The holidays are the toughest time of year to be healthy.
There are sweets and treats at almost every turn, and avoiding them, or at least having self-control when you do partake, is often easier said than done.
When I was developing my “Merry & Light Holiday Checklist” for you, my mission was to help defeat that usual “all-or-nothing” holiday approach that leaves you neither “merry” nor “light” when it’s all said and done, but rather to have healthy balance of both.
In other words, if you choose to make choices that only leave you “merry” – this might involve overindulging because it’s fun (in the moment), only leaving you feeling “heavy” later – physically and emotionally perhaps.
On the other hand, if your sole focus during the holidays is being “light” by exhibiting the utmost discipline and restraint when it comes to food and drink, then you may look back and regret not tasting some of the best treats of the season.
My aim today (and always) is to encourage you to move away from the “all-or-nothing” thinking approach, and rather practice balance this month – a healthy approach, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
As we’ve entered the final month of the year, my hope is to give you some strategies to help you “have it all” this holiday season because it IS possible.
Today, I’ve outlined the three specific locations that you’re most likely to be tempted to overindulge in the next several weeks and 7 tips to help you keep that “merry & light” balance.
Location 1: At Home
There are good and bad things about your home being one of the places you’re most likely to overindulge.
Do you want the good or bad news first?
Most likely the bad first, so I’ll start there – the bad news is that your home is convenient…
Feel like a treat?
Just a few steps away your treats patiently await you in the pantry, cabinet, or fridge.
Not only are treats easily accessible at home, but they’re also easier to keep private – if you’re cunning enough, no one will know if you “sneak a treat” at home (besides yourself of course, which often leads to negative self-talk, but that’s for another time).
Okay, are you ready for the good news?
The good news is that out of the three places you’re most likely to overindulge, your home is the most easily controlled – that is, if you choose to TAKE control.
What I mean is that perhaps not everyone at home is trying to stay as “merry & light” as you are.
This can be tricky, but again, it’s up to you to seize control over what enters and doesn’t enter the house.
If you absolutely don’t have control over this, it’s okay – sometimes the many outweigh the few, or maybe in your case, the one.
Again, it’s okay, because there are two other locations you can tweak to work in your favor – they’re coming up next…
But first, a tip on how to keep your home “merry & light”:
- TIP #1: Keep only healthy food at home
Remember that half the battle of overindulging at home is just not bringing the treats through the door in the first place.
Keep in mind that sooner is easier than later.
In other words, throwing away, leaving it, or giving it away (treats, that is), is easier to do sooner, rather than later.
Personally, what I do is throw away, leave it, or give it away as soon as possible – this way, I don’t even think about it – and therefore, don’t give myself time to rationalize why it’s a good idea to bring it home.
Location 2: At Work
Work is often one of the hardest places to avoid treats during the holidays.
I’ve found this to be true especially for my clients who are teachers – their students constantly bring them holiday sweets, not to mention the treats that usually await them in the break room.
But the temptations aren’t just for my clients who are teachers; they are also for my clients who work in a corporate office setting.
Sure your boss, receptionist, or office colleague has their dish of candies available on their desk all year round that you try to avoid, but now that the holidays are here, treats seem to be lurking in more places than usual.
- Tip #2: Take your lunch and snacks to work
It’s easy to get lazy this time of year and depend on “office treats” for snacks throughout the day, as well as going out to eat with your co-workers for lunch.
Look, I get it – it’s been a long year. You’ve worked hard. You’re tired. You need a break.
However, do your best to take your lunch to work AND your snacks as much as possible – even a few times a week (or once!) is better than none.
Whatever you bring to work to eat and drink is more than likely going to be healthier than going out for lunch or grazing on office snacks.
Now, you can’t go halfway with this tip – just bringing your lunch and snack to work is only half the battle – you must commit to eating it!
A good rule of thumb is committing to not bringing your lunch or snack back home.
This also means not leaving it in the office fridge for tomorrow either – it means sticking to your plan and eating it the day you brought it.
