Holidays are a time for celebration, festivities, and, of course, delicious meals. However, for dancers, navigating holiday meals can be a challenging experience. The abundance of food, social expectations, and potential triggers can make this time of year particularly difficult. In this blog post, we’ll explore some tips to help you navigate holiday meals while maintaining a focus on your journey in building a supportive relationship with food.
#1: Prepare Your Appetite (with Food!)
If you’re “saving calories” for your meal, then you’re setting a vulnerable landscape to eat past a comfortable level of fullness. Planning consistent meals and snacks throughout the days and hours leading up to a big meal will stabilize blood sugar, improve your mood, and keep you alert. As a result, you’ll be more inclined to make feel-good choices while listening to your innate feelings of fullness and satisfaction.
To stay nourished until the big meal, start the day with a balanced breakfast. An example includes scrambled eggs with feta, spinach, and cherry tomatoes, served with toast and fruit. From there, include a snack, like a banana topped with nut butter, to bridge you to lunch. Depending on the time of your holiday meal, incorporate a variety of foods into your day— quinoa or rice served atop grilled chicken or tofu, alongside a side of mixed veggies and greens. Trail mix is another great snack while you move throughout your day while awaiting the big meal.
#2: Set Intentions
Holidays are filled with foods that are often richer and more indulgent. This can be overwhelming, especially if you have a history of disordered eating and are currently working towards building a supportive relationship with food. If you’re anxious, then spend time prior to the meal to jot down specific intentions. For example, “I will choose the dessert that appeals to me most, then I will sit down and eat it mindfully.” Remember: choosing healthier alternatives may leave you feeling unsatisfied or with a false sense of fullness. Physical fullness is not the same as true satisfaction.
Another option, if you’re comfortable, is to bring a shared dish to the holiday gathering. This could be a side item that you feel comfortable including, and one that you feel others might enjoy. But remember, this dish isn’t meant to fully replace the foods at your holiday meal— setting intentions to eat those in a mindful manner is still important. Pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Take your time to savor each bite, enjoying the flavors and textures. Mindful eating can help you stay connected to your body and prevent emotionally-driven food choices.
#3: Open Communication
In a previous article, I discussed the potential for inevitable comments that can leave you second-guessing your food choices. Open communication is key for holiday meals. If possible, share your concerns and needs with those close to you. Let them know how they can support you during holiday meals, whether it’s by avoiding comments about food, providing encouragement, or helping create a safe and supportive environment.
With so much talk about health, nutrition, and food, we can easily head into the holidays with tunnel vision. While delicious food is a fun holiday feature, it does not have to be the sole priority of your holiday. Shift the focus away from food-centric activities by engaging in non-food-related holiday traditions. Whether it’s playing games, enjoying festive decorations, or participating in a group activity, finding alternative ways to celebrate can help alleviate some of the pressure surrounding meals. If you’re an introvert (like me!), then consider other dinner-time activities like planning a group gift exchange or volunteering in the kitchen.
#5: Be Easy on Yourself
The holidays are not the norm. Schedules are off and day-to-day routines change. If you’re someone who thrives with routine (hi!), then remind yourself: it’s temporary and setbacks may happen. Give yourself permission to enjoy these experiences as they only come once, twice, or a few times a year. Whether that includes trying different foods, eating past fullness, and/or exercising a bit less, it’s okay to take this time for yourself. But also, if you find certain aspects of holiday meals challenging, remind yourself that it’s okay to seek more support through the discomfort. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or a clinician (like a dietitian or mental health provider), having someone you can turn to for encouragement and understanding can make a significant difference.
For additional nutrition support during the Holiday season, check out these articles and resources:
- How to “get back on track” after the Holidays.
- Eating Healthy on Thanksgiving
- 5 Tips for Healthier, Happier Holiday Nutrition with Pointe Magazine
15+ Journaling Prompts for A Balanced Holiday
- How can you plan to find balance during holiday meals as a dancer? Consider foods rich in carbs, proteins, and fats.
- Reflect on your favorite holiday dance memories and how they contribute to your overall well-being.
- How can you approach holiday meals with gratitude and enjoyment rather than guilt?
- Explore the idea of creating a dance-inspired holiday playlist. What songs make you feel energized and festive?
- Construct a list of your go-to balanced snacks for sustained energy during holiday festivities.
- Write about the importance of hydration and how you plan to ensure you’re drinking enough water during holiday celebrations.
- Explore any holiday traditions or rituals that you enjoy during your time away from the studio. How can you make more time for these?
- Explore any holiday traditions or rituals that leave you feeling stressed during your time away from the studio. What resources can you rely on to navigate through?
- Describe a gentle movement activity (like yoga or foam rolling) that you can incorporate before and after holiday gatherings to help ease digestion.
- Consider how self-care practices, such as massage stretching, and sleep, can be integrated into your holiday.
- Explore the idea of incorporating mindfulness into your holiday meal. How can it enhance your overall experience?
- Reflect on the role of gratitude. How can you express gratitude for your body and abilities this holiday season?
- Consider creating a vision board that represents your dance aspirations for the coming year. What images and words would you include?
- Reflect on the impact of rest and recovery on your dancing. How will you prioritize these aspects during the holiday season?
- Explore the idea of setting boundaries to protect your dance practice during busy holiday schedules. What specific boundaries will you establish?
- Explore the intersection of dance and mindfulness. How can being present in the moment enhance your holiday dance experiences?