The holiday season can be a joyous time; lots of parties and delicious food and drinks accompany social gatherings with friends and family. For some, the holiday season lasts from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, but for others, it can extend from bags of Halloween candy to boxes of chocolate on Valentine’s day. Indulging over an extended period of time can lead to weight gain, bloat, exhaustion, and an overall malaise – both physically and emotionally. Sure, it’s fun to fill our plates to the brim with turkey and the fixings, Christmas cookies, and lots of snacks and champagne on New Year’s Eve, but when the celebrating comes to an end, we have fueled the cycle of overeating: We mindlessly overeat, then we feel badly about our actions and our body, and finally cycle back around by using food to soothe our emotions.
Raise your hand if you want to get off of this crazy ride!
We can break free from this cycle which I like to call the “Post Holiday Gut Rut” without feeling like we are missing out on the fun or the food. Here are a few tips to help you:
1. Make a plan.
Just as you keep a calendar of all of your social events, you can make plans for your eating intentions. This does not need to be done in advance; you can set an intention on how you would like to feel at the end of the party and create a plan on how to do so before you arrive. For instance, if you are invited to a New Year’s Eve party, you may set an intention that you want to be able to drive home after the clock strikes midnight. So while you might enjoy a few cocktails earlier in the evening, you can make the mindful choice to switch to non-alcoholic beverages, or better yet, water, so that you can travel home safely. The same can be done with food. When attending a Thanksgiving dinner, you can set an intention of wanting to feel comfortable and energized after the meal. By setting this intention, you can create a plan to do so. For example, you can check in with your hunger. If you are not very hungry, don’t eat much. If you are hungry, make sure to check in halfway through your meal to assess if you are still hungry or if you can leave food on your plate. Remind yourself throughout the meal to check in with your plan by asking yourself some questions: Am I taking the time to taste my food? Will this food energize me or deplete me? Do I like the way this tastes or am I eating it for another reason, like not offending the host or because I’ve always eaten it? Do I need more food or am I satisfied and still comfortable in my pants?
2. Pack it up.
If you have FOMO (the kids’ way of saying a Fear Of Missing Out) on holiday food favorites and tend to overeat because of it, you can ask to take the rest of your meal home. Many hosts don’t want to have a week’s worth of leftovers in their fridge, and are happy to divvy it up. Bring a container with you, or ask to borrow one. Then, the next time you are hungry, you will have the choice of eating your holiday favorites again.
3. Stay the course.
Just because the weather is changing, or it is holiday season, or the kids are home from school, doesn’t mean you have to give up the strategies you have developed throughout the year to reach your health goals. Continue to go to the gym, take walks with the dog, go up and down the stairs in your house, or whatever you have been doing thus far. When you are on vacation, you have even more time for self-care, so take advantage of it! If the weather is changing by you, making it difficult to enjoy outdoor activities, then find a way to move your workouts indoors. You can walk through a mall or walk up and down the stairs in your own house, just keep moving.
4. Practice makes progress.
Don’t expect drastic changes to occur within the first week of your plan. Understand that change takes time and the more often you practice strategies that will help you reach your goals, the easier those strategies become, and the more likely they are to develop into new, healthy habits. There is no end game; the goal is to live a long, high-quality life and to do so, you will need to create healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Use these tips to break free of the post-holiday gut rut and get on track to have a healthy 2016. Wishing you all a happy and energy-filled new year!