The holidays go by in a blur and they can be some of our most memorable times and also some of our most stressful of times. Many people struggle this time of the year with their nutrition and fitness goals due to this stress. Let’s talk about some tools for navigating the many seasonal treats, beverages and social gatherings so that we can slow down, enjoy these moments, and truly savor all that this holiday season has to offer.
Let’s start by talking about food cravings. First of all, acknowledge that we are human and not robots. All humans, however dialed in with nutrition they may be, have food cravings. Start by looking at your environment to see if there are things that may be leading to those food cravings. The holiday candy bowl at your office or around your house is an example of something visible that may lead to craving more unhealthy foods.
Look at other factors that may impact your likelihood of engaging in healthy behaviors. How are you feeling and are you getting enough sleep? When we are sleep deprived, feeling depressed or stressed out and trying to get many things done around the holidays, our bodies turn to comfort to alleviate the impact of our stress hormones, and this may lead to cravings of foods that are higher in sugar.
The holidays provide some challenges to our nutrition goals, from increased social events that may lead to pressure to eat foods you normally don’t eat at gatherings, and possible increased alcohol and desserts. Social events are difficult to navigate for many reasons. Often, food is a focus at these events and there may be pressure to overindulge to avoid feeling different. If you are feeling stressed, food or alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism to deal with the added stress. With social events, there is also the tendency to mindlessly eat from the previously mentioned holiday candy bowl.
So… What are some strategies for dealing with some of these added stressors. Here’s some ideas:
- Offer to bring some food: Bring a healthy dish that you enjoy to a gathering to ensure there is something healthy to indulge in. Start looking at recipes for the holidays to come up with some dishes to bring. Need some ideas? Here’s a few healthy side dishes to bring:
- Reshape your holiday party plate: Look at the variety of offerings at a gathering, and consciously work to load your holiday plate up with the healthiest offerings first.
- Environment check: Where are you standing at a holiday gathering? Make sure to position yourself farther away from the food table or the holiday candy bowl to decrease the likelihood of mindless eating while socializing.
- For alcohol, think about alternating with water if you are going to have an alcoholic beverage, and opting for a healthier alternative to the sugary or cream-filled drinks. A vodka & soda, glass of red wine, or a light beer.
- Practice mindfulness: Slow down as you eat, and take the time to chew your food, and enjoy the tastes and smells of your food. When socializing, be mindful of mindless eating while you are caught up in a conversation. Aim to set your plate down and stay focused on the conversation.
Have a wonderful, happy and healthy holiday season!