It’s official. Thanksgiving is just over a week away. Holiday parties, feasts and festivities are about to consume our lives. To even the most dedicated health nerds, the holidays can be an overwhelming battle. It is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, gathering with friends and family but so often we are left feeling sluggish and tired because of our not so healthy food choices.While I am a huge believer that food is meant to be enjoyed, it is the very essence of life and not something to fear. It is also important to note that feeding your body well (what it needs, when it needs it) is a key to staying slim and trim this holiday and making it one you won’t soon forget. Say good-bye to belly bulge, aches, pains and bloating. Choose to feed your body life-giving, nourishing nutrients to help you feel full of energy and eager for all that this Holiday season has to offer. Here are five tips to a healthy and happy holiday to keep your habits and lifestyle patterns in check yet still enjoy every minute of it.
1. Pick your battles
Everywhere we turn from the grocery store, to holiday gatherings and even restaurants are loaded with foods you only see “one time a year.” It is easy to be like the kid in the candy store and want every.single.thing. But we must prioritize what is worth the splurge, and what simply isn’t. First you need to define your food values. What you believe about food, the power it has on your body and your ultimate goal in health. Next you need to make a plan. Decide what foods are “safe” for you to eat as much as you like, those that you will fill up on and then those few splurge items that you simply can’t live without. This does require a small amount of planning. Deciding ahead of time what you choose to fill your body with, making that commitment and sticking to it is easier than trying to decide as your grandmothers famous pumpkin pie is staring you right in your face. Deciding what battles you choose to fight and what ones aren’t worth it will save you a lot of grief and hopefully save you from a tummy ache or two.
2. Keep focused on your daily routine
Our bodies crave consistency. They crave roughly the same amount of food at roughly the same time each day. Inconsistency throws our body through a loop and it doesn’t know when to enter “survival” mode verses just letting it run on cruise control. Make a list of your daily things you know you need to do for optimal health, such as eating breakfast, walking 10,000 steps a day or filling your plate with mostly veggies. Know your routine and try to stick with it as much as possible, even while traveling. Trying to keep your body as consistent as possible will help it from running in high-gear, which leads to quick empty gas can and can ultimately hurt the central motor. Know your routine and stick with it as much as possible.
3. Remember the reason for the season
Food, it tends to be the foundation of every holiday gathering, party and festivity. While that is enticing and we need to eat, we just need to be careful as the never ending buffet line can also make our waist line never ending. Eat, be well fed, but don’t be overfed. Be cautious of your hunger cues. Knowing when to eat and more importantly when to stop is a key going into this holiday. Stay focused on the reason for the season, the reason for the gathering and the many friends and family who fill those times as opposed to the focus on the buffet line or bar.
4. Bring a safe dish
Having a plan and not feeling deprived are going to keep you happy. After picking your battles and deciding what foods are worth the splurge and which ones aren’t, go back through and try to “healthify” a dish or find a delicious alternative that is fair game and falls within your food values. That way you always have something to fill up on, you like it and it prevents those deprivation feelings from creeping in which end up leading to a binge. Do some research now, try a few experiments and then make it and take it. Who knows, it could become the new family favorite.
5. Catch the curve ball
Nothing ever goes as planned, nothing. Life is crazy, things come up, nothing is ever perfect. Stop expecting perfection and know that just making one small change a day, every day for the rest of your life is more important than one big change once a year. If you mess up, don’t throw in the towel, keep fighting, keep pushing and most importantly keep enjoying life. When that curve ball comes your way, you get a holiday gathering just in time to realize that there is absolutely nothing you can eat within your “food values,” don’t fret, make a choice, live-a-little and just get back on track the next meal. One or two “mistakes” this holiday season isn’t going to make or break you. Throwing in the towel will.