The holidays are infamous for compromising the sanity and waistlines of innocent citizens every year. Be it the copious amounts of food, the forced family bonding time, the cold weather, or the wonky sleep schedules, one statement is undeniably true: "the holidays" and "health" are generally accepted as oxymoronic terms. The good news is: they don't have to be. I'm here to show you the way to a healthy holiday season.
1) Physical Health
Let's face it: most of us know what we need to do in order to make better health choices. The obstacles that I observe most commonly amongst my clients are a) not having access to simple tips and tricks regarding "the how," and b) familial or social pressure to behave in an unhealthy manner. We will cover point B later. Here is a daily checklist you can use to preserve or improve your physical health during the holiday season. Adopt a semi-regular sleep/wake cycle by setting regular sleep and wake-up times. For 80% of your meals: pack your plate with protein (lean meats, eggs, fish) first, follow it up with green vegetables, and finish off with just a bit of starch and healthy fats (avocado, oils, nuts). The other 20% of the time, splurge away. Each day, choose ONE physical activity to engage in for a minimum of ten minutes. Mobility and stability drills, walking, and working out all apply. Just move your body. Follow me on IG @coachmariahpainfreefitness if you want some suggestions!
2) Mental Health
Mental health is often a huge obstacle in the way of a healthy holiday season. The number one habit I see in my clients is the adoption of an "all or nothing" mindset, wherein they feel that they "fall off the wagon" during the holidays, and the day turns into a week, which turns into a few weeks, which then turns into a heap of depression and guilt and ultimately results in starting back at square one.
Remember: while I encourage you to follow the tips laid out in bulletpoint #1, natural fluctuations in our diet and fitness practices are inevitable and even normal over the holidays.
The best thing you can do when you "fall off the wagon?" Don't punish yourself. Don't starve yourself. Don't obsess. Just get right back on the wagon as soon as you can, and go on about your life like normal.
One or two meals, one or two workouts, or one or two days won't have a huge effect on your health. However, spiraling out of control for a month OR developing a negative "splurge/punish" cycle will set you back significantly. Before the holiday season picks up significantly: write down these agreements:
"I will not punish or starve myself for enjoying food over the holidays.""I will do my best to maintain my exercise and eating regimen, but if I miss a few days, I will let it go and resume my routine as soon as I can." "I will be conscious and committed to my mental health and my mindset during the holiday season, and I will not suffer in silence if I need help or guidance."
3) Healthy Boundaries
While "boundaries" aren't typically within the scope of practice for a trainer or manual therapist, it's important to touch on them, as the holidays are ripe with familial and social pressure and, of course, lots of unconventional settings and situations that render us unprepared. Being "that person" at the family dinner who isn't partaking in the massive dessert menu, or "that person" who chooses to go for a walk or jog every morning instead of sit by the TV can result in a lot of probing questions and peer pressure.
I generally recommend my clients not discuss their fitness or diet regimens over the holidays, unless they are convinced that the conversation will elicit positive and productive results. This is easier said than done, but here are a few suggestions to increase your chances of success:
Set the expectation ahead of time. Letting your friends and family know BEFORE the event that you are planning to make your own food and lifestyle choices over the holidays and that you expect that they respect your choices is a fantastic way to prepare them (and yourself) and reduce the "in the moment" shock that can occur. Come up with a simple and calm response to anyone that may try to pry or pressure you. Something like "I am going to stick with my routine as best I can because that's how I feel my best, and I encourage you to enjoy yourself however you'd like!" Make it concise and make it non-debatable.
Remember: you are your own best advocate.
Develop a daily routine that fits into your lifestyle.
Seek help with accountability if you need it.
Enjoy yourself, and try not to behave in a way that will massively affect your physical or mental wellbeing.
Set boundaries, and set the bar by which others treat you.
I wish you a healthy and happy holiday season. Please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com if you need any additional support!