Your Holiday Thriving Guide
The holidays are a mix of blessings and challenges for anyone pursuing optimal health. You get to see family and friends. You probably have some time off. You get to give and receive gifts. It really is a time of great cheer, but with those blessing comes lots and lots of temptations. It’s all-too easy to skip a few workouts and to binge on sweets and drinks as you bounce from gathering to gathering.
You can enjoy time with loved ones without sacrificing your Habits of Health. These challenges are surmountable, and you can enter the new year with momentum and the confidence of knowing that you are fully capable of making healthy choices.
The key is to enter the holidays with a plan and with techniques for coping with what might be a tough moment for you. This is not a pep-talk where you have to convince yourself that you have some deep well of discipline or that you have to transform into some sort of super hero. No, this is not about self-belief, which you can learn more about in my new book.
The holidays come down to a series of choices. With the right preparation, you can take them one at a time and come out the other side with stronger Habits of Health.
Here’s what you should do:
- Brush up on Stop. Challenge. Choose. I have an entire e-book dedicated to this technique (and it’s free), but here’s the short version: When you recognize an impulse or a temptation, stop yourself, take a deep breath, and challenge yourself to choose the healthy option. That initial pause before you choose is important because it helps to distance yourself from what is likely a long-established habit in your life, turning your choice from unconscious to conscious.
- Think ahead. The good news about holiday temptations is that they are predictable. You probably know exactly what grandma is baking this year because it’s the same every year, and you probably have a good idea of what the office Christmas party will be like. Mentally walk yourself through the choices you will have to make and identify the healthy choice in each scenario. What will you do if someone offers you a drink? What will you do when the plate of cookies come out? Make the choices now!
- Use the buddy system. Chances are that you have a friend or loved one joining you for holiday gatherings. Talk to someone you trust and who can hold you accountable to your goals. Tell him or her about how you want to keep your Habits of Health during the holidays, and that you could use their support and their encouragement as you go out together. Having that extra help nearby will make you more aware of your choices and make the healthy choices easier.
- Eat healthy beforehand. If you eat a healthy meal or some healthy snacks before you venture out to a holiday party, you can stop many of your cravings before they even begin. If you skip meals and enter a holiday setting hungry, your challenges might become more difficult. While you’re at a party, keep drinking water to help satiate your appetite while you’re there.
- Reach out to relatives. Grandma means well when she insists that having a few cookies won’t hurt your health goals. If you have people in your life that will behave this way, give them a call before the gatherings to explain why you are creating health in your life. You can talk about how you are preventing disease, how you are trying to do the right thing for your children, and so on.
- Indulge in moderation. One cookie or one drink won’t destroy your health. In fact, sometimes having a small amount of junk food and eating it slowly to savor the flavors is okay. The caveat here (the really BIG caveat) is that for many of us sugar is an actual addiction. One taste can send us into a spiral of binge-eating, and this is why thinking ahead when you are in a rational place is so important. If you are one of these people, avoid sweets altogether.
In the grand scheme of life, the holidays aren’t about food and drink. We might place an emphasis on those things in are consumer-driven world, but really the holidays are about the people we love, the same people that likely drive you to be healthier and more active because you want to have as much time with them as possible. Focus on the conversations with family members. Play some board games with your nieces and nephews. Those are the things that you work so hard for.