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Surviving the Holidays

Here is where things get sticky…

You made it through the spring and the summer. and even the reintroduction of pumpkin spice and apple cider. But here comes the social events, family, gatherings, and holiday traditions.

I am going to do my best here to give you all I’ve got, but sometimes these are so crazy complicated just like most of our family lives and social interactions are. Bear with me!

I’m gonna do my best to break this down into leading up to the day of an event, right before the event, during the event, and then, after the event. And at the end, I’m going to throw in a little bit of thoughts & strategies for if you have 2 or more of these in a row… close vicinity…maybe it is the whole week depending on how things play out. Like I said, bear with me. Here we go…

Before the event

Leading into any event is going to be complicated. There are so many different possibilities out there with structure and what to do with that. Is it in the morning? Is it in the afternoon? Is it in the evening? Does it have multiple meals? Are you hosting? Is somebody else hosting and they are on a health journey? Is it a potluck? Are there certain traditional foods? Do you already know ahead of time that they were going to be foods that you absolutely hate? Where you are going, do they know how to cook well? WHAT!!! I had to put that last one in there. Sometimes, people need a little bit more help with seasoning is all I’m saying. Needless to say here, there are many different possibilities.

Some things that can help you through regardless of the specifics…

  • Think about changing up your nutritional goals. Maybe leading up to the week you want to use strategies like calorie banking or plan to stay within your nutritional goals all week long in a more strict manner than normal so that way the event itself doesn’t impact your weight management as much.
  • If you know what will be served, you can make a plan before and try to stick to that plan no matter what. One thing about this strategy is… this is a commitment that you’re making to yourself. You can go and have a little bit more flexibility with it, depending on how you set it up. One way to do it would be to say that you are only going to go for XYZ. Another way would be to say that you are only going to fill up one small plate and make sure that you sit down to eat it. How strict this commitment is is completely up to you, but it is a commitment to yourself and that is something that you never want to break. It is a promise. We keep promises to other people. Let’s not rationalize breaking promises to ourselves so that we begin to mistrust ourselves, and our capability in different situations.
  • For buffet-style layouts: You can always try to put a limitation on the amount of variation that goes on your plate. Sometimes this can be helpful because it gives a little bit of gravity to each decision. Try to put a limit of 3 to 4 items so that way you know what makes it onto your plate is something that you truly want to try.
  • Worth it food: There very well could be food that you have not had in a very long time, and they are the foods that you are head over heels for… aka “worth it” foods. When strategizing, keep this in mind. If your great aunt makes the pie that you haven’t had since you were eight, you’re going to want to have a piece! These “worth it” foods are foods that you feel are worth the moment now and will still be worth it later.
  • Choice of 3: there are always extras. that may be in the form of appetizers or other finger foods, drinks, and delicious desserts. In this situation, it’s not always best to fully restrict because maybe these things truly are worth it. what can be helpful is to limit the choices made here. Really choose things that align with you. Maybe choose one or two of the three. and then focus the rest of your meal on lean proteins and fruits and veggies to help balance your consumption for the event.

You’re the host or it’s a potluck!

  • Be prepared to send the leftovers home with guests by buying some plastic containers while you are shopping for your ingredients. This can be such a heartfelt act because you are sending your guests home with a meal that they can prepare for themselves the next day. This is not an action of pawning things off on somebody, BUT also, don’t force this on people. They may be in a position just like you and say yes because they don’t want to upset someone but it doesn’t align with their goals.
  • You may want to look at recipes that help fit your goals as well as nurture your guests. You can follow easier formats of looking to have proteins, vegetables, and fruits available as well as other things.
  • If you are going to the event, bring plates that you can eat from in case there are things there that do not feel “worth it” to you and you find it hard to reach your nutritional goals with what will be available.

Some of my favorite resources for holiday recipes

Day of an event

Eating before the event: Set yourself up well beforehand with a really high protein/low-calorie breakfast and/or lunch to not head to the gathering really hungry. When you aren’t really hungry, you can make choices regarding what you want to consume a little bit easier. That physical hunger won’t be as urgent feeling and lead you towards things that you may not normally grab for.

