How to deal with special holiday foods

I’ve been thinking a lot about what to share with you, to give you some strength and support in this upcoming holiday season. 

Does your family eat cupcakes over the holidays?

Does your family eat cupcakes over the holidays?

There are so many things I want to talk to you about! About how to deal with being surrounded by incredibly delicious foods for days on end, how to deal with pressure from your loved ones to eat the foods they’ve created, how to deal with stressful moments with your loved ones without eating a whole plate of Christmas cookies, how to deal with the urge to eat delicious foods because “it’s the holidays, so you’re supposed to indulge.”

And I plan to talk about all of those things in the future. 

But for this week, I want to talk to you about Special Foods. 

You know, those foods that you love, and that you rarely get to eat.

That special chocolate cake that you only have on birthdays.
Those special chocolate chip cookies you can only get from that one neighborhood.
That special dish that only your aunt makes.

The holidays seem to have about 10x the number of Special Foods. Chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies, gingerbread, almond macaroons, eggs benedict…my list goes on and on. 

Yet for many of us, Special Foods are synonymous with overeating. We have to eat two pounds of gravlax now, the thinking goes because we won’t get it again until next year.

Here’s the problem, though: when you eat past fullness, you don’t actually enjoy foods anyway. 

I’m not trying to get you to count calories—I’m just being realistic. Your stomach can only fit so much before you start feeling uncomfortable. And it’s not like those Special Foods will only appear at one meal. So many of us have days or even weeks filled with Special Foods during the month of December. 

So instead of piling on the food, I lovingly suggest that you try some of the following instead:

  • Plan to take home leftovers.
    It’s so much nicer to get to eat a special food twice when you’re hungry, than to eat it once and make yourself uncomfortably full. If you’re not at home, or it’s not one of “those” events where you can formally ask for leftovers, I see no harm in being a little sneaky and wrapping up one of those almond macaroons in your napkin and popping it in your bag for later.

  • Ask for the recipe
    Of course, some cooks won’t reveal their secret sauce, and goodness knows I’ll never make a brisket quite as good as my grandmother’s. But you can probably create something 95% as good, which is far better than feeling overly full and frustrated with yourself at the end of the event.

  • Remember: you don’t have to finish anything.
    Just because you took a bite out of that sugar cookie doesn’t mean you have to finish it. In fact, it can feel really joyful and like you are taking great care of yourself to just take a bite or two, and then decide to move onto something else.

  • Take small bites, close your eyes, and really savor the food.
    If you look forward to eating chocolate-dipped shortbread cookies all year, you don’t want to wolf them down at once. It can feel nice to take small bites and really prolong the experience. And closing your eyes for a moment to eat might get you teased by family members, but you’d be amazed how awesome it feels to close your eyes and really deeply enjoy what you’re eating. And if it’s your favorite food, why not?

  • Remind yourself that the holidays isn’t the only time when you can eat obscenely delicious foods
    The biggest problem with holiday foods is the story we tell ourselves about holiday foods: If I don’t eat this gingerbread cookie right now, I won’t get another chance for a whole year.

    But is that really true? It's certainly true that when I am with my family during the holidays, I am convinced that I will never find foods as delicious all year, but it is also true that as soon as I get back to New York, I am hunting down the perfect almond croissant. 

Have you tried any of these ideas? Which excite you the most? Let me know — write your comments on the blog! 

You’ll be in my thoughts over the next week. I hope you have a joyful time with your loved ones…or without!