Here Come the Holidays: Strategies for Eating, Fitness, and Reaching Your Goals

by Marsha Hudnall

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Say the word ” holidays” and women with food issues start to fidget.

It’s the time of year that many of us find it hard to:

  • Stay focused, exercise, or sustain our motivation. It’s easy to get too busy, too tempted, or just too down in the dumps to eat and exercise sensibly.
  • Go to the gym when it is cold and snowing. Harder still to get outside and walk.
  • Manage healthy eating.  At parties, the gauntlet of buffet tables and Christmas punch can make it easy to give in to that old self-sabotaging voice that whispers, “Oh, what the heck, I’m not going to be able to manage this well, so I might as well enjoy myself.” The result is numb out — “pig out” — and ultimately a push of the self-destruct button.
  • Cook for the family and generally “do for others,” which can fan the flames of self-pity and low self-esteem.

No wonder that for so many of us the holidays are not only a time of joy, family, and festivity, but also cause for anxiety, even dread! But there is hope.

How To Get Through The Holidays

The way to get through the holidays is simple — although not always easy. Stay positive, passionate and committed to yourself and your ultimate, long term goal, and don’t worry too much about the details. Add a touch of gratitude and a pinch of humor and you can have a wonderful time.

15 Tips To Beat Holiday Stress And Stay in Charge

Now, at the start of the season, is the time to realistically assess your personal holiday pitfalls and plan ahead. After all, planning is key to overcoming any challenge. Consider these examples.

Fitness

1. Plan an alternative walking routine (if you walk outside regularly). Scope out a local mall for mall walking in bad weather. But remember, if you have good boots, mittens, gloves and warm clothes, walking outside can be fun!

2. Vary walking with an outdoor winter sport like snowshoeing, skiing or skating (sign up for lessons). Or join a gym or health club and vary between the treadmill, elliptical trainer and other machines all winter long.

3. Plan things you enjoy and set aside time for them. But most of all be realistic. If tight holiday scheduling or fatigue keeps you from planned exercise, just chalk it up and keep going. Don’t waste time beating yourself up. Look ahead, not back, and keep the long term plan in mind.

Eating

Read This Related Article: Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

4. Think through situations that may challenge you to eat mindfully before you actually face them — the family dinner, the office party, the Christmas buffet, the cocktail parties.

5. Plan and savor what you eat; start with a reasonable amount of what you want, and savor every bite.

6. Continue to eat regular, balanced meals; don’t “save” calories so you can eat what you want at the big event. You’ll only set yourself up for overeating; you will be better able to decide what you really want if you come to the meal well-fed and not too hungry.

7. Assess the effect that alcohol has on your ability to stay mindful. If it presents a challenge, drink while you are eating, instead of before. The alcohol is more slowly absorbed that way.

Eat Passionately

8. Go with the flow. This is the time of year for special foods and lots of them. Look forward to this opportunity to savor and enjoy. The trick is not to be afraid of the food but to stay mindful.

9. Close your eyes and let go of internal thoughts about what is healthy, unhealthy or fattening as well as your fears about overeating.

10. Think about what you really want to eat and let your taste buds and your spirit soar. If you savor the experience itself of eating-smell, texture, density and taste — and experience every bite mindfully, you will be less apt to numb out and find yourself devouring a plate of cookies without even knowing it.

11. Truly experience the food to help stay in charge. It’s not about the type of food as much as how you eat that counts.

Be Clear about Your Goalsrockwell_thanksgiving2

Holiday time is not a time to rationalize a total lapse of mindfulness or to encourage dreary calorie counting and self-denial. It is a time to balance your food and health desires with a healthy dose of “grown-up behavior”.

Make a decision about what you really want this holiday, be clear about what you need to do to get it, decide whether it’s the right choice for you at this time, then take the responsibility for your decision. More examples:

12. Recognize that you need to stay committed if you’ve been working hard to improve your fitness and you don’t want the holidays to mark any slowdown in your progress; keep a regular physical activity program in place and make concrete plans that will help you stay committed, as discussed above.

13. Experiment. Maybe you want to use the holidays as an opportunity to take on some of your normal eating challenges, such as learning to live with a box of chocolate in the house without eating it all immediately. In that instance, it will help to understand that you may find yourself enjoying the chocolate a little more often than you really want to. But that can be part of finding out you don’t want it as much as you thought, and is therefore key to your learning process.

14. Avoid second guessing yourself. Realize ahead of time that you may find yourself questioning your behaviors – after all, they are new to you. Tell yourself to stay mindful and trust what you are feeling.

15. Above all, remember to accept yourself. That means your good points as well as your flaws (we all have ‘em). Pat yourself on the back for what you are doing and don’t focus on what you haven’t done. When you are thinking about gifts for friends and family, think about giving the gift of a truly enjoyable holiday season to your very best friend — you!

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