NYS Certified Nutritionist

Holidays in the Time of Covid-19

Nearly every day I say to someone, “Eating styles are coping mechanisms.” We eat to delay doing things we do not want to do. We eat to change the subject, if we are plagued by unwanted thoughts. We eat if we are lonely, or bored. We eat to swallow our rage. We eat to feel numb when our nerves are raw. The list of reasons we eat is endless.

Today we are dealing with an escalating number of cases of Covid-19, while facing financial hardship, family disruption, and isolation- all during the holiday season- adding even more stress. My advice to my clients anticipating any holiday, is to try to maintain their weight rather than attempt to lose weight. Maintenance, especially now, is a victory.

Remember, portion size matters. If you eat a plant based diet, with half your plate filled with colorful vegetables, you are on the right track. One quarter of the plate can be filled with a lean protein source, and the other quarter can be filled with a starch. Reducing fat intake, lessens our richest source of calories. Please notice there is no mention of forbidden foods, or elimination of certain foods. The emphasis is on shifting the balance, reducing the consumption of foods that provide excessive, unnecessary calories.

Alcohol can stimulate the appetite, and lower inhibitions, resulting in over-eating. Women are advised to consume none, or have no more than one drink per day. For men, the limit is two drinks. Desserts are inevitable at this time of year, and they symbolize the hope for sweeter times to come. Perhaps skipping the whipped cream, or switching to a reduced fat ice cream would be ways to satisfy a sweet tooth while reducing the total caloric intake.

There is a tradition in Okinawa, where many people live into their 100s, lean and productive, to eat until they are 80% full. In this country, we often eat until we are uncomfortably full. We can learn from the Okinawan example. Being respectful of the signals sent to us by our bodies can go a long way to keeping us lean and healthy.

Here’s to a kinder, happier, healthier holiday season, and the promise of a New Year.

Dateline: Latham, Albany County, New York