8 Tips to Stay on Track this Holiday Season
You have worked hard to create some healthy habits over the last few months, or maybe even few years. You have improved your daily routine, you are working towards getting adequate sleep every night, you meet your daily water goal, most of the time, and you have worked hard to food prep each week, or found a great company like Paleo Works to be sure you can put fuel in your body each day that will leave you feeling energized, not bogged down. And then…here comes the Holidays.
The holiday celebrations can be a huge stressor for someone who wants to stay the course of healthy habits they have created for themselves. Dennis & I are 10 years into a lifestyle that is nothing like the Standard American Diet. With each passing year, we became a little bit better at managing the stress around the food associated with the holidays, and wanted to share some tips and tricks to make your holiday season a little bit easier when it comes to keeping your health intact.
#1 If possible, host.
It is no accident that we have hosted Thanksgiving for the last 6 years. (Full menu HERE.) Yes, this did mean extra work for us, but by hosting, we have total control over the food offered. When people have offered to bring dishes, I am not shy about asking them to make it something that won’t leave my stomach feeling sick after dinner. (People often respond better to not wanting to upset my stomach than just saying “we don’t eat that”.) I also found that letting my guests pick something to make off my menu to make works well too. And…less work for me! If you can’t host, offer to bring a dish. I often bring some kind of side that has meat and veggies in it (like braised cabbage with sausage, or spaghetti squash with a meat sauce).
#2 Find the meat and veggies.
If I’m at a party, I find the meat and veggie options and properly set myself up with a plateful. Shrimp cocktail? Absolutely! Fresh veggies and fruit? Yup. It may not be as sexy as those holiday cookies, but I won’t end up with a bloated belly, sugar crash, and a sugar hangover the next day.
#3 Have an alternative to booze.
If you’ve decided to forgo alcohol, but want something other than tea or water, have a substitute drink so when you are at the office or gym party, you can mingle and still have something sparkly in your hand while you’re socializing. Something as simple as sparkling water with a lime and olive garnish works well. For a full list of other options, check out this extensive list of Paleo Mocktails.
#4 Eat at home first.
Unless you are coming to an OPEX Franklin party, you can probably guarantee the main food options offered at a party are of unknown origin full of surprises that may not agree with your healthy gut. Nothing’s worse than going to a party hungry. It is way easier to resist the bad choices and make good ones if your belly isn’t growling at you. If you show up and there are options, great! You can pick and choose stuff that’s not going to wreck you. If not, you can socialize a few hours and not be starving when you get home.
#5 Be prepared for travel.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” There was a time in a previous life that I was guilty of just that. I would take trips home to Ohio, and grab whatever was convenient. My body became a victim of impulse eating. Now when we travel, be it by car or airplane, we simply plan ahead. If we travel by car, we bring a cooler full of not only snacks for the road, but also a few meals that travel well, such as this Waldorf Chicken Salad. Some of our favorite travel snacks include beef jerky, nuts, dried fruit, and Rx Bars and nut butters. When we arrive, we are always sure to have a kitchen, and our first outing is to a grocery store.
#6 Schedule a time to be active.
If you have an OPEX Franklin coach and are traveling, have your coach program some travel workouts you can take with you. If you don’t have time or a facility for a full workout, take a walk. If you are staying in town, talk to your coach about an adjusted schedule to allow time with your family. Whatever your plans are, be sure to schedule in time to be active. With time off around the holidays, it’s easy to fall out of routine and sometimes, into a rut. You don’t have to hammer yourself, but make sure you are still keeping your health a top priority. You’ll keep your energy up and prevent some of the doldrums, like illness, that seem to arrive with the winter season.
#7 Resist the urge to be a zealot.
If you’re loving the changes you have made to your nutrition lifestyle, and all the great stuff it’s done for you – better sleep, more energy, fat loss, etc. – it’s so tempting to want to tell EVERYONE! But, keep in mind, everyone is at a different part of their health and fitness journey, and some people haven’t even taken their first step. Therefore, as much as you want to tell Aunt Maggie why her dinner roll causes gut permeability or your Uncle Bob about the blood sugar spike he’ll get after eating that slice of fruitcake, it’s probably not the time or place. Of course, when someone notices all the wonderful changes in you, and asks how you did it, that would be a great time to strategically talk about what you’ve been doing (like, “I eat plenty of meat, veggies and healthy fat”). Focusing on the positive always helps, and people are less likely to get offended.
#8 Know where you can cut corners.
Depending on where you are in your journey, you may already know what type of foods you can be lax about, and which foods you need to absolutely avoid. Your no-no foods may be ones that destroy your gut, or ones that you know are a gateway food down a slippery slope of treats that will take weeks of willpower to undo. If gluten makes your gut tie into knots but dairy usually doesn’t bother you too much, you’ll know to studiously avoid the cookies while maybe having some holiday eggnog. If you want to indulge, do so in moderation, and make a choice that won’t wreck you for days. If there is a special, nostalgic treat that defines the holiday season for you, then absolutely, enjoy that treat, and there is no need to even feel guilty about it. However, one could argue that a bag of red and green M & M’s every day through December 31 just isn’t special.