Every year again: Christmas is fast approaching and the level of stress is rising: quickly do the work accumulated until the end of the year, answer open e-mails. On the way to the city on the way back to get gifts. Jump into the supermarket scramble to grab the latest hickory ham. Cortisol and adrenaline levels are at their peak and our mood swings between fight or flight: fight or flight?
By then at the latest, you’re an easy victim of the fragrant temptations of the Christmas market: hearty grilled meats, vegetables camouflaged in the wheat coating of the trans fat fryer bath, or “soul flatterers”. sweets that trick our thoughts and cravings with short-term serotonin boosters.
And now, as a nutritionist, do I come around the corner with a raised index finger to snatch the apple of heaven from you like Knecht Ruprecht? No, let’s leave that – you’ve read it often enough already. Half a yard of bratwurst doesn’t slide any better because of a bad conscience, and the mulled wine rinse that follows isn’t any healthier either.
How was it with the resolutions…?
So what do we do? Of course, some people think and tell themselves anew each year: after the big meal comes the time for good resolutions. “Everything will be different from the new year! But there is a little catch: noble goals consist above all of deprivation and renunciation.
The reality is usually just as disappointing and devastating as the feeling of New Year’s morning after you’ve really let it rip: at the fondue pot, in which overloaded skewers alternately go on searing fat dives. At the raclette grill, where the top layer of cheese kisses the heating rods because the eighth pan was stacked too high again. And, of course, no one can refuse a bottle of sparkling wine. Our “good intentions” suddenly seem quite unpopular and exhausting when you wake up hungover without really taking action. So did you fail directly or are you indecisive?
no bad conscience
Of course not. Because smart eating behavior means we say goodbye to black and white painting. Anyone who follows a year-round plant-based diet and is largely free of industrial additives can also help themselves to the inflectional party table on holidays if they feel like it. Without bad conscience. If the exception doesn’t become the rule, you have no medical reason to quit after the feast. I think it’s important that nutrition is playful and integrated into our lives, because food accompanies us on a daily basis and is embedded in society. And if you want to change your diet and finally lose a few pounds, please don’t pin these wishes on a “key date”, but mentally adapt to them in the long term.
Rationed raw food instead of wild bash?
Many people find it difficult to make a drastic cut: wild party on New Year’s Eve, rationed raw food on New Year’s Day. A striking contrast that is very often doomed to failure if you want to change your diet over the long term and sustainably. If suddenly too many deprivations and prohibitions come together, body and mind sound the alarm. Dreaded cravings simmer and are fed with every thought of temptations. The mood sinks to the bottom of the fondue pot and especially the emotional eaters among us – also called “stress eaters” – are in acute danger.
Don’t get me wrong: if you are able to change your eating habits to “healthy and balanced” overnight without thinking about all the “forbidden” things from morning to night, then I can only congratulate you. This is what most people dream of, as I also know from my patients.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
However, if you are not one of the radical decision makers, please do not put too much pressure on yourself from January 1st. Take small steps and don’t immediately throw all resolutions overboard if there is a “setback”. Even if the scale wants you to believe that things are going to turn against you, please don’t give up on your lifestyle changes just yet. Visualize your first successes and master the next stations on the way to your goal. The biggest danger is that after a supposed misstep, all the dams break and you fall into a “Now it doesn’t matter”.
It is much more important to develop a sensitivity for your own body and for food as part of the change in diet. Watch this: how do you feel after a big piece of turkey with potato dumplings and a good amount of gravy, a second serving and then, finally, a piece of cake? Your body will clearly show you which diet makes you feel fit, attractive and motivated to perform at your best – if you listen to yourself and be honest about it.
Do not panic
Of course, I also know how difficult it is sometimes to listen to your body’s signals. Above all, because in the drunkenness of the holidays and happiness overflowing with hormones, the fart polka, the feeling of satiety and the dreaded number on the scales relate only with delay.
Then the following applies: Don’t panic. If you avoid toxic additives, highly processed industrial products and excess meat 340 days a year, you can have a little more at Christmas and New Years.
Guidance Help: The 80:20 Principle
To ensure that special days stay that way, there is a simple tool: the 80:20 principle. Simply put, you eat healthy and above all clean for four days: plant-based, nutrient-dense with fresh ingredients. On the fifth day, there is nothing wrong with having fries with mayonnaise during the break. How you divide the “balanced and clean” 80% and the “everything I feel” 20% is entirely up to you. All that matters is that the relationship is good. A daily holiday roast wouldn’t be anything special anymore, would it?
Getting started can be so easy
So enjoy the days of Christmas and think about what you would like and can change in the months to come. Anyone who has ever eaten mostly finished goods, barely eaten nutrients, vitamins, fresh vegetables or fruits, will get something if there is a “clean eating day” on the schedule each week. It’s the start of a healthier form of nutrition and there’s a lot of potential to further increase “plant-based” and at the same time drop the extra pounds.
Also rearrange your purchases. When the cupboards are no longer filled with junk food and the last sad chocolate Santa Claus has lost his mind and body, leave the Easter bunny at the supermarket. Sometimes cravings take over in seconds and disappear just as quickly after a balanced meal. Very often, but not always. And in 2023 we will start moving together again!
But above all: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
your doctor Meike Diessner