You may want to minimize or skip snacks. Choosing a fruit or vegetable to snack on, can be a great way to get some of those micronutrients in before. You can always have half of a protein shake as well. Whatever helps hold you over so that again when you get to the event itself, you don’t have physical hunger stacked on top of all of the delicious things that you see around affecting you.

If you are the one doing the cooking, try to minimize your bites, licks, and tastes, because they do add up! We can easily get to the point of consuming 200 to 500 cal without even knowing it.

If you do not love the foods that are going to be there, you can always eat a much bigger meal ahead of time to minimize what you do not want to eat.

Don’t forget activity! Aiming for a step goal and staying active is going to allow for more flexibility food-wise. Think of your weekly movement and exercise as added insurance here.

During the event

  • Mindful vs Mindless: Work to recognize hunger signals. Be sure to sit in an intentional place for eating. Also, try to not stay near the food table. The distance can help possible mindless eating habits.
  • Savor your food: When we slow down to consume, our brain has a chance to know when to signal that we are actually full. Taste the food… savor it. When we savor our food, we can experience the joy from it but in moderation that aligns with how to best nourish our bodies.
  • Practice the pause: Put your fork down between bites, and talk with your company halfway through your meal for a few minutes. We are putting space between us and the next bite but we’re doing it so that we can enjoy the moment with the people around us.
  • Check-in for the fullness: Check-in with yourself and how you feel. When we create a space, we give ourselves a moment to think about being able to check in… do I feel satiated? Do I want another bite? Will I feel good if I take that next bite or will I feel overfull?
  • Leave two bites behind: For some, the most helpful thing that we can do for ourselves is make our way out of the “Clean your plate” club.
  • Enjoy the moments: The goal of gatherings is the memories made with the people present. And it is a lot easier to enjoy the moments when we’re not stuffed and uncomfortable in our clothing. 
  • Be ready for others: Have some phrases ready to give a family member or friend when she is pushing you to try her pecan pie after you are already full. “But I made this just for you”…. You – “I love you for thinking of me I am so full I will pack some up for later” then change the topic. 
  • Mindset matters: As joyful as the holiday season can be, It also seems to be a time when a lot of doubts can come in like “I can’t do this”, “this is too hard”, or “I ruined the day already”. Those are things that ONLY hold the value that we GIVE them though. This one day will not dictate the rise or fall of your journey however whatever we continue will. Use the following moment to get back into your normal routine.  

After the event

Do not give up: No matter what happens or what choices you make do not give up… things happen. Plans change. Moments take place. But what do you do afterward? That is what defines you. That is what defines the season that you’re in. That is what defines the path that you are now taking and choosing. Yes, choosing. We have a choice in every single thing we do. 

Start back with the next meal: one of the biggest things that I see as a coach is that people have a tendency to wait for the next Monday, wait for the next month, or wait for the next year, but there is a lot that can be done if we just start again in the very next moment or the very next meal.

Also, food is only worth the value it gives you: If there is one particular food that you know you are going to be trying to resist for days or you will be overindulging, enjoy what you feel is an acceptable amount for you then get rid of it! And this is always coming back to the tether of aligning with what you want to do with this food. And that goes right into my next point… Our food environment matters. Self-control is not limitless and what we see influences our decisions.

That leads to the final point made here regarding your food environment. After gatherings and holidays, we tend to have extras in our homes. Sometimes there is so much that these things are out in the open and we see them constantly. There may be candy bowls left out or the refrigerator is overfilled with leftovers. These things do matter when it comes to managing willpower and discipline. I encourage you to have what you feel comfortable with, and that aligns with you and to get rid of all else or put it in a place where you cannot see it day in and day out.

Multiple Events

As promised, what to do for multiple events in a row… Have Jesus take the wheel! I kid!

Multiple events in a row, provide an opportunity to strategize, reassess, and act differently for each preceding day. This can help you create a better plan for any events to come. Each event will be different, but how you show up to each one can be the same. You can utilize different strategies in different moments because this gives you the chance to learn adaptability, and how to test out what truly works for you and keeps you on the path that you want to be on.

Anything can be manageable. Anything can become a complete failure. But anything can also teach us something more about ourselves if we are ready and willing to learn.

I truly hope that this helps you survive the holiday season!

With love,

Coach Nik

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