Trade in Sugar for Sweet Traditions
No, you don't want that dessert — really
The moment is here: You’re at a Christmas gathering with extended family, you stayed up late the night before watching a holiday classic, and your judgment is a little woozy from the spirits you’ve been sipping. To top it all off, there are 10 different kinds of pie sitting on the counter in front of you — blackberry crumble, spiced cranberry, French silk, lemon custard. The list goes on.
Before you know it, you’ve sampled all of them, despite your resolution to do better this year. (At least your waistband expands, right?)
The truth is, you're probably high on the susceptibility scale for sugar addiction, according to Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, CEO of Bright Line Eating and president of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss in Rochester, New York. At least a third of the population scores high on this scale. The other two-thirds are aliens, secretly harbor superhero genes — or simply are lucky enough to have the smarts not to give in to all those sugary goodness the minute they see it.
So what are the rest of us supposed to do about all the holiday goodies?
Is it actually realistic to refuse every good thing that people try to share with us? It's not only realistic, it's necessary, said Thompson. People have come a long way in respecting others' choices not to consume alcohol or cigarettes: A growing body of research has shown that alcoholism and tobacco addiction can be truly debilitating.
"The reality is our health is becoming ridiculously compromised from the sugar we're consuming," Thompson told LifeZette.
Health care costs for obesity continue to rise; sugar has been linked to the development of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. It can carve as much as 10 years off your life if you over-consume it.
"When you look at the toll it's taking on [health], it's just not worth it," she added.
Sure, food has been an important part of our culture and traditions — and especially at Christmas. But the best traditions and culture lie apart from meals. "I like to take the focus off the food and really think about tradition in terms of shared experience. The best kinds of bonding have to do with eye contact, laughter, physical touch, and communication," she explained.
She also points out that overeating makes people feel sluggish and disconnected — it doesn't help you to be "in the present."
Instead of depending on dessert, Thompson suggests an uplifting dinner conversation — talk about what you're thankful for, take turns sharing your three big wins for the year, share your highs and lows, or talk about what you're most proud of in each other.
"Those are the things that pull people into the present moment and knit their hearts together," she said.
Instead of baking goods all season long, build a family culture of togetherness in other ways.
Here are some ideas:
- Have a craft night to make something for military members or family members far away.
- Hold a music performance night or dance or sing songs together.
- Play board games or group games such as charades.
- Hold a family talent show.
- Plan an outdoor excursion to go sledding or snowshoeing.
- Volunteer at soup kitchens, hospitals, or retirement homes.
The point is — if you're susceptible to sugar addiction, saying "sayonara" to those foods is an important step in getting and staying healthy.
There's a lot of research showing that those who diet during the weekdays and then eat desserts on weekends during dinner parties or on holidays and special occasions never actually succeed in losing the weight they need to lose.
"People who stay slender and vibrant eat well 365 days a year," said Thompson. "Eating well never gets accomplished through willpower. It gets accomplished through habit and identity."
Eat whole, real food all the time — including the holidays. This December is no exception.