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A Health Coach's Guide to the Holidays

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

I've missed a couple of holidays, but they're not over yet! Many of us are already wondering about what to get for whom and who's going where and when, never mind the quality of what we eat and how much we sleep during this time of year. A good many sit at the holiday dinner table with invasive thoughts in the back of their minds or a voice telling them they really shouldn't eat this or that, which can really put a damper on spending time with loved ones and actually enjoying what they put into their mouths.

Here are three tips to lay that to rest.

Three plates, each with a different type of dessert. The center plate has gingerbread people.

Photo by Jennifer Pallian via Unsplash

1. Food focusing during the holidays

Let's tackle the largest concern first, as it's often on the forefront of our minds either when we survey the gathering's offerings or afterwards as we chat with loved ones. We have a few different options here, and what will work best for you will depend on your circumstances. You're also welcome to do a combination!

Firstly, we can control what we bring, if we're able to bring anything. Prepare or purchase your favorite delicious and nutritious meal, finger food, treat, or dessert and share it with your loved ones. Be prepared to share the recipe or where you bought it! People are often pleasantly surprised by tasty healthy food due to the misconception that if it's good for your body, it's not good for your taste buds. Break the stereotype!

Secondly, start with small amounts of the foods you want to try and take your time eating- you can always go back for more! I know some of us believe we might be judged for walking back and forth, but remember that people either a.) aren't actually paying attention to that or b.) are noticing that you're really not getting that much each time you make a plate. This will also help you prevent that post-feast "blah" from feeling too full. Remember: how you eat is often a larger factor than what you eat.

Thirdly, exercise earlier or later in the day and stand or walk around lots during the course of the gathering. This one is more just something to ease your mind, and walking around leisurely is certainly not an activity that'll cause you any harm.

Bonus: Do not starve yourself prior to the gathering! It is not beneficial for you and doesn't actually allow you to eat more or help you "cut down on calories," as your body will be more likely to retain instead of use what you consume due to the starvation mode phenomenon.

A table set with delicious fall and winter treats: a loaf of braided bread, pumpkin pie, apples, cinnamon rolls, and berry punch

2. Living in the moment

Short but sweet: the greatest gift you can give to yourself and those around you is to simply remember that all you truly have is the present. The moment you're existing in right now. Enjoy it to the fullest; savor your drinks and food and the present company. Chat, cry, laugh, reminisce, whatever you need in the moment.

They say that there is a time for everything, but there is never truly time for worry. Make the health-conscious choices in the moment as they present themselves. If you feel like you failed, resolve to do better with your next choice. The true definition of perfection is to improve; making mistakes is part of what makes us who we are. How boring would it be if we constantly did everything perfectly all the time without needing to learn and improve?

Frosted hibernating branches

Photo by Vasilina Sirotina via Unsplash

3. Getting back on track

This last one ties in to the previous point of living in the moment. Once the holidays are over, you can go back to your regular schedule if it changed. Make your healthy changes gradually instead of all at once, and opt for a yearly vision board instead of a New Year's resolution. Give yourself small, attainable goals that lead to your desired results. It doesn't and shouldn't happen overnight. You need time to grow into the person you want to become.

You are beautifully real, and you experience things as you should. Let yourself exist and give yourself permission to enjoy these events that are meant to encourage us to get through winter. Above all, remember that we are mammals, and this time of year is when we naturally want coziness, good food, and safety. You are not in the wrong for wanting to eat well and sleep longer.

Please be advised that this time of year is one of the seasons that can greatly affect those with seasonal affective disorder (seasonal depression or S.A.D.), something some people simply call "winter blues" ("summertime sadness" is an alternative term used for those who experience it in the warmer months). If you find yourself to be unusually low energy and with little to no motivation for several days/a week or more, please seek out a licensed medical professional. You do not have to "tough it out."


Gearing up to make your dreams and goals a reality next year?

Try a Breakthrough Session to get a roadmap, get started on your healing journey, or get a reading for the year ahead.

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