When it comes to the holidays, many of us approach them with a combination of joy and dread. For me personally, I love all the decorations and getting together with friends but find the stress of the holidays sometimes overwhelming.
I don’t love christmas shopping (hellooo online shopping to the rescue) and up until a few years ago, the sheer amount of food and drink that I was faced with often filled me with dread, guilt (when I indulged) and then endless feelings of guilt afterwards. Maybe you can relate – especially if you struggle with your weight (as I did) or if the holidays happens to hit when you are just getting into your weightloss or fitness groove.
Either way, the holidays as fun as they were, came with a lot of heavy baggage.
So a few years ago, I decided to unpack all the negativity that went with the holidays and really develop some ways to deal with the stress, the overload of food & drink and then my own body image issues that never seemed to go away. I developed some strategies for dealing with the holidays so that I could make them a fun time of year without all the negativity. These are strategies my husband and I practice every single year so that we make it to January 1st without gaining a ton of weight AND while doing things we really enjoy.
Today, I am going to share our tips and strategies with you so that you can adopt them and use them to create a holiday season that makes you happy and keeps you healthy.
1. Simplify the gifts. Back when my kids were little, we had like a kazillion presents under the tree plus stuffed stockings and gifts from Santa. It was present overload. And shopping for all those gifts was not only super expensive but incredibly time consuming. We had WAY more gifts than we could enjoy and we realized that we were making the holiday about the presents and not the people. So we changed our approach and limited the gifts to 2 per person and we stressed the importance of lifestyle gifts vs games or things. Lifestyle gifts focus on giving someone the gift of your time and attention – like maybe taking someone to a play or booking off a whole afternoon to play board games together. It wasn’t about the stuff, it was about the experience and the memories we created together.
Tip: Consider simplifying your own gift giving process and put the emphasis on the people in your life, not so much the things. Limit the number of gifts each person gets and give gifts with meaning, love & intention.
2. Approach food … like food. Food has so many good and bad connotations with us and many of us approach the food we eat on special occasions like it’s ‘bad’ or overly indulgent. But really, it’s just food. It’s not good or bad. Once I realized this, I was able to stop labeling and categorizing the food I was eating. Which meant I stopped labeling myself by association. Turkey was protein. My husband’s famous mashed potatoes were carbs. My mom’s cranberry was fruit. Sure there were more things added to the recipes but if I managed ate my normal portion sizes then really, I was eating fairly normally and there was nothing to feel guilty about. And when it came to indulgences, I made mindful decisions about what I wanted and then I enjoyed the heck out of each of them.
Tip: Make a plan each morning for what you’re going to eat and manage your portions. Pick your areas to indulge & then let it go. Remember, holiday food is just food.
3. Balance Netflix (or relax time) with daily activity. When it came to the holidays I was all about the relax time. Hell yes, sign me up for a binge fest of Netflix shows or let me lounge in bed reading a good book. That sounds divine. But all that relax and lounging time can actually work against you, making you more tired, more irritable and less relaxed. That’s why everyday, my husband and I find some way to get in some activity so that we boost our endorphins and feel healthy and strong. Some days that’s a hike in our neighbourhood or at our favourite nature reserve. Other days that’s a kickboxing class or an epic snowball fight with our family. Whatever we choose, keeps our bodies active, our minds alert and our moods lifted.
Tip: Make time daily for activities that will boost your mood, make you feel great and help you burn excess calories. It’s one of the best ways I know to balance out holiday indulgences and help you NOT gain a ton of weight over the holidays.
4. Say NO to things you don’t want to do. This is one of those things that sounds simple, but it’s not. The holidays comes with it’s own set of obligations and family/friends pressures to do everything, see everyone and show up at every party. One of the best things we do is to prioritize the events we want to attend and then say no to those we don’t. This gives us back control over our holiday season, cuts down on stress and increases our enjoyment in the events or parties we do attend. By handling the holidays this way, I am able to find balance in my lifestyle and create pockets of time for self care, relaxation, exercise and quiet time.
Tip: Have each family member pick 1 – 2 events that are priorities for the holiday season and then say no to the rest. This way you make sure to attend the celebrations that matter to you without making your life stressful and exhausting.
5. Create your own traditions. When I was younger, our family traditions revolved around endless varieties of rich, indulgent food. I spent hours in the bathroom as a result, my stomach sick and bloated. It didn’t help that leading up to Christmas we had meal after meal of indulgent foods either. My husband and I adopted these same traditions until a few years ago, when I just couldn’t take how sick they made me feel. We stopped making mountains of food and we lightened up a lot of the meals we did make. We subbed the heavy brunch for a light quiche and salad. We swapped the indulgent fondue with a chilli and garlic bread. Because so many of our traditions revolved around food, we swapped them for ones that revolved around our family. We started doing things together that didn’t involve eating like have a games day or snuggling and watching movies together or going for a hike. It was liberating figuring out what made sense for our family vs just following the traditions we had been handed down from past generations.
Tip: Look at your holiday traditions and decide if they fit with your lifestyle and the things you value most. If they don’t, consider how you can change them up or replace them so that your traditions suit your family now.
I hope that these tips help you not just manage the holidays, but thrive during them. And if you are interested in diving deeper into how you can reach January 1st without a ton of weight gain then I encourage you to download my FREE Holiday Survival Guide. It goes into more detail about how you can maintain a healthy, active lifestyle without sacrificing any of the fun of the season. Because it IS possible to stay healthy & fit all year long!
Holiday Survival Guide
make it feel impossible to avoid skipping workouts, gaining weight, and landing on
January 1st with a momentous hangover.
That’s why I put together this Holiday Survival Guide.It’s packed with the tips and tricks
I use to help Positive Choices Coaching clients prioritize health, fitness, and nutrition
no matter what life — including the holidays — throws at them.