With the holidays officially upon us, this Dietitian has some Holiday Wellness Tips to help you enjoy the day while also not sacrificing your relationship with food!
The holidays can be an exciting time of year- filled with visits from family and friends, holiday get together and traditions. When I think of the holidays one thing comes to mind. FOOD. Sure there are so many other parts of the holidays I love, but there's just something about holiday food that makes everything more exciting. Whether it's your moms famous mac and cheese or those shortbread cookies your Aunt Becky only makes once a year food has become a staple in how we celebrate the holidays.
In today's western world, food and drinks have become a staple part in how we celebrate with others. This can be a great thing for some, but these food-centric holidays can also cause a rise in anxiety for anyone that has ever struggled with their relationship with food (and believe me if you are feeling like this you are NOT alone). But as frustrating as it can be to navigate through the holidays while working on your relationship with food you are not alone and I promise you can do this!
Which is why I wanted to create this little guide of five of my favourite holiday wellness tips to help make your holidays nourishing and enjoyable!
Treat it like any other meal
Although the holidays may only come once a year, your body doesn't know that! Whether it's Christmas or just another Wednesday your body needs fuel. It's pretty much guaranteed that "saving" calories throughout the day will just leave you HANGRY and wanting to eat absolutely everything in sight. Which brings me to one of the most important holiday wellness tips I have.
Instead of skipping meals to 'save room' for the meal, on the day of a holiday get together and the days leading up to it, eat normally! Have your favourite balanced breakfast, eat a filling lunch (and don't forget the snacks).
One of the best ways to avoid overeating is going into the meal just like you would any other meal, hungry but not absolutely starving. This will allow you to really think about what you are craving in the moment and how much of it your body feels like eating!
ADD nutrition to your plate
Even though the holidays can mean enjoying some foods we may only make once a year it doesn't mean we have to completely forget about nourishing our bodies with food that make us feel good. As a dietitian my mentality surrounding food is that it doesn't need to be overly complicated (if you haven't you NEED to check out my balanced snack guide)! Rather than restricting foods we love, we can find ways to ADD to our plates to help include some extra nutrients!
(believe me: I promise I don't mean bringing your own chicken, rice and broccoli to your next holiday party!)
When you go up to grab your food, take a quick scan of what's offered and choose the foods that are really calling to you. Is it that mac and cheese Aunt Becky makes with some turkey and stuffing on the side? Great! Add those to your plate. Now we want to focus on adding some extra nutrition to our plate. Is there a salad or vegetable side you can add to help bring in some extra colour?
Holiday wellness tip: When in doubt try to make sure your plate has at least one vegetable and one protein and try to save the sweets for last!
Savour each bite
Despite how good the food may taste- there’s no rush to finish fast! One of the best parts about the holidays is sharing meals with loved ones and people we may not see as much as we would like to. This holiday season, try to be a little more mindful while you are eating. Put down your fork down between each bite (or try your best to do it as often as you can) and take time to be grateful for the food in front of you.
By taking these small breaks while eating it helps gives your brain a chance to send the signal that your stomach is beginning to feel full and satisfied- a sign that maybe we should pack up the rest for leftovers! On the other hand it also might give us a chance to realize we are actually still pretty hungry and we didn't take enough food. In this case it is 1000% okay to grab seconds!
Try to tune into your hunger and fullness ques as much as you can!
Stay active- in a way you enjoy
Just because it's the holidays doesn't mean you can't be active! Although you should never feel like you NEED to exercise to 'work off' your meal and rest days are not only okay but necessary, it also is okay if you don't feel like sitting on the couch watching football all day! Listen to your body and do what works best for you! I personally love going for a walk with my family on Christmas day. Everyone is always in such a good mood and it's so nice being able to get some fresh air and spend some extra time with the people I love!
Ditch the diet talk
Sadly I find diet culture tends to skyrocket during the holidays, especially leading up to the new year.
Terms like 'saving up calories', 'getting back on track', 'I've been SO bad recently' and 'wearing my holiday pants' tend to become common phrases in many of the conversations we hear. Seeing releatives and friends you may not have seen in a while also can also lead to body comments to be made. As someone who may be trying to improve their relationship with food these seemingly small comments from others can be incredibly triggering.
My biggest tip in these situations is to try to avoid them and change them subject as much as you can. If someone makes a comment about how they feel so guilty eating something, try to subtly change the subject! Rather than engaging and having to partake in an entire conversation surrounding diet culture and food, ask them a question to steer the conversation away.
When in doubt: ask someone something about themselves or their lives, most people love when others are interested in them and it's a great way to drive conversation. If this doesn't work it is 100% ok to find an excuse to slip away from the conversation if it isn't serving you.
Allow yourself to enjoy it
The holidays only come once a year! Remember it is okay to fully enjoy them! Enjoy the foods you may not have access to all year long, enjoy the company of your friends and family and enjoy those glasses of eggnog! A healthy lifestyle is all about balance and moderation.
If you end up leaving the meal feeling a little more full than you normally do- that is also okay! What is important to remember in these moments is that this is NORMAL. It's just a signal that your body ate a little bit more than it normally does. This doesn't mean you need to set goals to 'get back on track' or vow to 'be better tomorrow'. I promise one day will not ruin your progress or stop you from achieving your goals. You don't need to get back on track because you never left the track- your routine will always be there when you return to it.
I always say, life is about so much more than calories and step counts, it's about memories, and moments that bring you joy. Fear and guilt do not have a place in my holiday mentality and I hope they don't have a place in yours!
Life is way to short to not fully enjoy it.