Ultimate Healthy Holiday Guide
Woohoo! It’s TurkeyDay Week! Immediately, you are picturing a table loaded with all the goods - a big turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, crescent rolls, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie - the works. It’s exciting, and you get to hang with your family!
Sounds great, right? Well, for some, the holidays can bring a lot of stress in terms of food and fitness. In fact, I did a little poll on Instagram and 79 percent of you said that you feel some stress around the holidays relating to food or fitness. It was actually evenly spilt with 50 percent saying the stress comes from food and 50 percent saying it comes from fitness. When asked why that causes you stress, 43 percent said because it was a change of routine and 57 percent said because there are too many temptations. 20 percent reported that not having time to workout caused stress. As you can see, there’s a lot of us who feel the same way about the holidays, and there’s a lot of factors causing us this stress. That’s could by why 100 percent voted yes to receiving this guide.
In this guide, I try to identify each stressor and provide realistic and helpful tips to alleviate some stress and let you enjoy the holidays. Let’s get into it, shall we?
It seems that too many temptations is a major point of stress for people. It’s understandable - you go from having a healthy routine to having five pies on the table. It can be overwhelming, lead to overeating and turkey/pie guilt the next morning.
My first tip in terms of food is to not restrict yourself. This is the time of year to let go of control a bit and just enjoy the delicious food we have on our tables. Instead, I suggest portion control. Is mac and cheese a big temptation for you? Don’t restrict yourself, but just do one or two spoonfuls instead of half the plate. A trick I use is to only use the inner circle of a plate, rather than the entire thing. I take 1-2 spoonfuls of each dish I want until it fills the inner circle. I enjoy that plate with no regrets and only go back for seconds if I am still truly hungry. If I do get seconds, I’ll get an even smaller spoonful the second time. That way I’m not restricting myself, I can enjoy all the delicious food, but I don’t have to feel guilty about overeating because I’m fueling my body responsibly.
If you are really on track with your health/fitness goals and don’t want to indulge yourself or have a particular diet, try making your own meal you know you can eat and sharing it with your family. Are you one of a few vegans in your family? Whip up a vegan salad or jackfruit pulled “pork” to share. Gluten-free? Create a homemade gluten-free pumpkin pie treat to impress your family members. If you know you are not able to eat what is most likely being served, make sure you are taking care of your needs and having something you can eat and enjoy ready to go.
Tying into this, if you are stressed due to judgement of family members or misconceptions of your diet, use this as an opportunity to explain your choices with your family. Share with your grandma why you are vegan and how delicious your plant-based meal is. Tell your cousins why you are practicing a paleo lifestyle. Whatever it is, use this as a way to connect, educate and converse with your family members.
With that, if anyone tries to get you to eat a particular food item, you can say no. You do not have the eat everything at the meal, especially if it is against your eating plan.
Finally, if food really stresses you out I recommend eating holiday meals earlier in the day. Instead of waiting for 6 or 7 p.m., ask your family to have dinner at 3 or 4 p.m. That way you can stress less about what to eat for breakfast/lunch (since it will be so close together and you can handle fasting a bit), and your body has more time to digest your meal before going to bed. You also have more time to spend with your family or time to go for a family walk after dinner since you’ll be done before the sun goes down.
Bonus: desserts. Probably what you are all thinking about right now. Remember, don’t restrict yourself, eat in moderation and trust your gut. Do you really want pumpkin pie? Trust that feeling, eat the pie, and trust yourself that it will not derail your goals. Don’t want pie? Trust that feeling and let yourself enjoy the moment.
The most common stressor in terms of fitness was not having enough time. My tip for this is pretty simple, but not always easy: make time. I get it - one of the best parts of the holiday break is sleeping in, but if working out is important to you, wake up 30 minutes earlier, do a quick at home workout and then go about your day. Working out does not have to happen in the gym for an hour - get a quick 15-30 minute at-home workout and go. I have a few up for you here, there’s a ton on YouTube, or you can find several on Facebook, for example, Kayla Itsines posts several quick workouts on her Facebook page.
