HEALTHY HOLIDAY HABITS
The holidays can be one of the most beautiful and yet infuriating times of year. There are a hundred parties to RSVP to, work generally gets intensely busy, and there always seems to be a few days where you think – how on Earth did I think I could DO all of this? Creating healthy holiday habits can be an enormous task, and one that just doesn’t seem to be worth doing but… let me ask you this: How would you feel going into the new year with a sense of focus and strength? How would you feel making your New Year’s Resolutions and wondering…hmm… I’m actually already on track? Let me tell you – it’s worth skipping a few shortbread cookies for.
Here is a short list of 3 habits that can help you turn your holidays from a source of anxiety to a source of fulfillment. It really isn’t that scary or hard, and guess what? You can still eat those special treats you’ve been looking forward to all year. This isn’t about withholding or denying yourself – this is about re-evaluating what is important to you – which is very much keeping in theme with this time of year isn’t it?
So let’s get started:
1. Identify Your “Soft Spots” and Plan Accordingly.
Food is such an integral part of our society – it brings people together, it varies from family to family and country to country in a way that makes each and every home unique, and let’s face it – we all have to eat. Childhood has a way of creating this beautiful shine around memories that as an adult, can cause plenty of problems for us in the reminiscing-on-family-food-favourites department. Sure, eating a plate full of sugar cookies after dinner with your cousins seems fantastic in retrospect, performing the same feat as an adult can result in very different consequences.
It’s important to recognize which parts of the holiday menu you’re REALLY looking forward to. Is there a side dish that you look forward to, literally, all year long? Is there a special dessert that grandma makes but only ONCE A YEAR? Make yourself a mental (or physical if that works for you!) list of items that really REALLY mean something to you. When you eat them, you experience more than just the food, you experience your family, the love of a family one who has passed on, or a favourite moment. THOSE are the foods that absolutely 100% deserve a spot on your plate.
But here’s the kicker…
If you’re going to indulge in your favourites…is there really a good reason to indulge in all the rest? Are you the type of person who has a bit of a sugar addiction and uses the holidays as an excuse to eat a sample of almost EVERYTHING on the baked goods table? When we say “Have at ‘er! It’s the holidays!” we subconsciously tell ourselves that by being smart about our healthy food choices the rest of the year, we are in fact, withholding from ourselves. This can be a very dangerous train of thought!
Instead of reaching for every sugary treat on the table, save space for healthy, vibrant and DELICIOUS seasonal foods, and those special foods that really make you feel something. Your body can handle a little bit of extra sugar, salt & not-so-nutritious additives – the feeling of love, family and closeness is something to cherish. Don’t let yourself stress too much about the small stuff, just try to plan smart and stick to your absolute must-haves.
2. Eat Well Before You Go Out.
Filling up on nutritious and wholesome food, and staying HYDRATED can be an absolute game-changer when it comes to overeating at parties/gatherings. Try to make sure that you have a colourful breakfast and lunch with plenty of protein, and if possible, leafy greens! Eating a salad before going out can help make you feel full, as well as give you a huge boost of vitamins and minerals that will help you the next day if you happen to overindulge in sweets or a few too many alcoholic drinks.
If you approach a table full of sweets while you’re hungry, it can be nearly IMPOSSIBLE to resist. Even those of us with the strongest of self-control skills can have one hell of a time staying away from that – and there’s an important reason why. Your brain absolutely NEEDS glucose, and if your body starts feeling hungry and getting a little low on it, you will go into hunt mode. I think we all know that feeling, like coming out of a trance after your third plate of Mom’s chocolate cookies.
New Year’s Eve can be a marathon of different parties so if you’re heading out to family’s then Friend #1 then Friend #2 etc., make sure to bring along a protein-rich homemade granola bar or some trail mix for the road. If you’re attending a potluck – be that person who brings a giant salad! (To check out my favourite Strawberry & Goat Cheese Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette click here.) Or if you’re dairy-free, try bringing along a shockingly delicious vegan spinach dip and watch everyone become very confused when they find out it’s missing their beloved cheese! 😉
3. Day-After Pick-Me-Ups
There are properties about food that go beyond taste, texture, nutrient profiles etc, that speak of the energetic nature of foods. This is a large component of the theory behind macrobiotics, where foods are described as warming/cooling, expansive/contractive, all in a perfect balance, like a pendulum.
Unfortunately, when we spend a lot of time out socializing around the holidays, we end up overindulging in a lot of very expansive foods: alcohol, sugar and coffee are all believed to create feelings of hyperactivity, confusion, spaciness and poor concentration. These feelings can last for some time after the foods themselves have been consumed, but there are some ways to bring that pendulum back over to the contractive side a bit. On the extreme end, contractive foods can create feelings of passivity, rigidity, arrogance and narrow-mindedness, so we certainly don’t want to overdo it in that direction either. These theories are a fun and simple way once you get the hang of it to try to reverse feelings on either end of the spectrum. Some of these foods include: miso, eggs and whole grains.
These foods also are conveniently full of B-Vitamins, which can be depleted when excess sugar and alcohol are consumed. Hurrah!
Remember, the holidays shouldn’t be about guilt, shaming yourself, or denying yourself “everything”. A few extra sweets or cheese pies won’t kill you, and if you do decide to indulge, ENJOY it! Put plans in place beforehand to minimize the chances of overdoing it, and putting yourself in a position where you feel ill or even just kinda crappy the next day.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & Happy New Year to you and yours!!