featured, Mind

The Quest for Food-Free Socializing

I have people I work with talk about the dread that comes with the holiday season and cozy, winter months. 

“So much food.”

“So many desserts.”

“Food everywhere!”

And it is true.  Special once-a-year items are found just about anywhere, and due to their seasonality, people find the urge to consume them: right here, right now.  It’s the limited-edition mentality.  If I don’t eat it today, I will have to wait another year to do so. 

Yet, the end result is usually not as pleasant as the in-the-moment feeling.  After the last bite, regret sets in.  Overeating can feel physically uncomfortable.  Financially it can be a burden.  Yet year after year the pattern continues.  If holiday treats are an Achilles heel then this time of year can be especially challenging.

There are many tips and tricks to help with holiday eating, whether it be portion control, modifying recipes, or eating before a party.  While most out of these hacks revolve around restricting food intake, there are other ways to deal with the overconsumption that can occur this time of year. 

For starters, why not consider an event that does not revolve around food? 

I am not advocating to make every event food free, but rather to take inventory and be mindful if there are times when food does not need to be the main star.  Yes, there’s value in sitting around a table and eating together (mentally, emotionally and socially).  Several studies have even proven that.  After all, everyone has to eat at some point in the day, so why not do it with loved ones?  But, does consuming food need to happen at every single party? Can some of them be replaced with other traditions that are perhaps more in line with your own health initiatives?

First off, a non-food event can be fun and fulfilling because the focus is on the people attending – not breaking bread.  The conversations and activities take center stage.  Laughing and sharing after a play or a movie is just as valuable as doing it over a plate of food.  The guests are the same, the love and gratitude is the same – it is simply a change of scenery.  Think about it, there is no diet-derailing mentality if there is no food around.  It can simply be a time to spend with people you want to be around. 

A food-free get-together is a good way to assess what is important about the parties you attend.  If food is the main reason you want to go to an event, then perhaps it is something that needs to be examined.  Why is food more important than the guests who will be there?  Why is a specific dish the highlight of the day?  Why is everyone more excited to see my cookies rather than seeing me?!

Second, creating an environment with less food can make the night more enjoyable.  Taking food out of the equation can make the evening less stressful, as no one has to worry how the food will affect their health goals.  There is no anxiety or fear over what dish to bring or debate over having the second slice of pie.  The evening’s focus is on the act of being together. 

A non-food celebration can become a new tradition.  Ice skating with friends, volunteering with coworkers, spending the evening with family over a movie marathon can all become a yearly tradition, and none have to necessarily include food.  These new traditions can be a good time for people to indulge in each other’s hobbies.  If someone is an avid yogi, why not meet them for a yoga session?  If you have people in your lives who belong to a bowling league celebrate at the bowling alley.  Value the people not the inanimate objects on the dining room table. 

Again, this isn’t about eliminating all social interaction over a meal.  That has its place and it could be very rewarding, however there could be other options out there, and trying them can lead to something just as rewarding (and with a lot fewer morning-after regrets).  There could be a lot of merit in starting a new tradition. Who knows, others may even thank you for it.     

Sources:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/m/mealtimes-and-mental-health

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