I've over-eaten my way through more holiday seasons than I care to remember.
Year after year, I told myself:
- this is the year I'll be motivated to stay 'on plan' through the holidays.
- This is the year I'll skip the pie and cookies.
- This is the year I'll avoid weight gain and even LOSE weight over the holidays!
On Halloween, as I rationalized my 5th Reece's cup, I'd start to question if, in fact, this WAS the year.
By Thanksgiving, I'd know for certain all bets were off and start telling myself some variation of the following:
“I've already screwed up. I'll get back on track in January!”
“I’m WAY too busy to think about diet or exercise with everything going on.”
“Everyone else gets to enjoy the goodies, why shouldn't I get to?!”
“Life's too short not to celebrate over the holidays!”
If these excuses had left me feeling AMAZING on January 1st, this blog post wouldn't exist. I'll spare you the blow-by-blow but, suffice it to say, they did NOT make me feel amazing. They made me feel bloated, lethargic, disappointed, frustrated and utterly obsessed with food rather than enjoying the magic of the holiday experience.
ESCAPING THE DIET MADNESS
I often describe Paleo as my get-out-of-diet-jail-free card.
Until I discovered Paleo in 2012, I'd never thought about nourishing my body, only restricting it.
I'd never thought about all the things I SHOULD be eating, only what I shouldn't eat.
I'd never thought about getting back on my own team with myself and my body, only about how to make my stomach and thighs 'less gross'.
BACKGROUND: MY YEAR-ROUND APPROACH TO EATING
We should be eating healthy, delicious food that we look forward to every single day. Cheat meals (or cheat months!) are for people who view their regular eating strategy as punishment.
We should focus on nourishing ourselves both physically AND emotionally. Many of us turn to food to feel better instead of taking the time to figure out what really need and giving ourselves that instead (a break, connection with others, exercise, a hard conversation). If hunger isn’t the problem, food isn’t the solution.
2) TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY
If you make a choice you regret, make a better choice next time. The end. Sure, you can get curious about why you did the thing but avoid the temptation to be dramatic about it. Eyes forward, "What's my next good choice?"
Be honest with yourself. We are really good at talking ourselves out of doing what we told ourselves we would do. Instead of making excuses or expecting perfection, we simply need to practice being honest about our decisions and accepting responsibility for the outcome.
3) ESTABLISH HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
We are 100% responsible for every morsel of food we put in our mouth. What others are cooking, eating, doing, saying only impacts our choices if we allow it. This is where the ability to have hard conversations as well as a sense of humor comes in handy. "Eyes on your own plate" is a light-hearted boundary-reinforcer!
4) DITCH THE FAILED STRATEGIES OF THE PAST:
Short term, restrictive diets yield short-term results. If you want results you get to KEEP, you have to ditch the dieting mindset and get busy creating the diet and lifestyle you can see yourself doing 5 years from now.
A restrictive mindset fuels the "wagon" mentality. If your plan is to white-knuckle your way through to January, you're more likely to throw in the towel when you (inevitably) slip-up, feel miserable throughout the season, and find yourself frantically searching for a new extreme approach on January 1.
Now that I've set the stage for what I believe is a healthy, balanced approach to eating in general, I give you my...
Three Steps to a Healthy, No-Regrets Holiday Season:
STEP 1: Get clear on how you want to feel during the holidays
Examples to inspire your own list:
- I want to feel healthy (good digestion, vibrant energy, not inflamed, not bloated)
- I want to feel in control of my choices
- I want to feel peaceful about food and my body
- I want to enjoy some special foods without feeling stuffed or out of control
- I want to feel connected to the people I genuinely care about
- I want to feel in alignment with my long-term health goals
- I want to feel a part of the festivities rather than the one who does all the work
STEP 2: Create a plan
PROTECT YOUR TIME & ENERGY
- Schedule in downtime
- Say yes only to events and people that matter
- Ask for help and don’t be a martyr by trying to take care of everything
- Schedule movement/exercise every day
- Prioritize sufficient sleep
CREATE A NUTRITION SAFETY NET
- Add veggies and protein to all of your meals, especially breakfast, even on holidays. This will help you avoid blood sugar swings and sugar cravings.
- Be picky about which indulgences are truly worth it. If you take a bite and realize it isn't worth it after all, you don't have to finish it!
- Make healthier versions of your traditional favorites. There are Paleo, gluten free, and junk free versions of every recipe. Google Paleo….. and you will find options!
- Decide in advance you aren’t going to eat foods you’re sensitive or allergic to. It’s not worth it! If in doubt, don’t be embarrassed to ask what’s in a dish.
- Make a per-event or per-week alcohol budget and stick to it. Alcohol has a huge impact on our biochemistry, body composition, sleep, , energy, and choices
AVOID UNNECESSARY STRESS:
- Set a budget and stick to it. Give consumable gifts like food, time, and experiences.
- Don’t load your counter-tops with cookie exchange cookies and other temptations
- Don’t let other people trigger you. THEIR STUFF IS NOT YOURS TO CARRY. Other people can’t make you feel any way you don’t allow them to.
SLOW DOWN AND OWN YOUR CHOICES (#adulting)
- If you’re in the mindset that this is your one big chance to indulge because you have to go back to being good tomorrow or on January 1, you’re much more likely to overeat and feel miserable.
- Remind yourself: This is not the last piece of pie, pile of potatoes, or glass of wine I get to have because I am an adult.
- Don’t load your counters down with goodies that tempt you and that make real food unappealing. This creates the need for willpower and that’s exhausting. Surround yourself with healthy delicious food that makes you feel amazing and plan indulgences mindfully and elsewhere.
- Use the power of the pause. Before you indulge/go for seconds, ask yourself questions:
- How will I feel about this choice in an hour?
- On a scale of 1-10, how special is this? Is it worth it?
- Could I put my fork down now and feel pleasantly full but not stuffed?
STEP 3: How do you want to remember the holidays?
- I spent time with people that matter most
- I didn't get caught up in the holiday frenzy and exhaust myself
- I was honest with myself and didn’t make excuses
- I made conscious choices and was mindful about indulgences that were worth it
- I made sleep and exercise a priority
- I set healthy boundaries with my time and my relationships
- I asked for help
- I stayed within my budget
- I said no to things that weren’t a priority for me
- I feel peaceful, empowered, and calm going into the New Year
Take a few minutes to map out your own plan:
1) How I want to feel throughout the holidays
2) What I need to do (and not do) to help me feel this way
3) How I want to reflect on the holidays when I look back in January
If you take action on these 3 steps, you are likely to experience the holidays in a whole new way AND set yourself up for an epic 2018. You deserve this.
I wish you peace and a very happy holiday season. 💚