With the start of the holiday season often comes: more social gatherings; lots of distractions related to decorations, gift-buying, finances, and more; increased stress; highly scheduled calendars; lots of food, often in the form of treats; etc. Now, honestly, you’ll find so many health-related sites sharing information about how to healthfully get through the holidays. However, I think you’ll find my perspective slightly different. I hope you’ll take the time to read…
One of the very first things I’d like you to consider are your goals for this holiday season. I’m going to bet that one of the very first things that comes to mind for most of you when asked this question has to do with a number on the scale, a size of clothing, or something similar. Am I right? It’s talked about everywhere and it’s what we’ve been driven to think about. Most of those sites I mentioned above will be sharing tips on how to deal with the onslaught of food during the holidays and how to avoid or minimize weight gain. In all fairness, there IS a trend around the holidays for people to gain weight as they indulge in holiday goodies and wait it out for the New Year to make weight loss resolutions…again. So I get it and I’ll get to my own tips for you in regards to navigating all the treats and sweets as well, but, again, I hope you’ll find my approach refreshingly different…
So, when I asked about your goals, I wanted to know more about how you want to FEEL through the holidays!!! I suspect if you focus on how you want to feel some of the possibilities may be:
So, now I ask of you, what would MAKE YOU FEEL the WAY YOU DESIRE? What are the habits, actions, activities, thoughts, etc. that are going to allow these feelings to fill your holiday season?
Don’t just breeze right past these questions.
Actually sit with pen and paper and do a little journaling on them.
You may be surprised about what comes up.
I actually meant now….yep, take a few minutes now.
If you save this for later, you may not actually do it. I’ll wait….
Now that you have some idea of how you want to feel and what will help you to feel that way, let’s consider some of the reasons you may or may not have been successful with these feelings and actions in the past. What are the potential barriers to your success? Identifying and being prepared for some of these can most certainly help you move through them easier if they arise again. Do you experience these barriers frequently in your life? Consider seeking help to move past them. We all need guidance and support at times. We weren’t meant to figure it all out on our own.
“We all need somebody to lean on.
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand.
We all need somebody to lean on.”
Sorry….I couldn’t resist because it’s true! If you’re ready to break through your barriers, let’s connect! I want to help you!
Okay, don’t forget to also identify the times in which you’ve been successful in creating the feelings you desire and following through on the thoughts, actions, and habits that keep those feelings flowing! This isn’t about recreating a past experience, but it’s about drawing upon a model that has worked for you!
Moving onto another way to consider how you want to feel…
I think so many of us know the great value of our health, especially if you’re a reader here. I also think each one of us desires real happiness, right? So, ask yourself whether the things you will DO to achieve the FEELINGS you desire this holiday season will make you BOTH HAPPY and HEALTHY! I so often find this consideration makes decisions a little easier, especially when feeling tempted by something that may pull us out of the zone we desire to be in.
Let me give you some examples…
Sometimes happiness is, say, drinking a pint of egg nog. Well, it may bring temporary happiness at least, right? But will you look back upon that time with delight? Will it also make you healthy? To both, not likely.
But maybe you also really enjoy eating grandma’s pecan pie. Would having a slice also make you healthy? Maybe not physically (though for most there’s likely no harm in an occasional slice of pie), but there may be argument for how thoughtfully savoring a piece of grandma’s pie with good company could make you BOTH HAPPY and HEALTHY!
You see, there’s much more to the idea of health and happiness, especially when we consider our mental, emotional, and spiritual health as well. This type of connection with a slice of your grandmother’s pie is far different than eating 1/2 the pie, eating it every day for a week until it’s gone, or eating a random store-bought pecan pie. Don’t trick yourself when you consider whether something will make you both happy and healthy– really take the time to be honest with yourself…you’ll be so much happier….and healthier….in the long run. For more resources in this area, you may also check out my post, Intuitive Approach.
One other type of (non-food related) example…
Self-honoring choices are the ones that will keep you in alignment with your desired feelings. (yeah, actually read that again….there’s lots of meaning there). So, you’ve been invited to your 10th (or even 2nd or 3rd) holiday party and you just really don’t want to go. Make the self-honoring choice to politely decline. And don’t feel the need to explain your reasons or to fib about why you can’t. When you choose to listen to and honor what you really want and need, you’ll be BOTH HAPPIER and HEALTHIER!
Okay- so the approaches above are the ones that help you to be much more in tune with your desired feelings and outcomes! I truly hope you’ll spend some time getting know more deeply what you crave this holiday season and consider how you’ll make that happen!
Now, TEN more standard, yet hopefully somewhat fresh, ideas for thriving through the holidays (more closely related to the sweets and treats)…
1. Envision what you want.
Go back to what you want to feel (from the exercises above) and then envision yourself with the food/drink at “x event,” the office, the grocery store, the family gathering, etc. What types of food/drink choices are going to help you to maintain your desired feelings? Envision yourself making the choices that will support your goals. I find the better picture we have of what we want and the choices we intend to make, the easier it becomes in the moment to make the decisions that support our goals. ENVISION WHAT YOU WANT!