One more thing: I know that once in awhile you and some co-workers like to go out to lunch, especially this time of year perhaps.
I think this is fine, but it’s best if it’s planned ahead of time and not a spur-of-the-moment decision – that’s when we make the worst ones, because they tend to be emotional, not logical.
- Tip #3: Decide which treats are worth it and which are not
This is a great tip to always keep in mind, but especially during the holidays.
Look, some treats might be worth it, but not ALL of them.
This is a healthy balance – having one, but leaving the rest – which ONE is the most “worth it”?
Enjoy it completely, savor it, but again, don’t bring it home.
Location 3: At Social Gatherings
This final location, like work, is often an environment that is hard to control.
With this in mind, planning ahead is going to be key:
- TIP #4: Exercise (it doesn’t have to be strenuous)
Physical activity makes us feel healthy, of course, but it also makes us feel accomplished.
Remember from my “Merry & Light Holiday Checklist” when you feel good, you tend to make good choices, but when you feel unhealthy, you tend to make unhealthy choices.
Doing some kind of physical activity (in the morning, preferably), helps you start the day feeling good, which will in turn help you make better choices.
- TIP #5: Dress for success
Again, from the “Merry & Light Holiday Checklist” get dressed up when you go out.
I recall a study of boys who wore suits to school – they paid better attention, learned more, and got better grades as a result because they carried themselves a little differently – their suits kept them accountable for “good behavior.”
The same is true for us – throw on our sweatpants and an oversized sweater when we go out and we’re more likely to make choices we otherwise wouldn’t if we dressed it up a little more.
- TIP #6: Eat a little something before you go out
We’ve all gone out to eat when we’re starving.
There’s a lot that can go wrong when this is the case – we tend to choose an unhealthy option on the menu, eat most of the bread the server generously leaves at the table while you wait for your order, and then often eat all of our meal, when half or two-thirds were enough.
There’s an easy way to help avoid this – eat a little something before you leave the house.
If you need a suggestion, I prefer a small handful of mixed nuts – the protein and fat they contain satiate you just enough to hold you over until your meal arrives at the restaurant.
- TIP #7: Make a “black & white” commitment
I use this one a lot myself.
Before I leave the house, I make a “black & white” commitment, AKA a “No matter what” statement.
For example, I may say to myself something like these (aloud is best):
“No matter what, I will not eat the bread if the server leaves some.”
“No matter what, I will take ½ of my meal home.”
If I’m unfamiliar with the restaurant, I’ll look up the menu ahead of time on their website or on Yelp and make my choice then, not when I hungrily arrive at the restaurant.
Now, this works for holiday gatherings at people’s houses or office parties too:
“No matter what, I will not go back for seconds.”
“No matter what, I will try only one dessert, even if there are many.”
Again, these are some I use myself.
I can attest to the fact that when I make these statements, say them out loud to myself (or someone going with me for accountability), and stick to it, I feel SO good and you will too.
I know this is all a lot to keep in mind, so let me summarize by sharing the main points:
- Avoid the “all-or-nothing” approach – the goal is to have a merry AND light holiday season, not one or the other. This is require balancing the two.
- When you feel good, you make good choices – exercise is one of the best ways to feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally during the holidays.
- Plan ahead as much as you can – this will help you make the best decisions (logical ones, rather than emotional ones).
Most of all, this is a great time of the year to practice being present.
Awareness is the key to making the best choices for ourselves…
When you feel on the brink of overindulging, ask yourself first how you’re feeling – Bored? Sad? Rebellious?
We all feel like these sometimes and of course, it always isn’t an obvious answer – our feelings and actions can be complicated for us women.
More than anything please be gentle with yourself this holiday season.
Approach your awareness with curiosity, rather than judgment.
Beating yourself up for “bad” choices might seem like the right thing to do in the moment, but ultimately it’s not.
I hope these tips helped you today.
Which one will you implement this holiday season?
If you need more help, reach out anytime.
It’s Your Turn to Take Care of You,