Besides food and good cheer, there is one other thing that is synonymous with the holiday season. That would be family gatherings.

Food and Family
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image by Caitlinator

For some of us, this is a wonderful thing. We may not get to see our loved ones much the rest of the year and we are so glad to have them near. For others, the family gathering can be a little more stressful, reminding us why we don’t spend more time with our cousins.

For many, the food focus of these gatherings can cause even more stress.  Most of the time when we start down this road, this journey to health and fitness, we do so alone. Our families love us and support us, but they don’t always understand us.

With many of our holiday traditions centered on food, people can be particularly sensitive when we decline to eat something that they have so lovingly prepared and that you have so eagerly enjoyed in the past.  By not taking the chocolate cake or candied yams, they may also feel a bit rejected.  In this situation I feel it best to do one of two things. You can either patiently explain the changes you have made in your eating habits and follow it up with another show of affection, like a hug, or you can tell them that you are too full already and would rather enjoy the treat when you aren’t so stuffed. That allows you to ask for some to take home that can be safely disposed of in your own kitchen.  Sometimes it can even take a combination of both.

There are also those who encourage us to eat, saying things like “One little piece won’t hurt” or “You’re so skinny, you don’t need to diet”. They mean well, buy really still don’t get it. Even after explaining why you choose not to eat something, they may continue to push. I have yet to figure out why. Most often this comes from those who could stand to lose a few pounds themselves. Perhaps they feel that if everyone else eats it, then it is okay for them to eat it too. By not succumbing, you make them feel guilty in a way. I don’t have the answer as to why, but my advice is to be firm. Just kindly say no and change the subject, no matter how many times you have to do it.

For those who have struggled with weight throughout their lives, there is also the well meaning person who wants to help you stay on track. This can be helpful. However when you do decide that you can have a piece of fudge or a sliver of cheesecake, they are the one behind you saying, “Should you really be eating that?” They too mean well, but it can start a whole new cycle of guilt for those who have had eating issues in the past. Again, this can be a prime opportunity to explain, gently and patiently, your new approach to health and fitness. Let them know you are in control now, not your food controlling you.

The most important thing to remember is that your friends and family care, they just don’t always understand. It’s okay. Those who choose to live a healthy and fit life are often the minority. The holidays can provide us a great way to educate. But if the stress and effort is too much, it can also be a great time to form some new traditions. If your gatherings are focused too much on food find other ways to bring the family together. One of my goals is to someday convince my family to volunteer on Thanksgiving at a shelter or kitchen to help those less fortunate. While we would still be focused on food, it would be for those who need it more than we do.

I would love to hear your ideas to reduce the stress of the food and family. Share your stories and ideas with me!

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