The holidays can be both a time of cheer and a time of stress for those working on their wellness goals. Within the months ahead, we find ourselves, eyes-wide, staring down buffet tables set with all the traditional foods we find so difficult to resist. We might enter hibernation mode as the weather cools and we gather at the heart of our homes: the kitchen. Among all the hustle and bustle to get our shopping in, our holiday meals prepared, and our parties planned, we shift into auto-pilot, and before we know it, the New Year is upon us.
It can be easy to lose sight of our goals during the Holiday season, but it is possible to find our “degree of on” during the holidays if we get SMART about our goals and expectations. Read on for tips to enjoy the holidays mindfully, while remaining on course with your healthy lifestyle.
Identify one or two specific healthy habits that are easiest to maintain during busier and more stressful times of the year. It could be drinking eight full glasses of water, or completing 10 squats while you brush your teeth. Linking healthy habits to routines you have been completing without much thought is a great way to “piggy-back” on an ingrained neural pathway to reinforce the new habit. Once you’ve identified a healthy habit to pair with a routine behavior, such as brushing your teeth, write it on your calendar for every day between Thanksgiving and the New Year, and cross it off your list each day that you complete it. At the end of the season, you will have more than a month’s worth of small victories under your belt!
It can be extremely difficult to keep track of our food intake throughout the holiday season when grazing is encouraged and the variety of foods available has us crowding our plates with all the delicious options. Set yourself and your guests up for success with portion control by providing measured serving spoons such as two and four-ounce scoops. Use the smaller scoops for more decadent favorites, like macaroni and cheese, and the four ounce scoops to track servings of healthy veggies such as this recipe for Roasted Balsamic Brussel Sprouts.
Instead of setting up rules for what we “shouldn’t” or “won’t” do this holiday season, focus on what you will do. What are some small steps that can be taken to help you stay on track during the holidays? How about signing up for a holiday fun run or walk that the whole family can join in on? Many communities offer charitable events such as Turkey Trots or Jingle Bell 5Ks that give us an opportunity to get out and be active when our default may be to spend most of our time sitting and snacking during the holiday season.
Trash the tendency for perfection and identify a realistic range you’re comfortable operating within during the holiday season. For example, perhaps the calorie range you’ve identified for your goals is somewhere between 1200 and 1600. Allow yourself some wiggle room around the top of that range for the actual holiday, while balancing the rest of your week around the middle of that range. Set realistic expectations with your time and goals. It may be unfeasible to fit in an hour workout on Christmas Day, but a twenty-minute thermal walk after lunch and dinner is more doable. Set yourself up for success by asking yourself, “Can I, and will I actually commit to this goal during the holidays?” If the answer is no, adjust your formula until you find your middle ground.
There may be only three or four major holiDAYS between November and January, however, the festivities tend to extend as we consider the office holiday parties, open houses, neighborhood gatherings, and all the family get-togethers. Honoring just a couple traditions per year will not derail our entire plan for health and fitness; but if we’re not careful, a season full of decadence at the expense of discipline with our healthy habits can leave us feeling like we have to start over when the New Year rolls around. Be proactive in identifying two to three actual days out of the holiday season when you indulge mindfully and without guilt. However, get rid of the leftovers when those days are over.
For more help with working through the challenges of the holidays at home, email Brandi Streeter at firstname.lastname@example.org.