You Don’t Have to Eat the Cookie—But You Definitely Can!

by | Dec 12, 2023 | Nutrition

‘Tis the season… for confusing messaging around food. On one hand, there’s the ‘how to stay fit through the holidays’ posts and podcasts that talk about how to skip the pumpkin pie at grandma’s and stick to your diet. There’s a slew of healthy holiday hacks that help you stay on track with your fitness and nutrition goals. Then, there’s the other side that preaches indulgence and letting loose this time of year, celebrating and savoring. Honestly, neither are wrong. Both have merit. And weirdly, I’ve noticed that we tend to hear the message that we probably don’t need to hear, rather than the one that we do.

We talked about this recently in our Holiday Q&A episode, where I may or may not have ranted for a while about the ridiculousness of the diet tip of sticking to the veggie trays at holiday parties. Bring on the prosciutto wrapped anything! But that’s admittedly easy to say when I only have one work holiday party to attend and we don’t have any huge family parties, just relaxed family gatherings. Our eating and training routines won’t change hugely over the season, even though we’ll be traveling and spending time with family. So when I say I hate a veggie tray, I say it as someone who’s only going to be faced with one a single time this season, not someone will a ton of social commitments that will be indulgence-filled.

I worry that we sometimes hear the message that it’s OK to indulge and take it almost a sacred duty to do so. However, just because it’s the holidays, you don’t have to over-indulge on wine or eat the cookie if you don’t want to, whether you’re not in the mood for fudge, you have a big workout in the morning and would prefer to skip the hangover, or you were at another party the night before and are feeling a little over the heavy, cream-filled foods on offer. Whether the peer pressure feels like it’s coming from a fitness influencer who champions the pie-eating or your Aunt Mabel who wants you to eat a huge slice of homemade fudge, the pressure to ‘let go and indulge’ can almost be toxic. It’s like toxic positivity—yes, positivity is great, but it can be dangerous/fake.

There are a lot of voices shouting into the void, and to be honest, I actually find that this year, I’m getting stressed in a *really* weird way. I’m actually feeling like the celebrate and savor crowd is the biggest voice this year. And while I do think that’s awesome and we absolutely should enjoy the Christmas morning cinnamon roll and not self-flagellate over the second (or third) glass of wine, I do wonder if the message is getting a little lost in translation. It’s been a tough few years worldwide, no doubt, and I think that makes us really want to lean into comfort, especially at this time of year.

So, consider this your reminder that indulging in the cookie is absolutely fine—but you’re not obligated to do so, either. I plan to skip the veggie tray at the holiday party we’re going to next weekend, but as I write this, tonight we’re having our annual sushi-and-not-quite-christmas-movie viewing part with our good friends and I plan to stick to a single glass of wine because I have an early long run tomorrow. As with most things training/life-related, it’s about finding balance.


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