You jump in an Uber headed to the airport and excitement is replaced with anxiety. You started thinking about eating clean a week ago, reading about how to avoid weight gain over the holidays and thinking about how you’re going to say no to all your favorite childhood treats.
Now you’re obsessing, and the reality is that the more you think about staying on track the harder it’s going to be. Eating clean is easiest when you aren’t trying to use self-control to manage it. The more rules you take home with you over the holidays, the higher your chances of breaking them, beating yourself up and creating food guilt.
Instead, plan and execute eating clean with actionable steps. It’s the “doing” that decreases anxiety.
Let’s tackle the feelings first. Your fear and insecurity is normal. Take a deep breath. You are human; stop holding yourself to some unemotional level of control. Your fears are stemming from a past event “failure.”
You probably went home last year with the intention to not even taste your mom’s famous pecan pie. When the bite happened, you beat yourself up, threw in the towel and maybe even went in for seconds. But were your goals realistic or making you miserable? Breaking bread is a ritual that connects each of us, and taking part in the celebration is important. Celebrating doesn’t mean you need to eat everything and it doesn’t mean you need to avoid everything. Set a few realistic boundaries and then focus on what you can do to nourish your mind, body and soul and truly vacate.
Breaking bread is a ritual that connects each of us, and taking part in the celebration is important.
At Be Well, we try to instill balance in our clients. Binging and cleansing cycles swing you back and forth like an out of control pendulum ball. Happiness and health are attained when you find balance. Opposed to popular belief, balance isn’t when you stop moving and live a rigid, on plan, perfect life. None of us is perfect. You will swing a little from time to time. We all do.
Balance is found with intentional movement to eat clean, sweat and even enjoy a glass of wine with friends. Accept who you are, love who you are and build a lifestyle focused on health, not some abstract idea of “perfection.” Punishing yourself for “failing” is unhealthy, unproductive and breeds disappointment.
The best way to survive the holidays is to know what you are walking into. Being as prepared for your holiday parties as you can allows you to make decisions ahead of time and stick to your guns. Be a detective by emailing the host and offering to be in charge of a lunch, breakfast or appetizer. Then, ask for the menu to ensure you don’t overlap and easily understand what you are getting into.
Bring a clean winter salad, warm chili or veggie crudité for the group to ensure you are getting a little of the good stuff. Use this trick for dessert, too; use coconut sugar and a gluten-free crust without feeling compelled to tell the guests.
Give a little heads up beforehand to avoid any awkward interactions or to avoid defending yourself or explaining your nutritional needs. If your mom is like mine, you grew up with Campbell’s soup cans mixed into casseroles, Crisco-laced baked goods and Pillsbury gluten bombs that popped out of an aluminum can. That generation was raised to LOVE you through those melty cinnamon rolls, and that’s ok. Not eating them doesn’t mean they can’t love you.
Just a quick call can change everything: “Hey Mom, I am getting really excited for the holiday to relax with you and I would love to help! Can I bring anything? Just a little heads up, I don’t eat (insert-processed food here) anymore and just wanted to let you know so you don’t feel bad if I don’t partake.” This way the disappointment doesn’t happen over the holiday and there is no pressure to defend your lifestyle.
Habits & Schedules
Start each day right. If you do nothing else all holiday break, start your day with a healthy serving of protein and fat. Studies suggest you’ll eat less overall and feel more relaxed around food. Make a vegetable-filled omelet with avocado or pack your protein powder and almond butter for a quick fix.
Schedule a sweat. Do you have a sibling or cousin that likes to workout or maybe your mom belongs to a gym? Get the group involved for a beach walk, hike or a round of golf. Guaranteed they are all worried about the same holiday gains. If they aren’t, commit to getting up before the gang and heading to an early class or grab a week membership at a local gym. Get home before the rest wake and whip up a shake. Relax the rest of the day knowing you made the effort to combat the card game sweets or holiday libations.
Let it go. The scale might have inched up a little after wine tasting last New Years Eve, but odds are it came off within a few weeks if you got back into a normal routine. Need help doing that? Schedule your spin, trainer or yoga classes before you head home. Then, if you allow yourself to enjoy a bite here or a fun drink there, allow it without the guilt. Turn off the hate, self-loathing, and destructive voice in your head. You wouldn’t treat a friend like that, so why would you ever talk to yourself that way?
Wishing you a happy, healthy and relaxing holiday.
Do you stress over eating healthy during the holidays? How can you better balance these expectations this year?
Image via Madison Holmlund