The holidays should be a time to rest, relax, and enjoy the company of those around you. But it can be a time of crazy travel, out of our normal routine, and feeling the pressure to do it all. It is also a time where some of our biggest triggers get pushed and brought to the surface.
I feel like it’s easy to swing really far in the direction of excess and consumption around the holidays. The do more, buy more, eat more approach that our society follows. When we pull so far in one direction we can snap over to the other side to try and compensate by restricting ourselves, putting rules around food, or feeling guilt for overindulging. Or we can feel the pressure of stress and reach outside of ourselves for things to manage and feel better in the moment.
How do we maintain some semblance of balance during this time? And what does balance even mean? It’s a word that gets thrown around and can get a bad wrap because I think it’s easy to associate with perfection, which is not attainable. Balance to me does not mean perfection, being ‘on’ all the time, or having it all figured out. We are the sum of all the things we choose to do in our lives and for ourselves.
This part is important too: everyone’s path looks different. Only YOU know what is best for you and your body. But what is important here is where can you give yourself permission to let go? How can you identify and support what you need right now? How can you incorporate rest and care for your body even if you’re traveling, all over the place, and dealing with stress?
My 8 tips to enjoy the holidays without feeling stressed, guilty, or deprived:
Routine keeps me sane. It’s something I can come back to when I feel like things are busy or crazy. The important piece here is not establishing a new routine during this time, but maintaining the most important pieces of your routine when there’s a lot more going on. What does this look like? It means if you’re traveling bringing the teas, snacks, books, or other pieces of home that keep you grounded. It’s meditating or taking deep breaths throughout the day. It’s doing something nice for yourself at the end of each day. It’s carving out time for you even when you feel like there is none. It’s starting the day with a nourishing meal. It’s doing a 20-minute home workout when you’re traveling. Fit it what you can, but please give yourself what you need.
Have a Plan
Get clear on what you need and make a plan to support it. I used to just kind of do whatever and not have really any tools in place to support my mind or body when I was traveling or my routine was changed during the holidays. But now I am clear on what I need: food at regular intervals (blood sugar balance - I get notoriously hangry), my water bottle with me, the supplements that support my body, enough sleep, the pieces of my routine that ground me that I can take with me (to name a few). And when we’re clear on what we need we can make a plan to make sure we have what we need. Like bringing your favorite tea with your on the airplane or having the snacks to stay balanced throughout the day to avoid going overboard later on. Your plan is yours.
Eat Regular Meals
It’s easy to think of a holiday meal as the grand finale for the day, but skipping meals until the big meal actually is not the best way to support your body. Keep your blood sugar balanced, hanger at bay, and nourish your body with light meals before the main meal. This will prevent the feeling of restricting then overdoing it later. Start the day with a simple smoothie and maybe have a light snack depending on what time you are having your Thanksgiving meal.
Enjoy Your Favorites
The holidays are a time for enjoyment. Food does function to support our physical bodies, yes. But there is social and emotional connection with food that goes beyond what it does in our body physically and this connection is a huge + important part of our health. Telling ourselves we cannot have something puts us in a place of restriction. “I can’t have that” then brings about waves of guilt if we ultimately have it or feelings of sadness and deprivation if we don’t. Release rules around food. Set the intention: food nourishes my body and connects me with those around me. Food is not the enemy, it’s the thoughts and fears we place on food that make it feel this way. Give yourself permission to enjoy your favorites.
Fit in Veggies
Veggies nourish our bodies with the vitamins + minerals we need to support all the different processes that go on every day. Add veggies to your holiday plate, set out a veggie tray with appetizers, or start the day with a green smoothie to get veggies in before holiday festivities. An easy trick I use to get more green in is with blender juice - all the ingredients you would put in a juice but in the blender for a quick boost of veggies with minimal clean up. Check out recipes here.
Release Food Guilt
My philosophy is coming back to a place of freedom with food. Getting back to intuitive eating where we are in tune with what supports our body and choose that most of the time and those other times we choose the dessert and eat the special holiday recipe because food is connection. Remember: one meal or food will not make or break your health goals or change your body. It is a drop in the bucket of all of the food experiences combined. Relax and celebrate with the foods you enjoy. When we feel we have gone too far in one direction we always have the choice to come back the other way.
Alcohol can play a huge role in the holidays. It’s what many of use to escape or manage the things we don’t want to deal with or that trigger us. It gives us an out to not feel the things we’d rather not feel. And this isn’t always the case - alcohol is not everyone’s thing - but for a lot of people it is their thing. It was my thing. This is my 2nd holiday sober and I am so grateful for the clarity I have and the tools I’ve built to support this decision. The holidays + early sobriety (or any point in sobriety) can be rough so here are tools for moving through the holidays without alcohol + what to drink instead.
Boundaries are all about owning your ‘No’. Your no is not mean or hurtful and if people interpret it that way it is their thing not yours because they are used to walking over your boundaries. This can be hard at first. It takes practice, like building a muscle. How to identify where you need a boundary: ask yourself - what am I doing that is out of alignment of what I really want to be doing? What doesn’t sit right with me? Where do I let people do something I don’t want them to?
Resources for setting boundaries during the holidays:
MY FREE GIFT TO YOU THIS THANKSGIVING
Need some inspo to revamp some of your holiday favorites? Got tasked with bringing something you don’t know how to make? Want to healthify a classic? Inside you'll find 7 recipes that can easily become your new holiday go-to's.
All recipes are gluten-free + vegetarian with instructions to make dairy-free + vegan!
Krista is a Chicago-based registered dietitian nutritionist, certified health coach, and certified personal trainer offering virtual nutrition coaching using a functional and integrative approach to help you feel vibrant, balanced, and confident. Looking to get your body + brain back?