2. Focus on YOUR purpose.
What’s your purpose for being where you are? If you’re at a party, you’re likely there to socialize and spend time with friends and family. If you’re at work, you’re there to perform your duties…duh! If you’re at the grocery store, you’re picking up the necessary items on your list. And so on. The point is FOCUS ON THE PURPOSE! It will often seem food is at the center of these things (particularly during the holidays), but it doesn’t need to be for you! Focus on YOUR purpose!
3. Be prepared.
Sometimes you may be attending events where you’re not sure what food or beverages will be provided. Bring a dish to share that you know will keep you in alignment with how you wish to feel. Eating something nutrient-dense in advance will also ensure that you’re not “starving” when food and beverage are served. You’ll be more clear-headed to make decisions that support your goals.
4. The first 3 bites taste the best.
If you choose to make a little “splurge” on something that you feel will make you both HAPPY and HEALTHY, be sure to thoroughly savor each bite. Eat slowly, enjoying all its goodness! Notice how you’re feeling. The first 1-3 bites will be the best and most satisfying, usually. After that, you’re likely to find if you’re paying close attention that the next bites lose their grandeur. Stop when you feel satisfied. Don’t feel you have to always finish. (I will say, I’m a huge advocate of not wasting food….so take just a small portion to start. Maybe you’ll find it was enough! But if you’re not in control of the servings, don’t feel like you have to finish.)
5. Fix a plate and move away.
Often at holiday gatherings, lots of people will congregate around the table and there will be constant picking at the food throughout, more out of habit than out of appetite or desire. Consider fixing a plate so you can be more aware of what you’re having. Sit down, eat slowly, and savor the food, drink, and company.
6. Give it time.
It takes time for food to” register” in our system. Give it at least 20 minutes from the time you started eating before making decisions about eating more. Often the food tastes so good that we want to go back for more flavor. If we actually let our food settle a bit, we are likely to take a more reasonable approach. Now, I’m not saying don’t go back for more. Just give it a little time to see how much more you REALLY WANT! In fact, at gatherings, I love getting a smallish first round of food with intentions of going back for more of the items I enjoyed most….after eating slowly, enjoying the conversation, and letting things settle.
7. Know yourself (better).
Are you an abstainer or a moderator? See my post here about Gretchen Rubin’s “know yourself better” technique. If you’re an abstainer, you may be better off avoiding certain foods altogether to keep yourself in alignment with your desired feelings. However, if you’re a moderator, having something you desire now may keep you from binging later. Take the quiz to find out what you are. Also learning where you fit in Gretchen’s 4 Tendencies Framework will help you to better understand how to be more successful with both internal and external expectations. In this case, however, it’s the internal expectations you really want to know how to uphold. For example, if you’re an Obliger in her framework, you’ll do much better having outer accountability for your goals. Find out what you are here. If you’re in need of more support and accountability, I’d love to help you with that!
8. Avoid restrict-binge cycles.
In line with number 7 above, it’s important to remember that too much restriction for many people can lead to binging. There are lots of abstainers for which this isn’t true if we are talking about certain food types. However, if you are persistently restricting the amount of energy you are taking in from your food (i.e. calories, total food intake), you are likely to find yourself binging at some point. Our bodies are smart and don’t want us to restrict its energy. Mentally, restriction is hard too. We all know that it’s fairly common to want the very things we tell ourselves we can’t have. So whether the feelings of deprivation are physical or mental/emotional, I suggest you remind yourself that you CAN TRULY HAVE ANYTHING you desire….just take time to tap into what it is that you truly desire and whether it aligns with how you want to feel (see An “Am I Hungry? Hack” for more on this). Sometimes it’s a matter of recognizing all the options we have that DO ALREADY make us feel both HAPPY and HEALTHY and that there is no real deprivation going on (this is often a matter of a mental/emotional/behavioral shift), and other times it’s realizing that the physical deprivation we are forcing is not helping us achieve ALL of the goals we desire (aesthetic goals < REAL health and happiness).
9. Have a mindfulness practice.
Okay- this should probably have been number 1. The type of mindfulness practice I’m speaking of is one that translates into your everyday life. It’s sitting in a quiet space for just 3-10 minutes DAILY, focusing on your breathing. This is not an attempt to empty your mind of thoughts. It’s a practice in detecting when your mind wanders to various thoughts, noticing the thoughts without judgement, and being able to bring your mind back to your breath. How will this help translate to everyday life? When you find yourself perseverating on thoughts or having thoughts that sabotages your goals, you’ll be more likely to notice (maybe not always right away, but sooner and sooner with more practice). If you make the choice to practice this type of mindfulness, in quiet and in functional ways, you’re likely to feel more in control, in better alignment with your overall goals, and more grounded in your desired feelings. (More on the benefits of a mindfullness/meditation practice coming to the blog soon.)
10. Practice self-love and trust yourself.
I don’t know about you, but I believe the best thing we can do to practice self-love is to show ourselves through our thoughts, actions, and habits that we care enough to take care of ourselves and follow through on the goals that support our health, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Our bodies work hard for us each day to maintain our health and they recognize and thank us when we make that same effort—out of love. Trust yourself and honor your deep intuitions and you’re likely to find much more peace and contentment than ever before. This is a work in-progress and the more you practice, the better and better it’ll feel. There is no destination, just a winding journey to self-love and discovery!
So, here’s to Thriving- HAPPY and HEALTHY- holidays for you and your loved ones!
Sending you much love for a wonderful season!