Christmas time is a time of bounty and generosity. It is a time when everyone is sending food and gifts to everyone; when Christmas parties are abundant with food and alcohol; when you’re tempted to indulge on all the not-so-healthy food on the dinner table just because you can.
But in reality, all of these practices almost always lead to regret. How many times did we feel bloated and bad after overstuffing ourselves? How many times did we say “I need to lose all the weight I gained over the holidays” come January? How many times do we end up viewing eating as something that triggers guilt instead of happiness?
While it’s okay to treat yourself and your family during Christmas, let’s not forget that the older we get, the bigger the repercussions are of our actions. That one extra plateful of fatty liempo can cause you your next heart attack, or that continuous binge of alcohol through the countless Christmas parties you attended might lead to a new liver problem. It's okay to give in to that sinful plate or glass; but too much is never good.
So, instead of consuming too much and wallowing in regret at the end, the key here is moderation, which then lets you enjoy more of the things you want to enjoy. Heather Krick, a registered dietitian and an assistant professor of nutrition at La Salle University, says:
“When we allow ourselves permission to feel good about enjoying foods we love, we can avoid the guilt and shame of overeating. The goal is to enjoy the event as much as possible and limiting negative thoughts about food and eating habits is a great way to reduce the typical holiday stress.
As we approach the holiday rush of parties and get-togethers, let us remind ourselves of these handy tips that will stop us from over-indulging and over-stressing about how much we eat.
Depriving yourself is never good. The more you stop yourself from eating something you want, the more you crave for it and, in the end, binge on it. Instead, control your portions. During buffet get-togethers, get a smaller plate so you don’t overfill your plate and overstuff.
When planning for the menu for your Noche Buena or get-together, try to add more fruits and vegetables as main or side dishes. Instead of cups and cups of rice, a roast duck always goes nicely with freshly boiled vegetables. Instead of preserved jams, use fresh strawberries or blueberries to top your cheesecake. Instead of soft drinks or sugary drinks, throw in some fresh buko or melon juice to the punch bowl.
Instead of deep frying everything, try to bake, broil, or barbeque your meats instead. Baking and barbecuing uses so much less oil, which makes your food less guilt-inducing. If you’re ordering food instead of cooking, you can also turn to dishes and restaurants who offer baked or barbecued options.
“Ang konti naman ng kinain mo, kuha ka pa!” This line is the ultimate ringtone of every Christmas feast with your relatives. Learn to say no and not give in to the pressure to eat more than what you can and want to. If you’re the host or chef of the spread, learn not to feel bad if people don’t finish everything you’ve prepared. They’re allowed to taste what they want and eat only what they can. Instead of pressuring everyone to not stop eating, encourage take-homes.
Everyone loves giving and receiving food during Christmas. But instead of focusing on “giving a lot” a.k.a. giving one whole tray of pasta or one basket full of junk food and empty snacks, get your friends and family smaller portions of really good food. Instead of thinking of big gifts, give only what you want to eat yourself, and what you can finish yourself. Give healthy food and snacks, if you can.
When a platter of snacks or food is in front of us, it’s so easy to fall into mindless eating, especially when we’re caught up in a riveting conversation with the group. While it’s a common practice to bring a bowl of snacks to the area where everyone is staying and chatting, don’t do it. Let people go to the food table if they want more.
While it’s nice to just sit around, chill, and eat during the holiday break, balance out the indulging with active and physical activities. Don’t take a break from your regular exercise, especially when you need it most! You can also invite your friends and family to active bonding activities such as biking, jogging, trekking, camping, or trying out new sports instead of just sitting in front of the TV watching Netflix.
We have always associated feasts and wasteful eating practices to the holidays, but it’s possible we may be forgetting what Christmas time is really about. Christmas is about celebrating the Nativity and Second Coming of Christ. It’s about generosity and sharing what we have with others. So instead of splurging on food you’d wolf down yourself, why not use that money to donate to a charity, join feeding programs, or just send some love to a friend or family member that you know is suffering financially because of the pandemic?