I love Christmas. Or I don’t. It depends on how much sleep I have had, how whiney my kids are and if the line for Santa is really long or not.
Let’s face it, Christmas can be awesome! But it can also be the most stressful, irritating and chaotic time of year. It’s an easy time of year for us to dismiss the healthy eating, forget our meal plans and eat what is convenient and will satisfy our cravings.
This is the time of year I have the most excuses for eating poorly. My greatest excuse is – it’s OK, I start prep (preparation for my fitness competition) in February, so I can eat bad now. You may have a similar excuse that goes like this – it’s OK, my new year’s resolution is to eat better and lose weight, I can eat healthier in January.
The excuses sound good in our head, and there is some logic to the argument. But they are still poor excuses. If we truly want to reclaim our health and be our best selves then we need to ditch the excuses, believe we have choices and that we can do better, and not blow out at Christmas.
To help you this season I want to share with you my 5 success strategies for surviving the Christmas season while sticking to your health goals.
Success Strategy #1 – Give to Yourself
Ok, that may sound weird for a dieting strategy, but hear me out.
During the Christmas season we are giving, giving, giving. We give gifts to our family, friends, our pets, the mail man, the teacher, the school bus driver, the old guy down the street that you don’t really know but you think has no family. We give to everyone. But we forget to give to ourselves.
Give yourself the gift of trust, purpose and time.
Trust – You have made positive changes in the past year. Maybe you are cooking more healthy food, maybe you eat less McDonalds. Trust that you have learned the lessons and that you know how to eat healthy, even in busy stressful times. Trust that you have the power to make the right decisions, and trust that you will accept yourself with love and gratitude even in the moments when you choose to deviate from your healthy eating.
Purpose – You started your health journey with a purpose. Whether it was simply to lose weight, or if it was to set a better example for your kids, or if it was to get healthier, whatever it was, you had a reason to commit to healthy eating. Keep that purpose in mind this holiday season. Before going to an event, or before entering the food court, remind yourself why you want to eat healthier, what it would mean to you to eat healthier, and why making healthier food choices will serve you.
Time – Give yourself the space and time to change. Your old habits and patterns may still be with you, even if you haven’t seen them for a while. Allow yourself the time to create new habits. During the Christmas season, if you find old habits or behaviors coming back, recognize them and give yourself grace and understanding. You will not be perfect this season, but you have not lost your new habits, you just need time to reaffirm them.
Success Strategy #2 – Keep Healthy Food in Your Purse
My meal planning falls way off during the holiday season. I am so busy, and so focused on organizing Christmas I literally forget to eat. And when I finally do remember to eat I am starving!
When I am starving I make bad choices. I grab whatever is closest or most easily available, regardless of what that food is. And I am probably irritable and cranky as well (Hangry as my husband so delicately puts it), so the likelihood that I am going to grab a sweet treat is very high.
When I am simply hungry I make better choices.
By keeping healthy snacks, an apple or Laurel Bar, in my purse I am able to move from the frantic starving and hangry phase to the merely hungry phase, and I then have the presence of mind to seek out healthier food.
This strategy, of keeping healthy food in my purse, has helped me make better choices many times this past month. And it has also helped me make better choices for my kids. When they whine that they are hungry I am able to give them a healthy snack quickly.
Success Strategy #3 – Plan to Eat Healthier Food Court Meals
Let’s be honest, bringing a whole bunch of packed meals with you to the mall for a day of shopping is not likely to happen. You are more likely to grab some quick and easy food at the mall. That’s OK, but before you leave for the mall make the commitment to choose better.
And you have to make this commitment before you leave, because once you are at the mall stress levels go up, chaos ensues, and we are in survival mode. Any thoughts of eating healthy are suppressed by our need to just survive.
Healthy fast food is a thing now, and vendors that focus on salads, wraps and hearty soups are not just a trend or fad. It’s pretty easy to choose healthier food at the food court. There are no excuses!
To choose the right vendor or food at the food court focus on fresh, sauteed or steamed vegetables. The more vegetables on the menu the better. By focusing on vegetables you will be able to easily identify which food vendors offer the healthiest food, and you will make a more healthier food choice allowing you to stay committed to your meal plan and health goals.
Success Strategy #4 – Focus on Vegetables
Focusing on the vegetables doesn’t just help you choose better food while you are shopping, it helps at christmas parties, work parties and family functions.
It helps to focus on the vegetables for two reasons – the first is that dishes made of primarily vegetables are often the lowest in sugar (do not count that sweet potato dish with brown sugar and marshmallows as a vegetable. Starches are not vegetables). The second is that vegetables are full of fibre, which can help you feel full, slows absorption so you don’t get a sugar spike, and aides in digestion.
Vegetables are you number one tool in sticking to your meal plan, diet and health journey during the holiday season.
Success Strategy #5 – Drink More Water
There are numerous reasons why drinking more water helps weight loss, and helps us stick to our diet. But the biggest ones are thatwater has zero calories and helps us reduce stress.
The greatest source of holiday weight gain is seasonal drinks and alcohol – hot chocolate, mulled wine, coffee with Baileys, holiday cocktails – all of the sugary, sweet drinks add up. You may be tripling your daily calories with holiday drinks!
Water has no sugar and no calories. Plus it has the added benefit of helping us feel full. Before you consume those delicious holiday drinks have a glass of water. And continue to drink a glass between each festive drink.
Water also helps us feel more energized and helps keep cortisol levels lower so we feel less stressed (1). This allows us to make better choices, and reduces the need for an alcoholic beverage to help us to “relax”.
We don’t have to let the Christmas season totally take us off track. We can continue to eat healthy and make better choices through the season with a few simple strategies in hand.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!