Guilt, stress and the holidays seem to go hand in hand. The holidays are a chaotic time filled with laughs, family + friends, and buckets and buckets of stress and sugar. This can be hard to navigate and people face a multitude of multi faceted challenges when it comes to food choices, treats, and over eating. It’s not always as simple as “just don’t eat it”. Unfortunately our culture places a lot of value in food in both the good and bad categories. We use food to obviously nourish and fuel our bodies. But we also use food to celebrate, to de-stress, to mourn, to fuel other emotion – when we’re happy, sad, angry – and so much more. It’s not easy to get out of these loops – to ditch the holiday guilt and not just survive but THRIVE through the holidays. I’m going to share with you some of the best ways i’ve used with clients to help them ditch the holiday guilt and come out of it happier on the other side.
Find your balance
I will NEVER encourage you to go jump on the stair stepper in a garbage bag in order to “sweat out all the toxins and excess calories” or tell you not to eat for three days because you’ve blown your calorie budget that far out of the water. Because A. it doesn’t work like that and B. it’s just not good for you, physically OR mentally. What I WILL encourage you to do is find a balance. Maybe increase your workouts from 2 or 3 times a week to 3 or 4. And maybe get some extra steps in (check out this blog I wrote on ways to increase your steps here). Have a higher protein breakfast like an omelette with veggies so that you don’t show up starving. Instead of only eating potatoes, have more turkey/ham/protein whatever and a smaller portion of the sides. This will keep you full for longer. Is this going to change the very fabric of reality for you? No. But it will help you continue to do things that fill your cup and help create a deficit with calories so that you can hopefully stay pretty close to maintenance. Which brings us to our next thing.
Set realistic goals
Setting a goal to not indulge AT ALL just isn’t realistic for most people – and can lead to an even bigger guilt spiral. Those goals are simply too black and white and don’t factor in things like cravings or the fact that dessert is delicious. So instead of setting a goal that only sets you up to fail – look at things from a different lens. You know you’re going to have to attend a few family functions, so maybe that week you get a long walk in before going (who doesnt feel a little less stressed after walking outside?). Let’s say you KNOW there will be three types of pie and you want to try them all. Okay – have a small slice of all three, and maybe skip the potatoes, or go for a smaller portion while loading up on the protein option. OR ask to take a small slice of two of them home with you and have one there. That way you have dessert for the next two days and you’re not depriving yourself of a tasty pumpkin pie (or so i’m told from people that actually like pie – I know, i’m weird, it’s okay. I’ve made my peace with it.). At the end of the day, don’t stress too much. Which brings us to the next topic.
Take steps to de-stress
One of the biggest factors that leads to cravings and over indulging, and ultimately guilt, is stress. Stress does a lot to our bodies and mind. While some stress is good, like with all things – too much isn’t ideal. And feeling guilty about your foods can cause stress. Just like your mom asking if you’ve finally found the love of your life, or having to deal with that nosey aunt. Like I said above – it’s all about balance. Work outs can help you destress – especially if you like to move your body. Some other de-stressing techniques include – screaming into a pillow (i’m only kind of kidding), calling a friend, going for a walk, 2-5 minutes of deep breathing, yoga videos/classes (like this one), laughing, doing a hobby like painting or other crafts. I could list pretty much every activity that people enjoy and it would work for someone. Basically do more things you enjoy and that bring you a smile or a laugh. I know time is limited during the holidays – so go for options that don’t take a lot of time or that you can bundle with other things. Like watching your favorite show/podcast while you cook what you’re bringing to family dinner.
Recognize that one day doesn’t not define your journey
One “bad” meal or day does not define your journey as a whole, so really, no guilt need apply. Just as a pot hole in the road doesn’t make the entire road trip crappy. It’s just a pot hole/bump in the road. You will not ruin all of your progress. You will not gain 5lbs of fat overnight (despite what the scale might say – as it’s nearly impossible to do that, it’s likely water weight). Enjoy the day or meal or function the best you can. And then get back to your regular routine the next meal or day.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means. There are SO many ways to help you ditch guilt during the holidays when it comes to food choices. At the end of the day – find ways that work for YOU. Find things that help fill your cup, and help you not dread the holidays. And if you need a little extra help – we do offer habit based nutrition coaching to help keep you accountable to your goals and help find more specific ways to help you.