Approaching the Holiday Season: Enjoy yourself and keep your health in check
Once again, the holiday season is here. For most people, this is a very special time of year. It is a time to reflect, to look back, to celebrate, and to come together with friends and family. And when people gather to celebrate their love and appreciation for each other, you can bet that food will be the centerpiece of that celebration. Of course, you are probably thinking to yourself “Oh great, the health coach is going to tell me that I should watch what I eat during the holiday season or what foods to avoid”. Though I could write an extensive article on all the sugar, food dyes, and processed fat that people consume through the holidays and how that affects their health. Doing that would then make these foods seem more like the forbidden fruit, and we all know how hard it is for us to resist that! So instead, I am going to give a few tips and things to remember when approaching the holiday season to make sure you can enjoy yourself fully and keep your health in check
Tip #1 Prioritize your sleep.
The holiday season is a busy time of year and many of us will have our daily routines disrupted more than normal. You might find yourself busy with shopping, party planning, and spending time with extended family. All of which is great, but the added events and time with family will mean that you will not have time for your routine of prepping a whole food dinner, exercising, or finding that quiet time to mentally recharge from the day. It can be easy to just “give up” and wait until January before you get back into your healthy routine but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Look at your health as a whole and figure out what you can do to stay somewhat on track. My suggestion would be that you maintain a good sleep schedule. Remember that sleep is how we recover and repair our mind and body. You are more likely to overeat, become emotionally exhausted, or make poor health-related decisions when you aren’t getting enough sleep. Not to mention your immune function is compromised when you aren’t getting enough sleep which could make you a prime candidate for catching your cousin eddy’s cold. Prioritizing sleep will give you a clearer mind, improved focus, and decision-making through the holiday season.
Tip #2 Emotional eating works both ways.
We have all heard a friend or a family member say something like “I’m an emotional eater” or “I eat when I am stressed”. Well hate to break it to you, but everyone is an emotional eater whether you think you are or not. However emotional eating doesn’t always have to be about coping with low energy emotions or stress. Emotional eating can be about eating because you are happy, joyful, or filled with cheer. As humans, we often think more is better. So, when we get together with friends and family to celebrate, and we start to feel those elevated emotions of love, acceptance, and joy we naturally gravitate to wanting more of them. Here is where food and spirits come into play. We know that sugar, salt, fat, and alcohol can lift our spirits and improve our mood (even if it is only short-lived) so when we start to feel good at a holiday party it is only natural that we turn to these things to elevate our mood even further. We may find ourselves overindulging because we are feeling so good and at that moment, there are no worries, no cares, and no such thing as bad food. My suggestion to you would be to simply embrace the fact that this will happen and to have an awareness when it does. The awareness isn’t to pull you out of the moment, so you don’t enjoy yourself, but to help you keep from overindulging to a point where it affects your mind and body over the next several days. Part of the holiday lows that people feel come January is because your body is recovering from the overindulgence of the holidays. So have fun, get jolly, but be aware and respect that your mind can and will push you to overindulge which can have a negative impact on your body and your mind post-holiday season
Tip #3 Don’t fight fire with fire
There are about a hundred different tips and tricks I could give in relation to your health, and the holiday season. The fact of the matter though is that there are going to be days where you get off track. In fact, there may be a few days where you don’t just get off track, but the train gets totally derailed. When this happens, it can be really tempting to fight these extreme days of eating with extreme days of exercise or dieting. This is especially tempting given that New Year’s is often right around the corner. Remember though extreme activity is going to take extreme motivation and if we are in a heightened state of emotion from the holidays, we might not have enough in the tank to give that exercise routine or diet the energy that it needs, which leads to frustration and possibly giving up on the idea completely. Or we are extremely motivated, and we start a routine or diet that can’t possibly be managed long term which also then leads to frustration. Instead of meeting these extreme days of eating with force, try to flow with them instead. Fight fire with water; take your time to assess what needs to be put out first and work from there. Remember two weeks of small consistent effort will get you much further than 2 days of extreme dieting and exercising. So, enjoy yourself, set realistic expectations, and take your time. Remember this “fire” isn’t an emergency but a metaphor. You control how hot it burns and for how long.