The Holidays Aren’t “Just One Day of Eating,” and That’s OK

It’s just one day. Enjoy it and move on.

This advice has become so commonplace in the potentially kinder, gentler corners of the nutrition-sphere, it’s a cliché. And yet, like most clichés, it isn’t really, deeply true. It rings with truthiness, and I wonder at the harm it does for the many folks seeking understanding and reassurance during the potentially chaotic eating environments we face this time of year.

For the folks who celebrate the holidays and share their love and affection through the exchanges of baked goods, it isn’t just one day. It is as long as the cookies, breads and fruitcakes remain in our homes.

For the folks who host events for families and friends, it isn’t just one day. It is for as long as we are gathering many delicious offerings for our guests and as long as the leftovers remain on our counter, in our refrigerator or in our freezer afterwards.

For the folks with complex family realities, divorces, remarriages, half siblings, in-laws, and families of choice, it is not just one day. It is every day a different opportunity or obligation to connect is placed on our calendar.

For the folks who are easily cued by sights, smells, festive wrappings, advertisements and other reminders of delicious options available to us, it is not just one day. It is for as long as these cues are present to be sensed and reacted to.

For the folks who connect with friends and family with parties, gatherings, brunches and happy hours, it isn’t just one day. It is every day there is an opportunity to get together and celebrate with someone we love.

For the folks with complex relationships with food, who find eating to be a reliable source of comfort, entertainment, distraction, or stress-relief, it is not just one day. It is every day that something delicious becomes available and our emotions feel overwhelming.

For the folks with depression or other mental health challenges that are exacerbated by the longer, darker and colder months, it is not just one day. It is for as long as the season influences our biochemistry.

For the folks who find highly palatable holiday treats to be less satiating, and maybe even appetite-inducing, it is not just one day. It is for as long as we can reach for these foods to be eaten, enjoyed, and gone back for more.

For the folks who struggle with familial trauma and find food a comfort and reassurance when we are reminded of less-than-wonderful holidays in the past, it is not just one day. It is a season of grief that lasts as long as the reminders are present in the fore of our minds.

Our eating environments are deeply influential on our eating behaviors, and it is only somewhat within our control. Like a lot of messaging geared towards helping people manage their eating behaviors, this advice, to treat the holidays like just one day and move on, ignores the complex realities of eating behaviors and places the onus on the individual, implying that if the holidays go beyond one day here and there, somehow we are failing. I reject that narrative. It isn’t just one day. The holidays are a season of many weeks or months of complex food realities. It is ok to enjoy them, survive them, tolerate them, and move on.

Cover photo is of Danish Coffee Rolls, one of my family recipes.

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