An Attitude for Gratitude
6 change-ups for a challenging holiday

So, la la la, another holiday of joyful gathering, that picturesque moment with perfect lighting around a table of delectables and perfectly fit, healthy, loving people.  The Hallmark moment.

Well, excuse me, but what about those of us with food sensitivity issues, difficult relatives, time constraints, travel demands (married kids of divorce and remarriage unite!), grieving loved ones no longer here and missing those too far away to gather?  And finally, but what about those of us with the muffin tops, fat rolls, and tight pants…who just want a fun guilt-free time to nosh?

What, you say?  Yeah I hear that doubt creep in as you look at that title – easy for me to say, right?  I didn’t say it was simple, but with a little intention yes – you, too, can have a day that includes thankfulness, and even joy, even without that Norman Rockwell glow.

1) Bring the dish that loves you back.  Instead of putting expectations on everyone else to cater to your needs, advocate with love for yourself – after all, you deserve a delectable day too, right?  Most times, holiday gatherings include everyone contributing something (there’s the giving in your thanks…you’re welcome).  Make yours one that YOU can eat, enjoy, and if possible is really special, not your everyday menu.  That way you’ll not only feel satisfied and even pampered, you’ll open up an opportunity for others to enjoy something ‘off the beaten recipe path’ and maybe even open a mind or a healthier option for someone else.  There are some great recipes out there no matter what your dietary challenge. Need ideas?

2) It’s all relative.  We all have one, that family member whose comments or behavior rankles whatever calm collected demeanor you’ve mustered.  What to do?  A few suggestions, from the ordinary to the simply fun, to ensure a little gratitude with a switch in attitude.

  • Avoid and ignore.  Yes, focus on and embrace the positive folks and activities in the day, with all your attention and enthusiasm.  Some call it positive reinforcement. Others might call it shunning.  I call it joy preservation.  Find it and hold it close, all day long.
  • Minimize exposure, maximize commonality.  In the event your seating assignment dooms you, look for something you have in common with your joy nemesis, and slather them like butter with something you see eye to eye on, or, horrors, even share a value on.  Vacate when conveniently safe back to #1.
  • The “emperor’ move.  This tactic actually allows you subtle pleasure without harming anyone. As in, imagine your challenge person like the emperor, wearing no clothes. This could have a certain ‘ew’ factor, except the main goal is to render them powerless in affecting your mood and your day.  How could they, you wonder, as you chuckle at their sorry state of reality.  Mindset is everything. Own yours.

3) Overfilled plate, running out of thyme?  Overachievers, this one’s for you.  How many different dishes of food does it take to make a holiday?  Don’t let an attitude of perfection and (over)abundance steal your holiday happy.  Write down all your ‘ideal’ plans and commitments – food, decorations, travel, activities.  Assign a number 1 (highest priority), 2, or 3 (lowest priority).  Choose ONLY the #1 plans and toss the others in the recycle bin.  Ta da, time and space to enjoy the moments.  Wait until all the #1 plans are complete before you cheat and sneak a couple #2s out to do anyway.  You’ll still be ahead and less stressed.

4) On The Run.  For far flung families, or those with multiple parent and extended families, this one’s all about setting realistic boundaries.  Recognize the expectations and rise only to what serves you and your family.  Distance and practicality play a role, as well as some fairness (and see #2 above!).  Once you’ve determined what is possible and how often, offer up what you can do.  Draw straws if necessary for who hosts, drives, flies, and cooks when.  Where practical, combine mixed folks (yes, some remarried folks do actually get along well) to enjoy the holiday time together. And keep that attitude that everyone has something worthwhile to bring to the table to appreciate and enjoy.

5) Love the ones you’re with!  A missing family member, or even an entire family if you are the one at a distance, can be a real holiday gratitude buster.  Whether through illness, death, estrangement, distant relocation, or military service, it’s a toughie.  Some strategies to help the torn traditions and sense of loss include:

  • Gratitude: connect with them how you can. A phone or Skype call if available. If not, a letter, whether sent or not depending on the situation, is a salve for the spirit.  For those no longer physically in your life, consider inviting their spirit to be close to you, even having a silent (or spoken) conversation with them can help bridge the distance of the heart. And finally, consider lighting a candle or designating a certain activity in their honor.
  • Attitude: Living away from and missing your regular family tradition peeps? Invite some folks who you’d enjoy being around. Bonus if they, too, are seeking holiday companions.  This is not some lonely hearts club though, no!  Go in with an attitude of building a shared fun experience. Maybe it’s just chilling and watching a game or movie together.  Or each person bringing one tradition they love and blending them all together into a new tradition in the space where you are right now.  An all day activity out on an adventure is an ‘out of the box’ way to enjoy a special day without even trying to replace what is missing – make it a brand new experience!

6) The Nosh-Worthy “Unhealth” attitude.  Good grief, you’re really gonna do it?
Ok, it’s just one day. Don’t sweat it. Go. Enjoy it.  Know you’ll probably pay for it tomorrow in indigestion, tighter pants, or exhaustion. You’re not ready to change, and that’s ok.  Hopefully this experience will put you over the edge to hit the health bucket seriously.
Seriously.  There’s always tomorrow.  We’ll dig up those health tips then to start you on your road back to health.

Have a wonderful holiday, however you choose to enjoy it!
Yours in Health,


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