As we enter the 2018 holiday season, the leaves have fallen, a chill is in the air, and chocolate and home-baked goodies appear on every countertop. The holidays are a time for celebration but, let’s be honest, they can also be stressful.
Here are my Top 5 Tips to enjoy the holidays without the post-holiday regret that comes with overindulging.
1. Be Aware
Before indulging in a special treat, take a deep breath and pause. Is it worth the indulgence? Sometimes the answer is a resounding “Yes!” but sometimes we indulge without giving much thought to what we are consuming. How will our future self feel? If you choose to have a special treat, be sure it’s something your really want and take your time and savor it!
Having a plan before a holiday meal or party makes it less tempting to try every item on the buffet. If your intention is to avoid certain foods or prevent overeating, anticipate the potential obstacles and visualize how you can avoid them. Create a strategy to avoid what may interfere with sticking to your plan and this will provide immediate solutions in the moment of temptation.
3. Prepare and Participate
It may seem like there is a party every day during the holiday season, but realistically, this still represents only a small amount of what you eat. Consistently preparing healthy food when you are not at a celebration will help you stay on track, even if you occasionally indulge.
Super busy? Look for healthy shortcuts. Make simple meals or buy nutritious prepared foods. When you have delicious, healthy meals at the ready, you’re more likely to eat them instead of grabbing for the nearest (and possibly poorest) choices.
When you are the host, choose to provide healthy options. As a guest, perhaps you can offer to bring something like a healthy appetizer or fresh fruit salad. Not interested in cooking? Guacamole or hummus with a platter of fresh veggies is quick & easy. The other guests will thank you for the delicious, guilt-free option.
4. Start Strong
Don’t skip breakfast! Eat a nutrient-dense, balanced meal each morning – especially when you have a party later in the day. Showing up hungry makes self-regulation more difficult and can be a recipe for disaster. When you are hungry you are more likely to grab for foods high in sugar and carbohydrates.
5. Stay Active
During the holiday season, it is important to keep moving. You may be busier than usual with parties, shopping, and cooking, but regular exercise helps with stress management (and may burn a few of the extra calories!) If you can’t make it to the gym, go for a walk, do planks, push-ups, and squats, or try an app focused on High Intensity Interval Training (HITT).
6. Have Fun!
Celebrations involve food and it’s okay to indulge a little. Making healthy food choices is a lifelong habit. Some days will be better than others – it’s all about balance. Returning to making good daily food choices is what’s most important — much better than deciding that if your were ‘bad’ last night, you might as well just eat what you want until New Year’s and start over.
Holidays are about spending time with loved ones. Focus on family and friends and consider the 5 tips above to reduce stress about food and drink. When you start the new year feeling healthy and strong, you will be grateful for having taken the time to approach the holidays with greater intention and thought.
All the best for a healthy holiday season!
Written by Nina Spiegel, Holistic Nutrition & Wellness Coach, in partnership with The Graf Center for Integrative Medicine at Englewood Health. She can be reached for appointments at the JCC’s Seiden Wellness Center, at 201.408.1441.