Fitness, Nutrition

(Actually) Enjoying the Holidays

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I love the holiday season. I know that so many people absolutely dread it and practically become angry at the world for even the slightest mention of the holidays, but I still appreciate and enjoy it every year. I can understand that it’s stressful with the stores being jam packed, tons of errands to run and going from one gathering to the next, this season can definitely affect even the most Zen individual. Don’t fret though as there are plenty of strategies that you can use to help you actually get the most out of this wonderful time of the year without ripping all of your hair out.

I’m not going to regurgitate the standard stuff that you could find on any other site, instead I’m going to share my own strategies that I use and that have helped me every year. The first thing that most health conscious people worry about is their diet and it’s completely understandable. No doubt you’ve probably already been to a couple of holiday cocktail, lunch or dinner events already and I’m sure it’s been tough to not gorge yourself on the tempting treats. Usually we hear others suggest that you should have a small snack before the gathering, but I find that something small is not enough; I know myself and I know that if I’m not full, I’ll eat at anything decadent that’s laid out in front of me. So instead of just having a little something to eat, have a more hearty mini meal instead. Last week for example, I had a work related cocktail event in the evening, so about an hour before it started I had a protein shake and a salad. It was a huge help as most of the food offered was deep fried and it was only served later on in the evening. Since I was already full, by the time the trays of food were passed I wasn’t tempted to overdo it, instead I had a few veggie hors d’oeuvres and I felt perfectly satisfied. I was able to actually enjoy a few good pieces of food without losing all inhibitions and stuffing myself. I find that going about it this way really simplifies things so that you’re not spending the bulk of the evening trying to count calories or figure out how much fat is in this or how many carbs are in that, or even worse, spending the night feeling guilty for eating a treat. This allows you to enjoy yourself without worry and without over thinking it either. Alcohol can also be a bit of a challenge too; as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, one drink is like a piece of desert, so three glasses of wine is like three pieces of cheesecake. Frankly, nobody needs that much desert or alcohol so be reasonable and before you start rationalizing with yourself about how alcohol has health benefits so you might as well order a pitcher of margaritas, remember that it only really helps to reduce stress and yoga/meditation does the same thing without packing on the extra calories. The next thing that can be problematic is getting in your workouts, so I suggest that you fit them in whenever you can and the earlier the better that way if something comes up at the last minute it won’t totally derail you. If you can’t fit in your usual 1 hour workout than opt for a total body 20 minute HIIT workout instead and be sure to have a good pre and post workout meal.

Now I want to discuss the really hard part about the holidays, which is the attitude that you will typically get from others when you try to stick to your diet. If you have a lot of weight to lose or if you are training for a competition or what have you, and you’re on a strict regiment, chances are people are not going to go easy on you when you turn down their offer to eat a mountain of delicious food. You’ll probably get that super annoying look that people give when you turn them down or the typical remark of one bite won’t hurt or oh come on it’s the holidays, some people are a little too persistent. Try your best not to get aggravated when you’re faced with this; most people respond this way because they just don’t understand your discipline and your goals. Try your best to discreetly explain why and let them know that you’re having a great time regardless. When it comes to passing on desert take the approach that you’re already stuffed and if you hear “well I made it for you” then let them know that you appreciate it and ask if you can take some home instead of eating it and then regretting it later. At the end of the day you have to do what’s right for you and your health. So if you are choosing to stay health conscious over the holidays, do the best you can to stay on track and maintain your discipline … as hard as it may be. On a side note the average person gains a whopping 7 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s … yikes!

One very important thing to note is that if you are invited for dinner at someone’s home usually you can easily stick with your diet if it’s buffet or family style, but if it’s a plated meal then that’s a whole other story. In this case, I would suggest that for all of your meals eaten before, that you reduce your whole grains and focus on getting carbs from non-starchy veggies instead. That way you won’t be starving during the day, then stuffing yourself at dinner or spending the entire time trying to work out the macro content of the plated dinner; you can just relax and enjoy the company your with and the meal being served.

No matter how stressful this time of year may seem, try to approach it with a positive and grateful attitude. Take a moment to acknowledge how fortunate you are to have people in your life to celebrate with and to have the means to treat them to special gift that they maybe wouldn’t think of getting themselves. Instead of being angry about giving gifts or thinking that it’s really only a kids’ holiday, remember to be thankful for all that you have and all that you have been blessed with. It is a privilege to be able to give someone a gift, so maybe use this holiday as an opportunity to recognize that. Once I started thinking this way, it really helped me understand how great everything is during this time; the shopping, the gatherings, the good food and the gift exchanges. The holidays are what you make of it, so make it a good one!

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