If you’ve been following the Always Hungry Solution, you’ve probably heard us talk about Chef Dawn’s Rule #1: Be Gentle On Yourself and Others. During the holiday season it’s more important than ever. But what does this really mean? And, how can you practice it for a healthy holiday this season?

Be Gentle On Others

The holidays often stir up a lot of feelings and tensions, which is why it’s so important to remember that everyone is on their own journey. Not everyone will be where you are or where you want them to be with regards to their health. And not everyone will be ready to join you on your health journey.

It’s always best to meet people where they are and give them space to make their own choices. Judging people, or yourself, for eating habits and choices is not going to help anyone or make the holidays any more successful, even with the best intentions.

Be Gentle On Yourself

When the holidays roll around each year, it can also be easy to fall into a self-deprecating spiral. You might start feeling like you didn’t accomplish enough this year. Perhaps you struggled, or you “fell off the wagon”.

The holidays also might include feelings of pressure to “prove” your healthy lifestyle at family functions. The pressure to abstain from all non-compliant foods or to show extreme weight loss can create more struggle. You may even start comparing yourself to other people, whether in your real life or online, leading to even greater feelings of failure, self-doubt, or worthlessness. This is when Rule #1 comes into play.

Before the holiday season gets into full gear, why not take a few moments to remind yourself to be gentle with your thoughts. The most important takeaway from Rule #1 is to meet people where they are, including yourself.

You can be proud of your decision to take strides towards a healthier body, mind, and relationship with food however large or small. Remember that all journeys involve ups and downs. Most important though, is the direction you’re moving. Just because you, or anyone else in your life, fell behind or lapsed back into your old eating habits, it doesn’t mean you failed.

Healthy Holiday Events

Holiday parties, like most social events, involve a wide array of food choices, some healthy, others less so. We want you to participate in these events to the highest extent possible. For many people, that means:

  • Bring your own AH dishes to share with loved ones. This is our favorite way to create a healthy holiday. It allows you to be fully involved in the festivities and to show others how delicious and satisfying healthy food can be.
  • Eat a healthy meal beforehand, then just snack on a few items at the party.
  • Choosing health supportive foods at the even like the cheese, fruit, or deli trays before looking at the desserts table.
  • Come up with a few “If-Then” plans before you go to anticipate your challenges, and plan how you will deal with them.

Surviving the Choice to go “Off Plan”

Sometimes you’ll find yourself at a holiday event without a solid plan for making health-conscious decisions. Conversely, you may consciously decide to temporarily allow old, less healthy favorites into your celebrations. In these cases, please remember a few steps for living in the moment and getting back on track:

Enjoy Each Moment

  1. Savor every bite. You’ve made the choice to eat something you know isn’t the best for your body. Don’t dwell on it or decide to hate yourself later. Love every minute of it. Then start over for the next day, meal, or moment.
  2. Leave guilt, shame, and blame at the door. A few holiday meals with less healthy options are not going to set you all the way back to where you were before AH. Even if you feel like you need a Phase 1 reset after the holidays, that is still only two weeks of starting new before your body remembers how it feels to eat more health supportive foods. Don’t beat yourself up for a few holiday indulgences! And please don’t feel like you have to “punish” your body after the holidays.
  3. Start fresh with the next bite, the next meal, the next day. You are fully in control of what you eat, which means you can always start fresh! You may find that having one bite — and fully savoring it — is enough to satisfy your holiday craving. The next bite always provides the opportunity to make different choices.

Influencing Those Around You

Sometimes you want others to be on a healthy path with you or in support of you. Ultimately, you can’t choose for others. The best thing you can do is to simply be a positive role model.

Even if you are worried about your loved ones health or eating habits, allow them the time and space to come to you with questions. Gently share your new eating habits rather than trying to lecture them over theirs. This will be a more positive experience for everyone.

Offering your favorite AH dishes or healthy alternatives to old favorites is a great way to introduce people to your new lifestyle. It means you share with others without making them feel judged. Everyone loves to share a great plate of food!

Gentle Self-Talk

Finally, the way you talk to yourself in any of these situations will greatly impact your ability to deal with stress of the holidays. It will also affect your ability to think positively about people in your life who may not be ready to join you on your health journey. When negative phrases start to creep into your thoughts, try to replace them with a healthy alternative.

For example, instead of thinking: “I shouldn’t have eaten that.” Try: “I chose to eat and enjoy that. I can make a different choice in the now.”

Instead of: “I always mess this up.” Try: “I haven’t mastered this yet.”

Instead of: “They are so unhealthy” Try: “They’re on their own journey. The best way I can influence them is to be a gentle, positive role model”

The word “Yet” is an incredibly powerful word! You are not expected to be perfect at everything right off the bat.

Essentially, AH is about setting small, attainable goals and remembering that the path to success is often winding but always worthwhile.

Create a healthy holiday by gentle, conscious choices that support you and others this season.