods make us feel. These expectations about how we will feel after eating can be very tricky to overcome. I really get tested during the Holiday season. The good news is there are ways to get past this barrier to your health.
The good news is that we are pretty resilient. We can make changes in our lifestyles and our nutrition any time we want. We have to want it bad enough and know that we are worth every single ounce of effort that it will require to be successful. I am worth it and you are worth it! Rethink some of your unhealthy traditions over the Holiday season. Write yourself a letter for next year about how you want to take on the Holiday season a little differently next year.