Updated: Dec 8, 2019
Parties. Dinners. Celebrations.
Coffee. Sugar. Alcohol.
Will you shrivel up and die if you indulge in any of these?
What about if you indulge in all of these?
If you have a chronic illness or an autoimmune disease, it's probable you are already restricting your diet. Heck, you may feel like you are restricting your life.
Christmas season can induce panic with those who are worried about their healing journeys. It's about this time that my clients start freaking out:
This is going to be harder than I thought it would be!
What do I eat at parties?
Can I have alcohol five nights in a row?
I wish I could wave a magic wand and answer these questions with complete authority and absolute certainty, but I cannot.
Your body is smart. It is adaptable. There are a few things to ponder as you ask yourself (or me) questions like these.
1. How bad is my health, really?
Do you have Lupus? Hashimoto's? Crohns? It's likely that diet and lifestyle were factors that played into the development of your illness. No, it's not your fault you are ill. But the world around us conspires to make sure that you have 24/7 access to processed food, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. No one in their right mind can resist the temptation to eat and drink delicious food all of the time, right? I sure can't.
If you have an autoimmune disease, you should definitely be careful with your diet. Cut out gluten and dairy. Go easy on the coffee and alcohol and sugar.
But if you don't have an autoimmune disease or severe hormonal imbalance, you are actually free to enjoy all of the things, especially at Christmas. There are no prizes for who can eat the least amount of carbohydrates or who can eat the most kale. If kale grosses you out and pecan pie floats your boat, eat the damn pie.
2. What made me feel yucky in the first place?
Do you have digestive issues that increase even as you increase your food restriction? Do you have worsening hormonal issues that are starting to scare both you and your husband? Is your weight out of control?
I'll tell you- food is not your root problem. One of the root problems here is a desire for control- a greater and greater desire for control as you realize that your body does not always react to stimuli in the way you want it to. Since we actually don't have control over anything, you lose every time. This can actually to a worsening of all of the stuff that feels wrong with you in the first place. Do the things you know are helpful (lots of protein, water, rest, sleep, and play), and don't worry about the things that are only moderately helpful (stressful and unnecessary elimination diets, over-exercise, never eating "off plan", stressing your family and yourself out because you can never just go out to dinner or a party). This principle is especially helpful during the Christmas season.
If you were eating a diet full of processed, nutritionally-void foods while being life coached by coffee and wine and not sleeping and taking on way too many things, you will probably get an autoimmune disease or other chronic illness at some point. All of those things together will conspire to make you feel yucky, trust me.
So don't do all of the things that make you yucky. Especially not at the same time. This is the way to get through the holiday season in an enjoyable manner that also keeps you pretty healthy.
3. What is the minimum effort I can put in to my health during a crazy time of year?
Let's face it. Every time of year is crazy. There's back to school, and sports season, and science fair project season, and Nutcracker season, and vacation season, and holiday season, and end of school season. Right?
At some point, you've got to figure out the non-negotiables for your health. What is important enough for you to simply make a matter of habit?
Are you getting enough food? Enough protein? Enough water? Enough sleep?
No supplement or pill can fix those things for you. Without basic nourishment and with undue emotional stress, you will feel pretty crummy most of the time. Your autoimmune disease will rage, your Epstein Barr will rear its nasty viral head (do viruses have heads?), your food sensitivities will be triggered, and your hormonal imbalance will get disturbingly worse.
Ok, if we have established that you are probably not dying anytime soon (hitting the bottom line of question #1), then we can proceed to answering questions #2 and #3.
The things that made you feel crummy in the first place were excesses and restriction, taking on too much, and shortchanging yourself of rest and nourishment- in a word, stress.
So you cannot continue doing all of those things at the same time.
Do you want to enjoy a sumptuous family meal out?
Eat lean protein and veggies for breakfast and lunch that day.
Do you want to have two glasses of wine?
Drink plenty of water, sip your wine slowly, and for heaven's sake- make sure you have a proper dinner.
Do you want to nibble on fun foods at cocktail parties?
Have some lean protein before you go and stash some gum in your purse so that when you are actually full, you can still be chewing something.
Do you want to stay up late with old friends?
Take a nap that day and don't feel guilty.
We can do some of the things, some of the time. Your body gets ill when you try to do all of the things, all of the time. Make sense?
Your minimum effort should be a reasonable effort. I encourage my clients to treat themselves the way they treat their small children, or their animals.
Regular, nutrient-dense meals (anyone ever put a baby on a diet? I don't think so.)
7-8 hours of sleep per night
Getting outside daily, even if the weather is crummy (ever tried to keep a dog inside for two weeks straight? Extend yourself the same courtesy).
Plenty of protein
64 oz of water a day, even when it is chilly
Daily movement, even if it's just a walk
Something that brings you joy (yup, even if it's a food! If all of your other boxes are checked, have a treat. We have a treat daily on the 28 Day Reset).
And that, my dears, is how you get through the Christmas season without your EBV flaring up, without your ANA antibodies doubling, without your SIBO getting worse, and without your anxiety being triggered.
What are some other ways you thrive during the holiday season?