It’s that time of the year again and the holidays are just around the corner!
Here in Canada, Thanksgiving was in October and for my American friends, Thanksgiving is coming up this week, and with Christmas, Hanukkah and a host of other holidays also on the horizon, you might be wondering, “How am I going to survive it and still make healthy choices?”
For some people, the holidays are exciting times and I know that others dread this time of year. Wherever you fall on that spectrum, the fact is, with the joy or frustration of the holiday season comes food temptation.
Whether you’re going to parties with friends, having dinner with family, or even enjoying some quiet time on your own, the fact is that we’re suddenly surrounded by cookies, gingerbread, pumpkin spice lattes and all kinds of holiday treats.
Holiday food is everywhere making this a time of year that is fraught with challenges. Around this time my phone always blows up with questions. The main question is, “Sara, what do I do?” People want to know how to get through the next few weeks in a way that’s enjoyable and that, come January, they don’t find themselves regretting the choices they made.
I definitely don’t want you to miss out on some of the happy, wonderful things that the holiday season has to offer.
I want you to be able to look at your calendar and see events or dinners coming up and be excited instead of worrying about what you’re going to eat or not eat or how much willpower you’ll be able to muster up.
But I also DON’T want you to throw all your good intentions and goals out the window just because it’s the holiday season and then be starting off the new year ten steps behind where you are today! You will NOT thank me for that in January!
That’s why I’m sharing my top three tips that will serve as your holiday survival roadmap.
This roadmap will allow you to navigate the holiday season in a way that’s going to feel really good for you.
These three tips will help you enjoy some of the deliciousness the holiday season has to offer while still honoring yourself and your health and weight loss goals.
You’ll wake up January 1st still on track and feeling great! Sound good? Okay, let’s get to it!
3 TIP HOLIDAY SURVIVAL ROADMAP
TIP #1:KNOW YOUR WHY
Spend some time getting clear every day by reminding yourself of your “WHY.”
Ask yourself: “Why do I want to do this? Why do I want to make better choices?”
Being clear on your WHY will help you stay on track with healthy eating and not overdo it with some of the not-so-healthy holiday foods.
Your why cannot be something as basic as, “because I don’t want to gain weight” or, “because I’m trying to lose weight.” These are fine as GOALS but not as your WHY because they’re not compelling enough to have your brain want to make choices to support them. Basically, they’re not exciting enough.
It’s looking for rewards that feel compelling and exciting…. like pumpkin pie or gingerbread cookies. That’s the way your brain is naturally wired. It wants rewards and in order to help you make better choices more consistently, we have to find a way to make the healthier, alternative choice feel more compelling and exciting. That’s where your WHY comes in so spend some time taking a walk or writing in your journal, wherever you think is best, and get crystal clear on your WHY as you head into this minefield of a season.
- Why do I want to lose weight?
- Why do I want to make healthier choices?
- What would I be able to do then that I have a hard time doing now?
- How would my life be different?
- How would I feel in terms of confidence, pride and peace?
- Who would I inspire?
Create a bigger vision for yourself and for your life.
Because remember, when you focus too much on practical, basic goals, they end up falling short. In other words, when your brain compares losing weight to a pumpkin spice latte the brain will choose the latte. It’s a reward-seeking machine so you need to stack the deck in your favor by creating a clear and compelling WHY that feels like it would be an exciting, delicious and irresistible reward that your brain will want.
You’ll l do this by:
- Getting crystal clear on your WHY and the bigger vision you have for your health and life.
- Reminding yourself of your WHY every day.
- Remembering your WHY before going to an event or party
When you have a beautiful, compelling, exciting vision for the future you’re creating, it helps you to see that overindulging in pumpkin spice lattes and gingerbread cookies is a threat to your WHY – not a ‘treat’.
So now that you know your WHY, remind yourself on a daily basis this holiday season. Think about the future you, how you will look and feel, how different life could be, and the pride and the confidence you’ll have knowing that you accomplished your goal. Always keep your WHY in mind and call on it when you need the strength.
TIP #2: HAVE A PLAN
During the holidays DO NOT go to a party or dinner and think, ”Oh, I hope I make good choices” or “I hope I don’t overdo it”.
