For many, the time between Thanksgiving and New Years is lost in the blur of binging on turkey, ham, pie, cookies and their favorite drinks. It is very easy to just ‘give up’ on our healthy habits at this time of year – but instead my thought is that it is more important than ever to ‘pick your battles’.
Here are some thoughts!
1. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
This supercedes everything I am about to say, but guess what: the holiday season is so loaded with stress already that if fitting in a workout is a huge stressor – skip it! Don’t stress over having that second cookie when you only planned to have one.
Find out that you bought one item more for one kid than the other? Couldn’t find the perfect stocking stuffer for your spouse? Someone visiting is allergic to one of your key ingredients in your dinner plans? Guess what? NONE of that stuff matters in the long run! The most important thing is to enjoy yourself, to enjoy time with loved ones, to focus on others if you are traveling or have visitors, and not to leave yourself stressed, frazzled, sick or bankrupt as a result!
The other side of it is expectations – be sure to discuss these openly, and then stick to them! If someone says it is OK to stick to a $10 gift swap budget, yet buys you a $50 gift and seems annoyed with your $10 gift … don’t let yourself take on the stress!
Again, pick your battles! Maximize happiness and fun, minimize stress and anxiety. Last year we didn’t eat at the formal dining room table, and didn’t really get dressed up for Christmas dinner. For some that would remove stress, for others it would ADD stress – choose what works for you!
2. Don’t Leave Your Exercise Routine Behind
During the holidays time seems to compress – you are exhausted from all of the craziness, making it harder to get restful sleep. That makes it harder to get up and going in the morning, which then causes more of a time crunch during the day as you try to squeeze more in, then it repeats again … leaving little time to think about exercise.
Don’t let it happen – there are a few reasons to keep up at least some form of exercise on a regular basis. First, there is the basic benefit of exercise itself: cardiovascular and muscular health. Next, you get the enhanced caloric burn … good for all of the added great food to sample! Finally, I personally get tremendous mental stress relief from exercise. When I am crabby, my family asks ‘have you gone for your run’?
3. Remember … THIS is One Serving
Last year The Greatist did a series of ‘This is one serving’ articles for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Super Bowl. They posted pictures of one serving of food next to items of the same physical size to put it into context.
Consider that THIS is what you should have had on your plate for turkey at Thanksgiving (or Christmas if you have turkey then):
Depressing, eh? I think that some years I have eaten forkfuls of turkey larger than that!
4. Substitute For Healthier Choices
Carrots and celery are a great snack, right? Sure … until you grab a tablespoon of that great full-fat chunky blue cheese dressing with each piece! Suddenly you have converted something healthy into a carrier for a full day of fat and calories across a half-dozen pieces of carrots and celery! There are plenty of options for healthier dips – you can make hummus quickly in the food processor, or check out other options here.
Also, look to substitute where you can. Add yogurt or applesauce to baking items, spray oil rather than loading up with liquid oil, I even did one where you substitute ground flax seed in water for an egg! Here is a list of 83 healthy substitutions.
5. Eliminate Grazing and Mindless Snacking
I already talked about ‘mindless eating’ compared to ‘intentional eating’, and at the holidays it gets even harder. Many people have work parties, events with friends and family in the weeks before Christmas, and then on Christmas eve, Christmas day and New Year’s Eve there are loads of times when we will find ourselves standing around a table with any number of snacks to sample.
It is once again about picking your battles – I love cheese and crackers with wine, cookies, nachos, fruit and veggies and so on. The best method to keep things under control is to drink plenty of water – the body can’t distinguish between thirst and hunger, so if you are actually thirsty but standing around a food table … chances are you’ll eat moer than you would otherwise! So drink water, and eat some raw fruit and vegetables (without dip). At that point you will be partly full and can make better choices.
Bonus. Be Careful with Alcohol!
The other morning the boys had a 2-hour delay due to snow, and we were watching the weather report when Today came on – and one of the items was about a simulated office party they conducted with help from the local police to determine how drunk people FELT compared to how they actually WERE.
Most of us have a ‘number’ – I can have two drinks with dinner and be fine to drive, or whatever. What this segment showed was that in the social situations of a holiday event, we can underestimate how much we consume and also how we are feeling. The people took breathalyzer tests and were asked about how they felt. One guy who seemed ‘fine’ in normal discussions failed the straight line walk and blew a 0.13 … and said it was a wake-up call because he absolutely would have driven!
Earlier this year I was on a trip and at dinner they kept topping off the wine, which very quickly made it hard for me to know how much I had drank. So I stopped until I knew how I felt (I wasn’t driving anyway, but had no desire to end up drunk). I decided that was about the most dangerous way to drink!
So … I hope everyone has a great time between now and the New Year, a time filled with family, friends, and happiness. Keep all of these things in mind, and also think about how much you are enjoying (or not) this holiday season … and what you can do differently next year to enjoy it more. Remember there are no right or wrong answers, just how we choose to celebrate!