The holidays are a magical time for friends and family near and far to gather together and celebrate each other. Yes, it’s a joyous time that we all look forward to year after year, but it can also be a time of high stress and anxiety, which can lead to overindulgence. With so many parties to attend and plan, dishes to make, gifts to wrap and places to be, it can seem impossible to get it all done and keep your sanity. Many of us find solace in food and drinks, and with high fat and sugary foods always within arms reach, this time of year can really derail a healthy diet. As far as finding time for exercise, so many of us just throw in the towel, promising to start fresh in the new year. If you’re overwhelmed during this time of the year and you’re wondering how to stay on track over the holidays to avoid falling into an unhealthy lifestyle, these tips are for you. They’re easy to follow and remember, and can make a world of difference in how you look and feel coming out of the holiday season. But first, let’s talk about why we overindulge during the holidays in the first place, and where this need for more comes from.
The Holidays May Be Joyous, But They’re Stressful Too
There’s no doubt that the holiday season is a very happy time of the year. We’re all in the mood for giving, to friends and family and even strangers. It’s a time when we want to share with others, whether it’s through gifts or food or simply our time. But with so much time spent on others, racing from party to party, from store to store, wrapping gifts and sending cards, there’s little time left for ourselves. This can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety, and little to no time to cope with them. So, rather than taking the time to recognize these feelings and handle them in a constructive way, we reach for comfort foods to provide instant gratification. Really, overeating high fat and sugary foods just acts as a bandaid for the real problem, not an actual cure.
Our bodies are biologically wired to medicate with food when we feel stressed. The rush of sugar, fat and carbs creates an opiate-like effect in our brain, similar to a drug, causing us to feel good for a short amount of time and eventually become hooked. This creates a never-ending cycle of sugar addiction and medicating with food, which, in the long run, does little to combat the underlying issues of stress and anxiety.
Recognizing this addiction to comfort foods and the reason behind our constant longing for them can be helpful in breaking the cycle. So, when you find yourself diving in face-first to your favorite holiday treats, stop and ask yourself why you’re doing it in the first place.
Now that we understand where this cycle of holiday overindulgence stems from, let’s talk about ways to overcome it and prevent a guilt-inducing holiday mishap.
Don’t Feel Guilty For Not Indulging at Holiday Parties
Many of us don’t intend on helping ourselves to a second and third serving of pie, but, especially during the holidays, peer pressure can be very, very difficult to combat. Hopping from one party to the next, we’re usually expected to have something to eat or drink at each event. After all, during this time of year, it’s all about the food. We generally walk into these gatherings intending to have just a small snack, but our peers have other plans. Not only are holiday gatherings all about the food, but for some, they’re all about watching our friends and family enjoy the food we’ve made. It can feel as if every member of your family is waiting for you to try their dish and tell them how delicious it is. Not only that, but when we allow ourselves to overindulge and the guilt sets in, it can feel comforting to see others around us doing the same. We hope to validate our unhealthy decisions with those of our peers, and this can be a slippery slope.
If you’ve had a serving of pie and are satisfied, don’t let your peers pressure you into having more. Politely let them know that you’re full, but you’ll come back to try your grandmother’s famous apple pie later. Or, keep your hands full with a low-cal drink and crudité, so you simply don’t have enough hands to indulge in anything else. If a family member or friend is being particularly pushy with unhealthy choices, be blunt. Let him or her know that you’re trying not to overindulge at the party, but you appreciate the offer. Bottom line is, making food pushers happy at a party is not worth derailing your healthy choices.
Be Realistic With Yourself and Your Goals
If you’re an “all or nothing” type of person, you may tell yourself that you’re not going to have a single carb during the holidays. Of course, this is nearly impossible and highly unrealistic. So, when the moments arrives that you do allow yourself a small indulgence, you become so upset with yourself that you completely throw in the towel and allow yourself to binge on all the unhealthy foods you’ve denied yourself for so long. This is a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break, but it can be done with the right mindset. Going into the holidays, it’s important to cut yourself some slack (but not too much!). Allow yourself to have a small dessert, or a second cocktail on occasion, just don’t make it a habit, and don’t completely throw in the towel because of one small slip. Healthy choices begin with a healthy mindset, and constantly guilt-tripping yourself because of small indulgences is unproductive and can lead to even more dietary issues. Be real with yourself, forgive yourself for little indulgences, and get back on track the next day.
Start Each Day Off Right
Throughout the year, but especially during the holidays, it’s so important to begin each day with a healthy breakfast and morning routine. We like to start the day with a very green cold pressed juice to pack in loads of raw vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients to keep our bodies functioning at their optimal level. Flooding the body with easily-digestible nutrients first thing in the morning sets a healthy tone for the rest of the day, providing energy to tackle challenges calmly. Plus, it can help flush toxins from the liver and kidneys, helping to erase any indulgences from the previous night’s holiday festivities.
We also recommend some form of exercise each morning, to get the blood circulating and metabolism humming along. It can be difficult to find time for a calorie-blasting full body workout during the holidays, but even just a short run or a few body-weight exercises at-home can rev the metabolism and cause your body to break a sweat. Remember, it’s more about repetition than it is about infrequent, high-intensity workouts. Scheduling even just 30 minutes of some form of exercise each morning creates a healthy routine that you can stick to, even amidst the holiday hustle.
Bring Your Own Healthy Dish to the Party
Nearly every social event during this time of the year revolves around food, and most of it is less than good for us. While we’ve already covered how to handle pushy peers, it’s also helpful to bring your own healthy dish to the party. Rather than allowing yourself to be coerced into eating unhealthy foods, come prepared with a nutrient-rich salad or other healthy option that you can share with others. Odds are, many of us are craving something healthy to really fuel our bodies, and the other party-goers will thank you for it.
If you’re not one for cooking, or you simply don’t have the time to make a dish to feed an army, don’t stress. We love bringing cold pressed juice cocktails along with us to parties. They’re excellent alcohol mixers and pack a healthy and flavorful punch to any mixed drink. Who needs sugary artificial mixers when you can enjoy a fresh, cold pressed juice cocktail?
Let’s Stay on Track Over the Holidays Together
Now that you have the tools you need to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle over the holidays, enlist some friends to hold each other accountable. After all, the holidays are all about giving thanks for the friends and family around us, so rather than blocking them out, invite them into your healthy lifestyle. When you can’t quite figure out how to stay on track over the holidays by yourself, the help of those around you is priceless.
This holiday season, don’t let high stress lead you to unhealthy choices. Keep these tips in mind each day and start and end the season feeling great. The holidays are not about beating yourself up for bad choices, they’re about spreading joy to those around you, and most importantly, to yourself.