A balanced approach to eating sugar during the holidays
I recently received this marketing email from a telehealth provider — what do you think my reaction was?
With the fall/winter holidays upon us, I want to take a moment to address the “holiday healthy eating tips” that we will also inevitably start receiving — how to limit sugary candy, skip the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie dessert for a healthy alternative, or why you should choose low-fat ice cream instead of your mom’s homemade one.
While probably well-intentioned, these messages that demonize sugar or fat can be stressful. It’s no wonder, because we are being told to avoid and limit the exact celebratory desserts and decadent meals that make the holidays so enjoyable for many of us.
Moving on from “eat this, not that”
Sugar is not the healthiest thing for our bodies. Unless you are under 7 years old, this is probably not news to you. We’ve been lectured the dangers of it, why it’s “bad”, and why we should be limiting (if not completely eliminating) it from our diet. Why not just quit it?
But what this advice doesn’t acknowledge is that we are human — we enjoy cakes to celebrate birthdays, and get together with our family to bake holiday cookies. We enjoy apple cider donuts at fall farmer’s markets, and make it an event to enjoy pumpkin and pecan pie.
Demonizing sugar does one of two things: If we choose to deprive ourselves of these special moments with our loved ones, we lose a part of what brings us joy, and potentially our cultural identity and tradition. If we choose to prioritize enjoying these moments and indulge in desserts, we inevitably feel awful for it and blame ourselves for not having self-control.
This can breed a toxic kind of self-hatred, where we end up reinforcing our shame. The deprivation can counterintuitively lead us to punish ourselves— a situation that could’ve been satisfied with a slice of cake at a party becomes a late-night binge in our room.