Let’s make one thing clear. I am not a fitness expert or a nutritionist. I’m just an average person trying to stay healthy while still enjoying holiday food, drinks and fun. And I imagine that’s how lots of people would identify.
There are so many blog posts, news segments and articles this time of year about how to stay fit during the holidays (and I guess we can add this one to the list now), but I think the most important take away is to not freak out when the holidays roll around. Yes, there are way more temptations than usual. Yes, there will be amazing, calorie-packed snacks around at all times. Yes, you will probably be attending more social gatherings than usual, where you’ll be served wine, beer, crackers, cookies, cheese and a whole host of other desirable delicacies. (Like my No-Bake Coffee Cookie Balls and my Slow Cooker White Chocolate Mocha.)
But, here’s what I try to keep in mind. There are always temptations. There’s always a Pizza Hut commercial or another Pinterest recipe involving Nutella that’s calling my name. And once in a while, I will order that pizza or make that mug cake because if I didn’t, I would hate my life and eventually go on a junk food binge, which I would then regret.
So here’s how I try to stay balanced and healthy all year long, and what I’ll continue to do during the holidays:
I listen to my body.
Honestly. It’s as simple as that…most of the time.
I realize artificial sweeteners and other scary food addicitons have an effect on our brains, especially for people with diabetes and other food-related conditions. But I’ve found that, for me, it’s all about forming good habits and letting myself indulge once in a while. Then, eventually my body will know when it’s time to put down the extra piece of pie, and I’ll walk away.
Luckily, I’ve trained my body to enjoy—and even crave—healthy vegetables and lean meats after eating what I’d estimate to be 95% carbs as a teenager. I did it simply by forcing myself to eat healthy on a regular basis, and after a short time, I was no longer forcing myself.
Most of the time now, my body actually wants wholesome, nutritious food to function properly, so that’s what I make. Then, occasionally my body wants a cupcake at a party, and it’s totally fine. I eat my healthy meals most of the week, and if I want a cupcake or a Peppermint Mocha on the weekend, then cool, let’s go crazy. I mean you’ve gotta live a little right?
I’ve never been able to last on a diet or meal plan if I didn’t allow myself some flexibility, especially in social situations, and it’s the same for the holidays. Of course I’ll be having some treats when I go visit family and friends, but I’m not going to have an anxiety attack about it. I’ll just eat like I normally do, so I don’t hate myself when I take an extra truffle.
It’s all about balance, and I think that’s what people forget. I will probably try every single dish at Thanksgiving, and I’ll feel great about it because I’ll be taking small portions, and I won’t force it down if I get full. There’s plenty of time for leftovers, and trying everything the second time around is half the fun.
I’ll start with a light, healthy breakfast (probably greek yogurt, granola and coffee) and a normal lunch (whatever I have lying around) and then I’ll eat my Thanksgiving feast. Or my Christmas feast. Or whatever. Starving myself the whole day does not work for me, and it pretty much ruins the holiday.
I think it’s really important that you just know your body and think about how your mind and body will react in these situations. If you’re totally cool with stuffing your face all day long and relaxing happily on the couch after, then do it. If you’ll hate yourself for having anything other than turkey and steamed vegetables, then have that and tell your force-feeding granny to back off. If you want to do the turkey trot in the morning and then take two bites of every dish at dinner, then do it. There’s no one way you have to handle the holidays…just do whatever makes it fun for you.
If you don’t trust your body to tell you what to do, then get some tips from the pros, like these ones from Michigan State University. They’ve got “10 common-sense rules for healthier eating during the holidays – or any time!”
You could also download a nutrition tracker on your phone (my favorite is MyFitnessPal) or take advantage of holiday sales and grab a smart watch/fitness tracker like one of these, which Robin from Women’s Health tested and compared. After you start seeing how different eating, exercise and sleep patterns affect your body and mood, it will probably become much easier to anticipate what you need to stay balanced.
Just don’t be insane and try to start a new diet during the holidays. You’re setting yourself up for failure, and your loved ones will probably hate you for it. Harsh, but true.
Good luck out there friends!
Once more for the record, I have absolutely zero qualifications for telling you how to eat or stay healthy. I’m just sharing how an average, health-conscious latte lover/foodie does the holidays. If you have any sort of medical condition that affects what you should or shouldn’t eat, then, obviously, consult your doctor. Got it? Cool. 👍