Surviving the Holidays
This post was originally posted on 11/18/19 and has been updated for this year.
Thanksgiving is almost here (all together now: HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?!), which means the holiday season is now upon us. This time of year can prove to be difficult for some, especially with the plethora of treats and desserts that seem to greet us at every turn. In fact, it's estimated that most people will gain 10-15lbs during the holiday season alone.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Not this year. Instead, you can make the choice to have a healthy holiday season, not necessarily void of all treats, but void of the excess and guilt/shame cycle.
When it comes to surviving the holiday season and the crazy schedule that follows suit, I typically recommend the following:
1. Bring a healthy dish wherever you go
My best tip for any holiday party (or any social event for that matter) is to bring something healthy that you can eat. This is especially true for those of us who are struggling with a myriad of food allergies/sensitivities. Typically, I've found most people enjoy a platter of roasted vegetables - carrots, asparagus, and/or Brussel sprouts for instance. These are super simple to make, but also ensure that you will at least have a vegetable on your plate for the meal.
Need holiday inspiration? Remember I just finished up my holiday recipe series with 3 new recipes:
Roasted Carrots & Brussels with Avocado Dipping Sauce
Crispy Potatoes with Sea Salt and Chives
2. Don't "save your calories" for a party later in the day
I used to do this all the time. I would hardly eat all day (or "eat light" during the day), and then by the time I would get to a holiday party, I wouldn't be able to start eating. I'd stand at the food table and pick at this, that, and the other thing from the minute I arrived until I left.
Now, I choose and recommend a different path. Instead of saving my calories for later in the day, I make sure to eat PFC balanced meals prior to the holiday party that are loaded with protein, healthy fat, and vegetables so that I am satisfied and less likely to have cravings or overeat later in the day.
Also, if you know that veggie options are going to be limited and you aren't bringing a vegetable side dish (why not I'll ask?!), get as many servings of veggies as you can in prior to the party/event.
3. Stay active, but not as a way to make up for your "bad" decisions
There is this idea that you can "burn off" bad choices by doing exercise to cancel out the calories consumed. This way of thinking is not only out dated, but also perpetuates the guilt/shame cycle so many of us have fell prey to in recent years.
Instead, this year, choose to stay active, moving as much as possible throughout the day. You'll notice I didn't say exercise; I said move. Movement is much simpler to achieve than regimented exercise, which implies that you have to go to a gym and workout for a specific amount of time. Movement means you are simply choosing to get up and be active throughout the day: going for a short walk after a meal or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. These little steps add up, whereas the guilt/shame/I must exercise to burn off these calories cycle doesn't help.
4. Drink plenty of water
Most of us don't drink enough water, and the holiday season is a great time to start! Staying on top of your hydration levels ensures that you'll be able to keep cravings at bay, as well as manage overeating as well. Water is the biggest nutrient deficiency we have in America today. So drink up, and add a glass of water between alcoholic beverages if you chose to consume them.
5. Hold your ground, and don't let other people challenge your healthy choices
Many of my sugar detox participants have trouble with their friends and family incessantly questioning their food choices, especially when they choose to abstain from alcohol or sweets. If people question or challenge your food/drink decisions, remember this: it's not about you, it's about them. Through no fault of yours, they are feeling judged by your choices. Hold your ground, don't make a big deal about it, and move on.
6. If you choose to have a treat, make it small, eat it slow, and ENJOY IT
I think half of our problem with overeating is that we fail to be fully present when we are eating, especially when we are eating something sweet. If you choose to have some sort of treat or dessert, have it after your meal, sit down, use your fork, take small bites, and thoroughly enjoy it! Don't allow guilt and shame to creep into your mind.
You are not a bad or good person for the food decisions you make, nor should you let the decisions you make control the rest of your day.
So you had an extra piece of dessert? You mind wants to say "You shouldn't have done that. Now you can't have any more. Tomorrow you have to get back on track. Better just skip breakfast and lunch to make up for it, and don't forget to get to the gym..."
But what you should consider saying instead is, "I had _______ food and it made me feel ________ (think objectively here - it made me bloated, tired, or I didn't feel anything at all). I am not a bad person for this choice. It was the choice I made in that moment, and I'm going to own that choice for that it was and accept the consequences (if there are any)"
Remember what this season is truly about - friends and family, not depriving because you've been "bad" or overindulging in something that makes you feel terrible. It's about so much more than food!
I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving later this week and an awesome start to the holiday season!