It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or the worst, if you’re working on healthy habits. Basically as soon as the clock struck midnight on Halloween, every pumpkin turned into a Christmas tree. (Super awkward if you’re Jewish, like me.) We are at Def-Con Holiday and it’s not ending any time soon.
Sorry, if I sound a bit Grinch-y. I’m really not. But, the Holidays bring with them a lot more than joy. This time of year usually hits me pretty hard. Sure, some of that may be the seasonal affective disorder. But it makes me think about all the loved ones I’ve lost, past family turmoil, and fear that I may never have a partner and family of my own. Not to mention the money hemorrhage!!
And then, there is food.
Lots and lots of sweet, sugary, salty, savory food. Everywhere.
Between holiday feasts, awkward office parties, and endless friendly get-togethers, it’s basically wall-to-wall treats from October 31st through January 2nd. You know you’re tempted to say “forget it!” and start over with your New Year’s Resolution in 2019.
Whether you’re trying to continue a new healthy lifestyle or have plans for “New Year, New You,” you can thrive this holiday season.
Here’s five easy things you can do to foster holiday season healthy habits!
1. The Reason for the Season
Humanity’s interaction with Winter fascinates me. So many cultures celebrate the darkest, coldest days of the year with light, music, feasting, and joy. Christmas, St. Lucia’s Day, Hanukkah, Saturnalia, Yule, etc. Way back when we actually had to grow our own food, feasting on high calorie foods increased our chances of surviving the winter. For most people in modern society, this isn’t as big of a concern.
What holidays are you celebrating? What do they mean to you? Why are these days special? Focusing on the actual celebrations can make it easier to move your mind off of food, especially on a random Tuesday afternoon when Karen from accounting brought five pies into the office. Or maybe you’re me who promised myself to wait until actually December to try Starbuck’s holiday drinks.
2. Take Time For Yourself
Work. Family. Shopping. Preparing. Cooking. Hosting. Visiting. You have your usually packed routine – now with bonus celebratory obligations! It’s easy to put yourself on the back burner. That’s also the easiest way to burn yourself out. Being stressed and tired leads to poor decision making, which makes that Grande Starbucks Toasted White Chocolate Mocha look like a great idea. Commit to getting a good night’s sleep and at least 20 minutes of exercise – even if you’re taking a few power-laps around the mall before tackling the shopping list.
3. Get Comfortable With No
Yes, Aunt Linda is wheedling you to have some of her extra-buttery sweet potato casserole. Again. Suddenly, it’s a knock-out drag-down battle between trying to please your family and trying to stick to your goals. Health gurus will tell you food is fuel. But food is love, as well. Auntie’s feelings are on the verge of being hurt because you’re not just rejecting the marshmallowy treat, but her affection, too. It is okay to say no. It is okay to be selfish sometimes. Going back to point #2, you need to take care of yourself. If you’ve had your first helping and are satisfied, absolutely honor that feeling. It feels better than being overstuffed and sick later in the evening, flopped over on the couch. (Looking at you, Dad.) It’s okay to say no to an invitation as well, even if you don’t have anything else planned. Rather be at home in your pajamas bingeing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? Totally valid life choice. Boundaries are healthy, especially when you’re on holiday party #7 out of 12.
4. Pre-Game Your Party
Not with alcohol. In the hours leading up to a calorie bomb like Thanksgiving, it’s tempting to eat nothing or over-exercise in anticipation of the feasting. In reality, you’re setting yourself up for a disaster. Don’t head into a holiday meal starving and tired – that’s a recipe for eating everything in sight. Try this instead: focus on filling, low-calorie foods throughout the day. Think lean proteins and lots of veggies; make sure you stay hydrated. Keeping your energy levels up means keeping a clear head, and eating routinely keeps you from being ravenous. Get in your exercise, just like any other day, but do it to feel good and not as a preemptive punishment.
5. Let it Go
You’ve had your cake and eaten it too. And the turkey, the stuffing, perhaps a little egg nog. No point in dwelling on it or beating yourself up.Drink a nice glass of water and get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow morning, make yourself your usual breakfast and get on with your day. Avoid the scale – carbs, sodium, alcohol, and…er… leftovers are all going to mess with that measurement. You can’t control that. What you can control is your return to normal. It’s okay to have a big holiday meal, just don’t let a meal turn into a week of way-too-much. Our bodies are a reflection of what we do consistently, not occasionally.
RECOMMENDED READING: Three Easy Steps to Getting Back on Track
Need a little bonus motivation? Think about how much of a jump start you’re going to have on everyone waiting until January to try to set new habits. You are the badass playing the holidays and hard mode, setting yourself up for success all year round.