If you’re committed to healthy living, this time of year can be quite a predicament. The holiday parties, the big over-stuffing dinners, the endless temptations of sweet treats and general excess. How to navigate through this minefield of dietary “don’t” without being a total killjoy?
Well, my approach to this situation might surprise you a little. I’m not going to give you a list of ways to make sure you don’t overeat at Thanksgiving dinner (that’s part of the experience, for goodness sakes!) or a list of foods to say “yes” or “no” to at the holiday party buffet table. I don’t believe in this approach for three reasons:
- I don’t think it’s realistic, sustainable, or any fun;
- It sets us up for a very dangerous cycle of self-criticism and guilt as we indulge despite our best intentions, and then berate ourselves for being “bad” or “weak”;
- It defies the very essence of eating and living naked, which is all about authenticity. Sometimes it’s much more true to ourselves and our bodies to indulge and delight in a treat than to deprive ourselves because something doesn’t fit our ideal dietary parameters.
I believe that rather than depriving or berating ourselves, we should recognize that this time of year is about celebration, giving thanks, and, yes, even overindulging. Recognizing that, we can take care of ourselves throughout or we can throw the proverbial baby out with the eggnog. My vote is for self care, and here are my basic strategies:
- Sleep – if you’ve got a few days off, it can be tempting to jam-pack them with activities and commitments. Amongst all the play, schedule in some extra sleep. Take an extra hour or two in the morning on holidays or weekends, and indulge in a nap here and there.
- Drink (water, that is) – staying hydrated is even more important at this time of year, particularly with the extra cocktails and sweets. Prevent the hangover and make sure you’re drinking your water. It’ll also slow you down and fill you up a bit, so you might end up drinking less of other things over the course of an evening.
- Move – keep your body moving. It doesn’t have to be your normal routine at the gym (although on holidays gyms are often super quiet and you have the place to yourself, if you’re into that). Bundle up and go for a nice long walk after Thanksgiving dinner. Bring the whole family, the dog, the neighbors. Stretch your legs and keep the blood flowing. If it’s too gnarly outside, bring out the Wii and get the whole family moving in a dance-off or tennis tournament.
- Maintain – just because you’re not following your normal eating patterns doesn’t mean you shouldn’t maintain other routines that support your wellbeing. If you take supplements, keep taking them throughout the holidays. If you like to do some gentle yoga first thing in the morning, do that. Whatever you do to take care of yourself on a normal basis, keep doing it as much as possible throughout the holidays.
- ENJOY! – this is last on the list but ultimately the most important. When you do go for that second helping, or reach for dessert even though you’re already full, the absolute most crucial thing is that you enjoy every little bite. So what if what you’re eating isn’t “healthy” – if you’re savoring it, delighting in it, and truly getting pleasure from it without guilt and stress, then it’s not going to hurt you. If you indulge and beat yourself up for it, you’re putting your body into a stress state, which is where the damage happens.
Remember what this season is truly about: giving thanks for the incredible blessings in our lives, and spreading joy and good cheer to others. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
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