How to thrive—not survive—the holiday season

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I see Thanksgiving as the official kick-off to the holiday season. Pretty much from now until January 1, there will be lots of fancy holiday parties, office parties, and family gatherings. In other words, LOTS of celebrating!

Have you ever felt conflicted about the holidays? I have. And I doubt I’m alone. For many, the arrival of Thanksgiving elicits a simultaneous “yah!” along with an “oh God, between now and New Year’s, please keep me from undoing all of my efforts to lose weight / stop drinking so much / quit smoking / get healthier / eat cleaner / insert other accomplishment / progress here: ____________________.  It’s no wonder that we see so many how-to articles on “surviving” the holidays.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Don’t be skird of the holidays! Here are a few tactics that I’m vowing to use this year to enJOY the season with energy, enthusiasm, and balance, and without guilt or fear of backtracking on personal goals. I challenge you to do the same!

1. Choose the highest quality treats for indulging, skip the crap you wouldn’t normally eat in the non-Holiday season.  Here’s a timely personal example. Last night, dear Brad stopped by to bring us a special treat from his even dearer Momma. She baked us a whole big batch ‘o seriously chocolate-y, peanut butter chippy cookies that I can only describe as heaven in a Glad tupperware container. No guilt whatsoever, ya’ll.

Here’s where I’m getting picky this year. I’m skipping the stuff like the drugstore chocolates wrapped in foil Santa suits, and the tins of manufactured ginger cookies and cheese straws and who-knows-how-old caramel-coated popcorn. Hey, you office people—I’m especially talking to you here! I know because I’ve been there, my friends. Coworkers bring in tins of holiday “goodies” they DON’T want at home (goodheartedly, of course), and under normal circumstances we wouldn’t give those things a second glance. But when we’re at work we graze on them because the 10am / 3pm doldrums set in and we just GOTTA have SOMETHING. Eschew anything that you normally would find not worthy of your calories or dollars. If you’re an office worker, pack some healthy snacks so you’re not starving.

2.  SAVOR the holiday season in as many ways as possible.  I used to mainly associate the holidays with food that would inevitably result in weight gain and guilt and extra time at the gym (OK—another highly personal blurb here—I have serious body dysmorphic disorder and am TERRIFIED of weight gain. Geez, in a few weeks of these posts you all might gang up to commit me, but I digress). ANYWAY, now that I have a 2-year-old, I totally see the holidays in a different light. It’s not just about food anymore! Now I’m looking forward to Enchanted Airlie, the Festival of Trees, Santa Claus photos, singing carols, decorating trees, drinking good hot chocolate, going to kiddie school programs, walking the dog on the beach, making gifts, movies from Hollywood that might actually be worth seeing, and of course, really taking the time to enjoy holiday gatherings with loved ones. You don’t have to have a small child to enjoy these things. Whatever holidays you observe, find ways to “holistically” celebrate them!

3.  Practice mindful eating.  And it does take practice. We’ll all be eating some treats that are not a part of our everyday foods. So make it worth every single delicious bite. Take the time to actually taste it. Chew it slowly and thoroughly. Put your fork down between bites. Enjoy it! And stop when you are full. Don’t mindlessly scarf down that pumpkin pie and ice cream during Great Aunt Mabel’s mind-numbing recounting of her bursitis woes. By eating mindfully, you’re highly likely to eat smaller portions and feel way more satisfied doing it.

4.  Balance your holidays with real food. Sure, Thanksgiving and the December holidays can be filled with pre-packaged food products filled with processed flour and sugar. But they can also offer up loads of nutritious seasonal veggies and other healthy treats. Feasting on real food replenishes and vitalizes. Gorging on processed junk depletes and zaps. Not what we need during this busy time of year.  Here are three Thanksgiving recipes that are REAL (not “diet”, fake-ingredient, food derivatives) and sound totally yums to me, and I’m making them for our family’s Thanksgiving potluck. Cranberry Cherry Relish, Quinoa Salad With Sweet Potato and Apples, Braised Greens With Bacon.

5.  Ditch the stubborn willpower attitude, it doesn’t work. Telling yourself that “I shouldn’t eat this” or “I can’t have that” inevitably sets you up for failure and even over-indulgence. Practice balance and mindfulness, and you won’t need willpower.

6.  Have a water chaser handy. I admit that I like the occasional festive drink during the holiday season. If you will be partaking of adult beverage(s), drinking water in between is a great way to slow down the crazy train, so to speak. Alcohol can be dehydrating and nutrient depleting and can leave us feeling LOUSY the next day. Plus, while alcohol does act as a stimulant when we have that first or second cocktail and blood alcohol level increases, it turns into a depressant as we slow down the drinking and our blood alcohol level starts to decline. Increased elation, extroversion, and that courage to dance like everyone is watching can shift later on into fatigue, depression, restlessness, and tension.

7.  Stay active. We may not be able to keep up our usual fitness routines when the hub-bub of the holidays kicks in, but we can still make an effort to keep moving. Take nature walks after the Thanksgiving feast. Park far away from your shopping destination. Squeeze in a 30 minute interval paddle when you don’t have time for an hour. Anything is better than nothing. It may not be your ideal workout, but just moving throughout the day helps stave off the holidays’ excesses and keeps stress levels in check.

So, let’s make a pact right now to:

·      Embrace the holiday season

·      Cherish the company of family, friends, and loved ones

·      Do something kind without expecting anything in return

·      Be ever-present in the moment

·      Accept who we have become over the past year

·      Feel gratitude for everything we have been given in this life

·      Stay physically active, and last but certainly NOT least–

·      Savor every bite!

Thanksgiving tunage: Check out this old-school dance track with a jump-up-and-dance-gospel-choir vibe. Even if you don’t like this one, pause to take the lyrics below to heart—they make me feel joyful and I hope they do the same for you! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Unspeakable Joy (Razor N Guido Remix)

When I wake up in the morning gets me outta bed

Keeps me runnin’ skippin’ jumpin’ like a little kid

You know sometimes I can hardly keep it inside

It overtakes me, overwhelms me, and I’m mortified

I did not get it from any ole’ little man

And it’s okay if they don’t always understand

It’s very easy to get caught in circumstance

It’s even easier to break out in a dance!

JOY!

Unspeakable Joy!

‘Cause they did not give it, and cannot take it away!

JOY!

Unspeakable Joy!

In my heart and I can’t let them steal my
JOY!

 

 

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Holiday eating strategies from StrongRabbit