I eat super healthy. Like super-duper crazy healthy.
It didn't start out this way. I grew up like most people I knew, with bread and cheese as the staples of my diet.
Quesadillas, mac 'n' cheese, grilled cheese. cheese pizza...bread and cheese all day long. And sugar cubes. I actually used to hide in the closet and eat sugar cubes when my mom wasn't looking (sorry, Mom!).
But then things started changing. It's a long story full of epiphanies and books and cancer scares and other ah-ha moments, so I'll skip ahead to today.
Now, I eat a primarily raw vegan diet (what!?). If you think raw food is bonkers, that's cool. I did too.
When you start eating a super-clean diet, you feel out-of-this-world amazing, but then there's this new problem you never had before. When you eat junk again you realize how terrible it makes you feel.
Generally, this is a lovely reminder to stick to your new-and-improved eating habits. So, why do I call it a "problem"?
The first couple of years of my new "health nut" identity, I became scared of food. I know you know those people, and they probably drive you crazy! Controlling everything that enters their mouths, scrutinizing labels, and bringing their own crunchy-hippie snacks with them everywhere.
I tell you all of this because we are approaching "the Holidays," a beautiful time of decorations, celebrations, friends, family, and lots of yummy food.
It's also a stressful time of shorter days, higher rates of cold and flu, and the time when Americans collectively gain the most weight.
I often get asked how to enjoy the holidays and stay healthy at the same time. Most people expect me to tell them all the things they should not eat and what to eat instead, how to inconspicuously eat nothing but kale or show up full to every party. But that's not what I say.
From an ultra-healthy eater and all-around happy person, here are my top five recommendations for a happy and healthy holiday season:
1. Get going on greens.
Generally, your body craves more of what you give it first thing in the morning. Start with sugar? Yep, you'll be sneaking sugar cubes all day long just like I did when I was 8.
Get things started right and then let it all go. This time of year I love my pumpkin-pie green smoothie in the morning. After that, life happens. But at least I know I did one kind thing for my body by getting those greens first.
2. Hug your people. Repeatedly.
During the holidays, we tend to gather around food. Although the focus may be on the table, stop stressing so much over what's on (or not on) your plate. Look up into the dreamy eyes of all those brilliant people you love! And hug them!
The love and connection is what these days are really about, after all. Not to mention, a good hug can trigger your brain to release oxytocin, a yummy-feeling hormone that reduces stress and appetite. More hugs means more happiness and less obsession with seconds.
3. When you choose, choose fully.
If you choose to eat something you don't normally eat, ENJOY IT. If you are choosing to lift that fork and put that stuffing in your drooling mouth, choose it fully.
Say, "Hell, yes, I'm eating this" or "Gosh darn, that was good." Or what usually happens to me, "Ohhh yes I am eating this" or "Meh, wasn't as great as I remember."
Same goes for choosing to abstain. When you say no to candy-cane-sugar-crusted butter bars or something, OWN IT. Don't say, "Oh, I can't" or "I really shouldn't…" Choose it fully. Say, "You know, I don't really like candy-cane-sugar-crusted butte
You will make many food choices over the next two months. Some better than others. But, either way, just really choose.
4. Plan playdates, not potlucks.
People love eating and drinking. But people (real adult people, not just little kids) also love playing! So, instead of hosting yet another holiday potluck, plan a playdate with your friends and family.
Go for a hike to see the fall colors. Make a snowman. Toss a frisbee. Have an arts-and-crafts afternoon. Focus on the FUN, not just the food.
5. Say yes to dessert.
I love dessert. Dessert is magical. It's like a pat on the back for just existing. "Good job, Sara, way to be alive and breathe and stuff today."
I don't subscribe to the thinking that I need to earn dessert. For me, it's just a given. And, friends, there are so many outrageously satisfying ultra-healthy dessert recipes out there (just ask me; I'll share); dessert doesn't have to be a dirty word!
My favorite vegan chocolate pudding recipe is actually what I eat for breakfast most days. So go forth and make yummy healthy desserts. And eat them. And share them (if there's any left).
Have a happy, healthy holiday!