Is it just me, or does it feel like with every year the holidays come around faster and faster? Not that I’m complaining. The period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love decorating the house with merry and shiny things, cooking and eating holiday specialties (pie, please!), and spending extra time relaxing and catching up with family. What I DON’T love about the holidays is how overwhelming they can be thanks to overloaded schedules, high-stress family interactions, and the guilt that can creep in from being less active and eating more than usual.
Over the next six weeks you’ll be seeing all kinds of articles about burning off your holiday meals through exercise, how many calories are in different foods, how to stay slim and trim through the holidays, etc. I hope that you resist the urge to click on those articles and that you ignore them. You do not need to feel any shame or fear around what you choose to eat, drink, or do during the holiday season. But clients have been asking me if I have any holiday survival tips of my own for this time of year, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite ways to thrive through a difficult season.
Holiday Survival Tip #1: Eat Your Favorite Foods (And Mostly Forget About The Rest)
It’s difficult to think about the holidays without dreaming about our favorite holiday foods. We live in a culture where special events are closely associated with the foods we eat to commemorate those events, and that’s a beautiful thing. Whether it’s grandma’s apple pie or dad’s potato latkes, it’s safe to say you’re looking forward to some of your favorites over the holiday season
What you’re probably not thinking much about are some of the side dishes you don’t care for or the finger foods that sit out all day before the meal (I’m lookin’ at you bowl of mixed nuts!). Whether you’re home for the holidays or out at a party, focus on the foods that you love, and truly savor them without guilt. Eat your favorites slowly instead of in a frenzy so you can taste every bite. And when you’ve satisfied your desire for that food, don’t feel obligated to eat any more of it (even if there’s still some on your plate).
If you’re not really into green bean casserole, you might decide to just not even put it on your plate. If you’re spending time with your family before the meal, avoid mindlessly munching on foods that are out that you don’t actually want. Focus your energy and appetite on the foods that will provide you the most satisfaction and enjoyment.
And if you ignore everything I just suggested, that’s okay, too. You’re allowed to eat simply because you want to or feel like it, and you don’t have to feel any shame over it.
Holiday Survival Tip #2: Drink And Be Merry, But Be Mindful About It
The alcohol floweth during the holidays. It seems like around every corner there’s a glass of wine or champagne, a fancy cocktail, or a beer waiting to be handed to you. While there’s no need to nix the alcohol from your seasonal celebrations if you enjoy it, try not to drink mindlessly.
For women, drinking more than 7 drinks in a week and more than 3 drinks in a day is categorized as heavy drinking and comes with a wide variety of potential negative side effects. Don’t sweat it if you have back-to-back holiday events in one week and you find yourself temporarily in heavy-drinking territory, but don’t show up to every party between Thanksgiving and the new year with drunk guns blazing either.
When drinking at parties and family gatherings, check in with yourself after every drink. You can even try drinking a glass of water between drinks if you think it will be a helpful reminder to slow down and assess (plus, as a bonus, it will help you stay hydrated which can lessen the effects of hangovers). Ask yourself if drinking still feels good and tastes good. Consider how you want to feel the next day and if the amount you’re drinking is in alignment with that vision. How much you drink is completely up to you.
Holiday Survival Tip #3: Find Ways To Keep Moving
While exercise and movement in general will help you stay balanced and energetic during the holidays, don’t take on the mentality that you’re exercising to burn off the calories from the delicious food you’ve been eating. Exercise is never a punishment for what you ate, and you don’t have to do anything to “earn” your stuffing or pie.
Holiday Survival Tip #4: Try Not To Overcommit
And Remember To Carve Out Time For Yourself
As much fun as the holidays can be, they can also be a challenging time. Whether because of stress, the loss of a loved one, the fear and shame associated with highly-visible food situations, or uncomfortable family dynamics, it’s not all silver bells and chestnuts roasting for everyone.
Be mindful of how you spend your time during the holidays. You don’t have to go to every single event that you’re invited to. You’re allowed to stay home to take care of your own needs. Self-care is more important than ever during this time of year.
Ask yourself what would make the holiday season as joyful as possible. What are your favorite activities to do? Who do you actually want to see and spend time with? What will nourish you at the end of the year? Then take the steps to get as much of that unique-to-you goodness in your life as possible.
Remember, You Are Worthy
While I’ve tried to provide practical holiday survival tips for getting through the season, everything I’ve recommended here is merely a suggestion. You know yourself best and you’re the only person who can make decisions about your health and wellness. Regardless of if you take any of my suggestions, know that you are worthy of participation in every joyful aspect of the holidays just by virtue of being alive. Eat whatever you want. Drink whatever you want. Wear whatever amazing holiday outfit you want. You are in the driver’s seat of your life, and you get to choose the steps that will make you feel best this holiday season. And if you need a little extra help, don’t be afraid to reach out.