Written by: Audrey Clement, RD
The period between Halloween and January 1st seems to be the time of the year when we have little faith in our ability to eat well and stay consistent with exercise. Truthfully, the only reason many people have trouble staying consistent is due to an irrational mindset. The all-or-nothing mentality seems to take people from one “abnormal” day of eating to 3 months of “abnormal” eating, which then turns into their normal eating patterns.
The various holidays make up about five days out of roughly three months, or 92 days. That means that the holidays add up to around 5% of the days (depending on the holidays you celebrate). Therefore, the idea that holiday eating can single-handedly ruin your health is completely inaccurate. Challenge yourself this year to rewrite the narrative around your health during the holidays. That could mean maintaining the habits you created leading up to the holidays, or even creating new ones and improving your health.
Tips to stay consistent over the holidays:
Avoid mindless eating. Instead of grazing on snack foods all day (chips, dip, pretzels, cookies, charcuterie boards, etc), grab a plate and create an intentional meal. To be truly satiated, we need to prioritize protein and fiber in one sitting.
Do not skip meals. The worst thing you can do leading up to a holiday event is skip nourishing meals and snacks. Try to eat every 3-5 hours throughout the day, prioritizing protein and fiber. This will not only nourish you with the nutrients you need but also lower the likelihood of binge eating later in the day. The same goes for the following day: do not skip breakfast or restrict food to make up for what you ate the day before. This will perpetuate the binge-restrict cycle.
Check in with your hunger. To truly honor our body, we want to eat for enjoyment, fuel and to physically feel good. Eating past fullness to the point of physical discomfort, just because it is a holiday, is not going to make you feel good. After each half plate of food eaten, assess how you feel physically and mentally. Enjoy your food until you are comfortably full or satisfied. Let go of the pressure to over consume all the indulgent food because it is a special occasion. Remind yourself that you can enjoy these foods any day of the week. Take a plate home to have later!
Revolve family gatherings around physical activity. Many holidays revolve around eating and lounging. Make an effort to plan an active event to start or end the day. This could be a hike, family workout, ice skating, biking, skiing, etc. You don’t need to “earn” or “burn off” the foods you ate that day. The goal of the activity is to get your body moving so you feel good and avoid the all-or-nothing mentality. For example, avoiding thoughts such as, “I’m going to eat poorly today so I might as well not workout.”
Bring a nutrient-dense dish. If you feel like there are never any healthy options at holiday events, lead by example and bring your own! To set yourself up for success, bring a dish that is delicious and healthy. You can never go wrong with a veggie tray or fruit salad.
Move on. Don’t beat yourself up for enjoying an indulgent meal. The stress might be more impactful on your health than the actual meal. Remember, one meal out of 1,095 meals per year (3 per day), is not going to significantly impact your health. If you let that meal spiral you into three months of indulgent eating, that could negatively impact your health. Enjoy, be present and move on.