Balanced- Fun- Free Spirit Holiday… Does it exist? I think so!! It’s a matter of perspective and learning how to plan correctly. After Halloween, there is this shift, or should I say a loop that has the potential derail any progress made over the year. It’s almost two months of weekend parties, friends, family dinners and your normal routine is less than normal.
There is this domino effect that I see clients get stuck in. There is this head space you find yourself in which causes a “F’it” mentality and it’s not a good place to be in. You feel like you already had more than enough to eat and drink last night, so you feel bad about yourself today, then it turns into a deep spiral of why not just ruin the rest of the week since there is the next party to go to on the weekend. Is it possible to enjoy the holiday season and not go overboard? It absolutely is, and I want to show you how. The holidays can be easy, or you can make them stressful, the choice is yours. With our help, we want to give you the tools to enjoy the holiday season without the guilt.
First, find your new “normal” and create a routine. It’s so common to see our calendar and have so many things blocked off between work and play there is no time for you. That is the first problem. If you choose to play up on this negative thought, it becomes a lot harder to choose to go to the gym, eat some veggies with your meals or saying no to the third drink. You feel like you’re never going to see results from your efforts, so may as well just submit to gluttony and laziness now and start/maintain healthy habits later when you can really “commit”. Sound familiar?
Let go of the notion that you are going to be “perfect” this holiday season, we don’t expect other areas of our lives to be perfect so why add that pressure. One common error is not creating a realistic expectation to maintain your goals over the holidays. Learn how to add flexibility into your routine but don’t just pause everything because you are “busy.” You can make the decision to find the time to add fitness to your life and still balance healthy eating with your favorite holiday meals.
You may miss a workout. In fact, everyone will at some point. Give up the all or nothing approach and choose a workout program that is realistic for this time in your life. Ask yourself how many days you can commit and stick to over the holiday season. It might be 2 or 3 maybe 4 but whatever you choose, plan it like it’s an appointment for yourself. A little tip, you may not have time for your full routine, so what you can. Exert yourself for 10-20 minutes if that’s all you have. Your body responds to the challenge of exercise, not to the amount of time you spend doing it.
Holiday nutrition can be a challenge to overcome in itself. Keep in mind the holiday comes around EVERY single year. It’s not a surprise that you will have family dinners, company parties and social events with friends to get together. Give yourself permission to enjoy but also keep yourself accountable to your health and goals. If you know your grandma is making her famous apple pie for dessert, choose that over the Wal-Mart cookie that you can get any time of the year. You might be going to a lot of holiday events so manage your choices wisely and choose things that are “specialty” items vs. every day foods that you can have all the time.
The do all or do-nothing mentality is self-sabotaging. Instead of being either in the “all in” or “not at all” category, I encourage you to live in the gray area. Take the pockets of routine that you DO have, and do just that: keep up your routine, make choices that support you feeling great, and keep up those habits as best you can.
Step two, decide what is meaningful or not. It’s overwhelming when you have parties with foods that are not typically eaten in your day. Decide which meals, traditions, foods, events, and treats are most meaningful to you can help sort through things and create some perspective. If you go somewhere and there are cookies from Wal-mart on the spread vs. Grandmas homemade chocolate chip cookies, don’t you think it’s best to splurge on Grandmas cookies? You can always get the “normal” things any day of the week.
One thing I do encourage is not falling into a “victim” mindset. You DO have the choice and the ability to speak up about the foods that you want to eat. My suggestion is to offer to do some cooking or bring your favorite dish to the party. This way you know you have one thing that you have control over and then you can make educated decisions as you are there. When it comes to family, you should communicate what you are doing and why you might not want to indulge in seconds or only have a small piece of pie. If you communicate that you are trying to live a healthier lifestyle and nutrition is a large piece that you are working on, I doubt they will try to sabotage your efforts. Truth be told, those who put you down are the ones that are not making you better overall. Learn to stand up for what you feel is important to you, even if you might cause some waves with your family.
Here are some easy questions to ask yourself when making food choices:
- Is this food or event something I can eat/enjoy any time of year, or something that’s only here right now?
- Is this something that I sincerely love, or am I just eating it because it’s in front of me?
- Does this food add to my overall experience of this event or moment?
- Could I omit this particular food and still feel like I got the whole experience or is it an important, meaningful part of this moment?
The stress and anxiety of the holiday season, especially during the months of November and December can manifest in symptoms such as headaches, sleep disturbances, fatigue, exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, short temper, upset stomach, low job satisfaction and morale, aching muscles (including lower back pain), loss of appetite, changes in behavior while at work, and a decline in productivity and work performance. During holiday time, stress is influenced by factors such as: lack of money, shopping decisions and deadlines, parties, strained family relations, pressures to please family and friends and have “the perfect” holiday, and the media bombardment of happy, smiling families and friends enjoying holiday festivities.
I know you can agree that the holiday season tends to add a little extra stress in your life. When this happens, it’s important to remember to take some time for yourself. You do not need to please every single person, in fact, you should be taking care of yourself in the same way you take care of others. I would set aside time weekly for you to do something you personally enjoy, even if that means saying no to a function that you don’t really want to attend. Stressing your mind and body out on top of holiday stress with travel, family and finances, you are digging yourself a deeper hole. Instead, do things that create less stress, movement that is outside, in the sunshine, and less social media. Enjoy the holiday for what they are meant to be, with family and friends in person!
Finally, my last piece of advice is ownership. If you take ownership of your choices, you eliminate shame. Shame is the one emotion that fuels the fire of continuing the downward spiral. We all have moments of weakness, yet you do have the choice to determine if you are going to accept it and move on OR use shame to keep the negative spiral going the choice is really yours.
Sticking to your goals can seem daunting all on your own. You are being pulled into all different directions and sometime what you need is to create a strategy to combat the holiday season. Here are some of my top things to consider this holiday season:
- Making a list of priorities for the season. Don’t give into pressure. Do the things you really enjoy and forget about the rest.
- Getting access to plenty of natural light by spending some time outside or sitting under a sun lamp.
- Maintaining a regular schedule, even when cold temperatures tempt you to sleep in.
- Starting your own family traditions, particularly if you have a conflict with your family of origin.
- Taking care of your body. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, at least five days per week.
- Eat plenty of healthy foods and get enough sleep.
Above all, it’s the holiday season. Enjoy some home cooked food, savor a tasty meal, indulge in that dessert or glass of wine and be mindful of what your body is telling you. If you create a space of bountiful awareness, you don’t need to feel fear this time of year. If you need help navigating through this time period, we have coaching spots open to give you the guidance and support you need to keep your routine and stay on track.