By Michael Raynor, MS, RD, LDN
For people with health and fitness goals, the time of year (with a string of holidays in a row) can feel like a minefield of temptation and events pulling us off track. The great news is, it doesn’t have to be a stressful time of year that derails you from reaching your health and fitness goals! With these 5 simple strategies, you can enjoy the holidays AND stay on track with your goals. I always like to remind clients about the “big picture.” So, it’s important to remember that these holidays only come around once a year. If your celebrations are contained to just a couple of days or even just a couple of meals, it’s unlikely that you’ll undo progress in that short of a period, so maybe it’s best to not stress about it and enjoy the food and the time with loved ones.
Pick 2-3 of the basics to focus on. The holiday season can be stressful, with lots of events, travel, and disruptions to your normal routine. With so much going on, I find it helpful to pick just a few of the basics and be very deliberate with them. For example, focus on getting enough water every day, getting enough sleep (7-9 hours per night for most adults), and getting 10,000 steps per day (or substitute some other movement goal, like 30 minutes of deliberate movement each day).
Find non-food ways to celebrate. The holiday season doesn’t HAVE to be focused on food events. Find some non-food ways to celebrate holidays. Maybe it’s getting the whole family to sign up for a Thanksgiving morning “Turkey Trot”, or maybe it’s watching a movie or playing games to move the family time away from the table. Don’t be afraid to suggest or try new things (all family traditions started somewhere)!
Don’t skip meals or snacks. This one is so counterintuitive for so many of my clients. Most people think that on food-focused holidays they should skip meals or snacks to “save their calories” for these enormous meals where there’s a tendency to overeat. However, what I see is that when you skip meals and snacks, you get to these big meals and you’re starving, which drastically increases the chance that you’ll overeat. Instead, if you’re making sure you have a meal or snack every 3-4 hours, you’re appropriately hungry at these meal times and much less likely to overindulge and be miserably full.
Choose your battles. Is there a holiday dish or dessert you crave all year long? Indulge and have that dish. Instead, maybe reduce the number of drinks you have or go with fewer or smaller portions of the other desserts as a trade-off. If there are only a couple of dishes that you really love and would be sad about not having, embrace those, and exercise more moderation with the other foods and drinks that you’re not so attached to. This is a great opportunity to practice the skills of moderation that will carry you through the rest of the year.
Cut yourself some slack. The holidays, collectively, make up only a few days per year, so you will not derail your health and fitness progress with just a few days. If the holiday didn’t go exactly as planned, it’s okay! Enjoy the days and time with family, and get back on track the next day. The only way the holidays can derail your progress is if you let one “bad day” turn into weeks of not working toward your goals. Besides, when we get old and wise, I’d doubt that many people’s life regret is having too much to eat on Thanksgiving. I’d bet that the bigger regret is not soaking up the time with loved ones, and instead stressing about the food surrounding holidays.
I hope these tips help you navigate the holiday season!
If you’re struggling to apply these 5 strategies to your life and circumstances, click here to set up a free Get-to-Know-You call with Michael to talk about getting started on your nutrition.