For many of us, the holiday season is an exciting time of running from event to event, perhaps staying up a bit too late with people that we love, shopping for friends and family, and bracing ourselves for the thrill of a new year and the endless possibilities it brings. Despite the inherent joy of the festivities, it is easy to find yourself increasingly discouraged by the inability to make it into the gym, amplified by the seemingly endless stream of food and beverages that seem to define the season. Now let’s add some ridiculous “fitspiration” post into the mix from some social media page you follow. You know the one: some post cleverly disguised as a motivational message, but is really just crafted to make you feel inadequate in hopes of selling you another product you don’t need or service you don’t want. All of this, in turn, only causes you to reflect on all of the goals you WEREN’T able to achieve in 2019 and the shame continues to flood your brain. Now, you’re tired, stressed, nutritionally starved, and feeling down… desperate for a vacation from the vacation.
What pains me most about this entire process is that it is rooted in underlying assumption that our wellness has to be put on the back-burner for the foreseeable future. And I am not just talking about our physical wellness, but our mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness, ALL of which need to be nurtured this time of year. When we’re spread thin, stressed to the limit, sleep deprived… we need to hone in on all of these essential parts of our being and ensure they are taken care of possibly now more than ever.
To anyone who knows me, it will come as no surprise that I am going to go a little zen on you. Of course, I’m going to tell you to try to relax, be nicer to yourself, and enjoy the season. I’m also going to tell you that a little bit of working out is way better than nothing, so you should just strive to get something in everyday- if not for your body, then for your brain. I will then undoubtedly encourage you to make these efforts extra meaningful by inviting those around you to join you in your initiatives for greater self-love and understanding. But I promise you- it’s more than just lip service. I really TRULY believe those frameworks are absolutely vital for enjoying this amazing season, all while maintaining your humor and your sanity.
But how can we get through the holidays and not go crazy or lose ourselves in the process? This will be the first of a short series of blogs to help with that journey and while these posts don’t hold all of the answers, they are coming as someone who has not only seen, but experienced, the negativity spiral we can put ourselves through if we fail to care about our wellness. I am writing these to try to help all of us finish the year with greater sense of genuine joy and personal fulfillment. We’re always stronger together.
How to Eat Right During the Holidays Without Going Crazy, Part I
This time of year, I often get approached by individuals that fall into one of two camps regarding holiday eating. The first are those who are overwhelmed and borderline terrified at the prospect of having to call on their own discipline to survive the unescapable barrage of food and drink temptations of the season. Second are those who often come to me already feeling like a failure, preemptively apologizing for their inevitably excessive consumption and ongoing participation in celebrations that prevent them from eating well or getting their workouts in on a regular basis. To both parties, and anyone in between, this post is for you.
**Disclaimer: Before we get too deep into it, I need you to know that you cannot and should not using weight gain as the sole lens through which you examine whether or not you succeeded this holiday season. With all of the challenges associated with taking care of oneself, weight concerns should be so far down the priority list… I am begging you to stop beating yourself up over every pound or incessantly stepping on the scale. You are worth and deserve so much more than that.**
The reality is that all of the events of the season often lead to much greater consumption of food and beverages, most of which lack the nutritional significance many of us are used to eating throughout the rest of the year. We often find ourselves overeating and overdrinking because we feel like the special occasion calls for it. We partake in almost every food or beverage option at every event out of fear that we will offend family or friends or be perceived as a downer for restraining ourselves. Not only does this tendency for excessive consumption often result in a pounding head or upset stomach, it undoubtably messes with our ability to make time for sleep and exercise- two of the most vital components to truly thriving this time of year.
So, not surprisingly, people want to know what to do. Should they avoid going to these events? Should they make all of their own food and run the risk of offending those closest to them? Should they make a declaration to eat it all and just start over when January comes? Though I’m being a bit funny, we’ve all gone through a similar series of questions in our own minds. As someone who is both a nutrition coach and a fellow foodie, my goal is that people can truly enjoy the deliciousness of the season. For many, these holiday meals are the most extensive cooking projects they take on all year and in a society that seems to cook less and less, I want us to celebrate these efforts and the love that goes into all of it! That said, the best advice I can give for those who want to find the balance between taking care of themselves while still enjoying the festivities is what I like to consider a mere prioritization of the foods and drinks you love the most.
First, start by figuring out ahead of time what you can live without and avoid them: maybe those store-bought cupcakes, the canned cranberry sauce, the boozy punch, or the candy cane from the office holiday party. We all know it isn’t one piece of pie or one extra serving of stuffing that makes us gain the extra weight or feel lethargic for the days that follow- it is the compounding of decisions to consume in every opportunity we encounter. When we get into the habit of just eating whatever is in front of us, we take the option “to choose what we eat” out of that moment in time. This, in turn, harms our self-esteem because we essentially handed our power, our freedom to do what is best for us and our bodies, to something or someone outside of ourselves.
My point is if you LOVE Grandma’s pumpkin pie, grab a slice and enjoy every stinkin’ bite of it! You can even dress it up with that fancy whipped cream if you like. This treat will not (I repeat WILL NOT) push you over the edge of nutritional deficiency. Equally important, however, is if you serve yourself something that doesn’t taste as good as you expected, don’t feel like you have to eat it. Make a commitment to yourself to treat your taste buds to only the best of the season’s offerings. You not only hold the power to make choices, but to maximize those decisions by being mindful, thus allowing yourself the opportunity to enjoy the treats to the greatest extent possible.
It is incredibly important to me that you to know how freaking wonderful you are and that you know your body best. My hope is that you will stay present throughout this season, giving yourself permission to truly enjoy the flavors (and love!) cooked into all of those delicious homemade foods. I want you to feel empowered enough to prioritize the treats you crave all year long and savor those moments, while feeling equally enabled to turn down the items that don’t taste as good or mean as much to you. Above all, love yourself enough to listen to your body and trust that you can make meaningful choices based on what your body, mind, and spirit need. That power is yours and yours alone. After all, this entire journey is, and always will be, about YOU being the best darn version of YOU that you can possibly be.
So have that coveted mug of warm eggnog while you and your siblings recount your favorite memories from a childhood trip. Enjoy a warm chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven with your spouse while you wait for company to arrive. Opt for an extra side of fluffy mashed potatoes at your annual Friendsgiving celebration. Choose everyday to eat, drink, smile, laugh, and be present… After all, the holidays are truly about savoring and appreciating life’s most precious moments.
In love and wellness,