During the holidays, you may not be thinking about working out or you may not even have time to do a quick 15 minute workout. That’s okay. Start paying attention to the little things you are doing that move your body. Are you walking up and down the stairs throughout the day? Count that. Are you picking up your baby cousin and throwing them in the air a few times (hello, medicine ball throws anyone?)? Maybe you’re dancing with your siblings? I’m sure throughout the day you are moving your body more than you realize. Notice those moments, give yourself a break and count that as your workout. Those little movements can add up!
You can also make it a family affair. Suggest a little walk after dinner, a game of WII Sports or a push up challenge with your brother. Getting the whole family into the workout can make it more fun for everyone and give you a chance to spend time with family while also hitting your goals.
Stressor: Change of Routine
I am queen of the routine. I live by it, especially in terms of food and fitness. If you’re like me, a holiday can be a big shock to your system. Hopefully the above tips will help you feel a little better on maintaining your routine in some aspects during the holidays. It may also help you to journal or track what you can in a fitness app. This may give you a little more sense of control.
What also helps is to keep a routine every other day that you can. For instance, keep your same routine and eat your same meals every day of your break, except Thanksgiving day. That way its only one day and not 3-4 days or more. Remember to not let one day get to you. If you’ve been working hard on fitness goals all year, don’t let one day ruin all of it. In this I mean, don’t say f*** it after Thanksgiving and just say I’ll start in the New Year. Give yourself that one day and then get back to your goals. One day is not going to mess everything up - it’s what you do the next day that will determine it.
My most important tip is to give yourself permission. Give yourself permission to break your routine, to skip the gym, to eat that slice of pie. Give yourself permission to live life.
Stressor: Eating Disorder Thoughts
“The holidays are about more than food.”
My ED thoughts always creep back strong during the holidays. It makes sense - change of routine, lack of control, family pressure, etc. But your ED does not control you, and you can enjoy this holiday. Let me repeat - you are allowed to enjoy this holiday.
First things first, remember that the holidays are not just about food. Many people focus on it, but you know that it is much more than that. It’s a holiday season for giving thanks. Focus on that. Focus on your family, focus on how far you have come, focus on all you are grateful. Forget the food - it is still Thanksgiving with or without a turkey.
With that said, we all know that’s easier said than done. Food is a part of the holidays. If you are eating with family members, I recommend having a buddy. This is someone who knows what’s going on, someone who can help build your plate, sit with you while you eat and be there for you if you have any freak outs. They are your life line.
Don’t step on a scale. Just don’t do it. It’s not worth it, it’s not necessary and it’s just setting you up for a downward spiral.
Turn to your coping methods. This is different for everyone but whatever works for you, do that. Take yourself out of the situation if you need, go to a private room and do what you need - meditation, yoga, dance, art, etc. whatever will calm you down and feel more in control.
Bonus: Tips for Family Members of Someone with ED
It’s just as hard on you as it is on them this time of year. You’re trying to be supportive, you’re hoping to help, but you have no idea what to say or do. I came across this amazing article that really highlights the main points to keep in mind, read here.
Tom summarize my favorite points, remember this holiday is more than food. Don’t focus on it, especially when talking to them. Stay away from some of the common phrases like “diet starts tomorrow",” “I feel so fat after this meal,” “going to have to run this off,” any mention of diets, calories, etc. Those phrases confirms the ED thoughts for that person and can encourage negative behavior.
Don’t focus on what they have on their plate. They need to feel safe eating. Don’t comment on what they did or didn’t get on their plate and don’t watch them eat.
Hide bathroom scales, tape measures, diet pills, etc. anything that can be too tempting for someone with an ED - especially if they are undergoing recovery currently.
Lastly, understand that the holiday is difficult for them. Don’t push them to talk about it, just give them space to come to terms with everything on their own. Love them, talk to them, and allow them to take the holiday at their own pace. It will mean more than you can every know.
In conclusion, the holiday season is more than holiday meals, delicious treats and lots of champagne. You can still meet your goals while also letting yourself live. Focus on self care and feeding your soul - talk to your family, spend time with your parents, enjoy a little break, and just have fun. Hopefully these tips help you.
Have a healthy + happy holiday season!