When you get in front of all that food and you’re distracted by all the things that are going on you’re setting yourself up for failure.
In the moment, you can try to remember your WHY but it might not be enough. Instead of expecting yourself to make a good choice at that moment, spend a few minutes BEFORE you go to these events to make a plan.
Since this isn’t your first time doing this, you probably know how things go down at your family events and you know what to expect. Grandma’s definitely going to bring her butter tarts and your sister’s going to make her delicious gravy. Your brother’s kids are going to be screaming and your Dad’s going to start talking about politics and you have a pretty good sense of how that’s all going to make you feel and how it will test your willpower so use that information when you’re making your plan.
You can decide to make sure you eat before you go so that you’re not starving when you get there or alternatively, you can bring a healthy dessert that you could enjoy.
Whatever you do make sure you have a plan and that it includes some indulgence. That’s right, having a plan isn’t about avoiding everything. It’s about determining ahead of time how you’re going to navigate this event in a way that you can feel proud of when you leave.
Grandma’s butter tarts at Christmas might be the best butter tarts ever so make them part of your plan: ‘One of grandma’s butter tarts for dessert’. And then thoroughly enjoy every single bite.
If your mom makes the best apple pie in the world and she only makes it at Thanksgiving, then make part of your plan having a piece of the pie and savoring every mouthful.
I know sometimes at this time of the year we end up eating because we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. So in your plan, think of how you will address that.
Let’s say your sister-in-law always makes a horrible pumpkin pie. You don’t even want a piece, however, by not eating it you might hurt her feelings. The plan this holiday might be you telling her that you’re full but that you are so grateful for her bringing the pie and it looks amazing (even if it doesn’t) and that you’ll take a piece of it home to enjoy later (and the pie will, unfortunately, meet an accident in the garbage when you get home). But you’ve preserved her feelings and still stuck to your plan of having one piece of mom’s apple pie or one of Grandma’s butter tarts.
And remember this pro tip: Never, ever try to make a plan when you are already at the party. This will not work and will lead to bad choices. Don’t make it harder for yourself than it needs to be, go in with a plan!
TIP #3: EAT MINDFULLY
If you’re one of the thousands of people who have done the Mindful Eating Challenge with me it’s time to dust off your mindful eating skills.
During the holidays, there’s so much going on that we’re often very externally focused. And before we know it, we’ve eaten three plates of food simply because we’re not paying attention.
When it’s time to eat, do your best to focus on your food. Be more present with your food. Slow down a little bit to notice how the food feels in your body. Listen closely and keep checking in to see whether you’ve had enough or whether you need more because your body will tell you this if you’re able to listen.
I know how challenging it is when you’re sitting at a family dinner to eat mindfully, but do your best to make sure you pay attention. Make it part of your plan as you go into these events.
And always remember staying on track is not just about deprivation for the next few weeks. Think about indulging in moderation and mindfully and being really present for small amounts of the foods you love. You will find that you are satisfied with a much smaller amount than you would be if you’re also doing a million things and just shoving food in without paying any attention.
3 TIP HOLIDAY SURVIVAL ROADMAP RECAP
- Know your WHY:
Really bring up that beautiful vision that you have for yourself. Imagine yourself a year from now if you meet all your goals and do all the things you want to do, imagine how amazing that will feel! Think of how proud you’ll be! That’s your WHY. Remember this daily and especially as you go into challenging events.
- Have a plan:
Always have a plan because all of those not-so-healthy choices are potential threats to your amazing, WHY. Don’t just go to an event or gathering without having a clear and detailed plan for what you’ll eat and drink, including how much. Anticipate what will happen and think about how you’re going to navigate that, including what you’ll do before and during the event.
- Eat and indulge mindfully:
Try as much as you can when eating to slow down. Be present, and really taste the food, listen to your body and find out when you’re satisfied and when you’ve had enough.
I promise if you really work on using this 3-step roadmap it will help you navigate this holiday season in a way that allows you to enjoy the things you want to enjoy, but also not end up heading into January regretting all your holiday choices.
I want you to feel great in January! I want you to feel proud of the choices that you made while still being able to say that you truly enjoyed the holiday season.
I would love to hear how you’re feeling about this. If this feels like this will be useful, which of these tips are you totally all-in on?