The holiday season is coming on in full force! One of the most magical times of the year, which can also be one of the more stressful times of the year. Between holiday parties, Christmas shopping and wrapping up end of year targets and goals, time seems to be a more precious commodity than ever.
Between feeling too busy to get a home cooked meal in and the ABUNDANCE of food and treats everywhere you turn, it’s easy to prioritize everything else before eating well and slip into the mindset that you might as well just turn a blind eye until the new year. I get it, I’ve been there too!
Now don’t get me wrong, food is one of my favorite parts of the holidays and you better believe I’ll be enjoying that baked brie, my Mom’s famous turtle bars and all the family dinners! BUT it doesn’t have to be all or none! Trying to battle this mentality all month long usually has the opposite effect and leaves you feeling lethargic, uncomfortable and counting down the days until you can “get back on track”.
So, I’ve got another way for you. Balance! I bet you’re not surprised, I talk about this a lot. But that one little word can seem really aloof and intangible so I’m going to show you exactly how to find that balance and ENJOY the holidays, without guilt and without depriving yourself of some of the year’s most eagerly anticipated festivities!
1. Don’t Save Your Calories
Is this the exact opposite of what you were expecting to hear? Wouldn’t skipping a meal or eating salads for lunch give you that extra wiggle room for all of the indulgences to come? In theory, yes, but in real life? You are only setting yourself up to overeat, and likely do it mindlessly, defeating the whole purpose of enjoying.
Physiologically, when we go too long without eating or don’t eat enough, our bodies are programmed to seek out as much energy (calories) as quickly as possible. Cue the uncontrollable cravings for anything white, sugary, baked or fried. When this happens it essentially blocks out your fullness cues and you don’t stand a chance of being able to actually listen to your body.
- Eat your regular meals throughout the day. It’s ok to lighten them up but don’t skip them! If you are going to have a salad, make sure there is some protein and healthy fat in it to prolong the fullness and satiety.
- Have a snack or light dinner before you go to those evening parties. You can still enjoy your favorites once you get there but you’ll be able to do so with much more awareness and mindfulness. Try one of my fave on the go snacks like these Salted Caramel Energy Balls, Baked Chickpeas, or Roasted Beet Hummus.
2. Keep Your Regular Routine Wherever You Can
Although it can feel like the holiday season to-dos and events are all day everyday, they’re not. Keeping your routine where you can will help to minimize stress and prevent that overwhelming reality check when January rolls around.
- Meal Prep Tip: even if you’re out for more meals than usual, don’t skip your weekly meal prep, but adjust for the number of meals you’ll need. Or, if you do have multiple events in one week, you may choose to eat at home first for one or two of them. Maybe have a smaller portion to leave a bit of room for a couple of your favorite treats at the event, but this can help so that you’re not left feeling overdone from holiday eating every night of the week.
- Exercise Tip: If you normally exercise after work, try going in the morning if you have evening events planned. At the beginning of the week, take a look at your calendar and commit to the days you will fit some exercise or activity in. Schedule it in to keep yourself more accountable.
Thirst is often confused for hunger, making those extra goodies lying around even more tempting! And when you’ve had one too many cocktails, that hangover dehydration can make it even worse! So make sure to stay hydrated!
- Keep a water bottle to sip on throughout the day
- Alternate between alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks while at parties.
Seeing as I am dry this holiday season with this little babe growing inside of me, I’ve been finding ways to make non alcoholic drinks more interesting without piling on the sugary syrups and overindulging in eggnogg. Soda water makes a great base for a bublby, festive drink. Add a splash of cranberry juice and a sprig of rosemary or some muddled pomegranates with mint for an extra festive vibe.
4. Add don’t take away
When we’re presented with a family style dinner or buffet style appie spread, it’s tempting to mindlessly choose a bit of everything. Probably a lot of which you don’t really love. The more options and flavors you have on your plate, the more you are likely to eat.
- Scan the spread before piling your plate to see what your options are
- Start by filling half of your plate with veggies. We tend to pile on more of whatever we choose first.You’ll still have room for a couple of your faves but will be guaranteed more balance.
- Next pick something with some protein. Protein helps us to feel full and prevents that low blood sugar frenzy when the desserts come out. Shrimp cocktail, prosciutto wrapped melon, deviled eggs or a couple of slices from the charcuterie board will do.
- Then, pick a couple of your favorite treats. Pick the things you’d still be thinking about when you got home and skip the ones you could take or leave
5. Be mindful
I know that this trendy term is another one that can feel a bit vague, but the goal here is to help you feel empowered to make conscious decisions that feel good to you. It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement and ignore your body and what actually feels good. This often leads to that cycle of guilt, and mentality of “well, I’ve already blown it, might as well wait until Monday, next week, January…” you know the jig.
One of the most powerful cues is to tune into the taste of the food. Generally as you start to fill up, or once you’ve had a few bites of something indulgent, you’ll notice the food doesn’ttaste as good as it did when you started.
This is your body letting you know, ok, that was good and now I’m satisfied. Let it guide you!
If you let yourself tune in, another common cue is your thoughts. They might sound something like “ I don’t even know why I’m eating this” or “ I don’t even feel like this” …… “but I might as well eat it cause I don’t know when I’ll get it again (seasonal treat) or let myself eat it again.
Part of being mindful means enjoying things when you feel like them (not saving them up for special occasions only) and learning to understand the cues when you’re eating for the wrong reasons.
It can often feel a lot more comfortable to ignore your body and your mind but tuning in and giving a listen so that you can make an empowered decision that feels good to you for the right reasons is so much more rewarding!
- Allow yourself to take a break every few bites and ask “Am I still enjoying this?”
- Listen to your thoughts, and remind yourself there will always be another opportunity to eat
- In your everyday, practice giving yourself permission to eat your favorite foods and do som mindfully. Notice how this changes your relationship with that food and takes it off of that undeserving pedestal!