The holidays are supposed to be festive and a time for celebration, but sometimes they can be stressful and overwhelming. Around this time of year we give ourselves permission to indulge because a fresh New Year is right around the corner. Some people enter into the holidays with the mindset that they’re going to take a break from their healthy lifestyle and they expect to gain weight because they feel like they don’t have control over it. But what if we can stop this cycle and set ourselves up so we don’t feel like we have to play catch up come January 2nd?
There are times that we have idealistic expectations of how we want the holidays, or a holiday related event to go. When those expectations aren’t met, it can lead us to turn to food for comfort or as an escape. In general, many of the cravings we have aren’t really about the food. Instead they are often the coping mechanism we have identified as safe to help us get through different situations from the past.
Between approaching the holidays with idealistic expectations, a number of gatherings, family time, traveling and gift shopping, the holidays can be exhausting. When we arrive at holiday parties exhausted it increases stress and ultimately causes our blood sugar to be off balance, which then leads to our inhibitions going down. And when our inhibitions are down, we have more of a tendency to say, “Screw it!” because we feel we deserve a treat.
There are steps we can take to set ourselves up for success during the holidays to help avoid binging and ultimately gaining weight:
- Set your goal(s) for the holidays: The goal should be measurable, attainable and realistic to ensure you’ll stick to it. The more specific it is, the better. The goal can be related to food, exercise, some of your triggers, or even how you want to engage with, or interact with people, as a few examples.
- Envision what could go wrong: Research shows that actionable and intelligent goal setting includes planning for failures. In the planning you’ll learn how to navigate it rather than falling back on the old standbys of self-judgment, shame and blame.
- Plan ahead: During the holiday season we are often out of our routine, which can make it hard to stick to what we know works like planning, preparation and implementing self-care. Even though we may not have time to plan during the holidays, thinking ahead and planning for those times is helpful so we have some strategies in place. For example a couple questions you can ask yourself include, what are some triggers you know will come up during the holidays? How have you handled them in the past? What could you do differently so the trigger doesn’t lead to binging?
- Enjoy! If you know one of your favorite holiday foods is a trigger, it’s OK to enjoy and savor the foods you love that have meaning. It’s important that we allow ourselves to have these foods and not beat ourselves up afterwards. Planning ahead can help since we are making a conscious choice to eat the foods we rarely get to enjoy through out the year.
These are just four steps to help you feel confident that you can tackle the holidays with ease so you don’t feel like you need to start again after the New Year. Feel free to reach out with any questions or if you would like to discuss any additional strategies to help you during the holiday season.
Laura B. Folkes is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and is a Certified Holistic Health Coach. She supports busy adults to take back control of their eating, successfully navigate life with food intolerances, reduce cravings and/or make sustainable changes without deprivation. After successfully losing 60 pounds and working through her own emotional relationship with food, Laura recognizes there are many factors keeping individuals from sticking to what they know works but it’s her mission to help others overcome these factors to become healthier and happier.