How to stay on track during the holidays

Did you know there is a balance between enjoying the holidays and not having to dig yourself out of a hole come January?

I used to think that once Thanksgiving got here (heck, maybe even Halloween) it was game over and I would start the healthy eating and working out consistently on January 1st.

January would roll around and I would begrudgingly start a restrictive routine and feel that much farther from my goal. Sound familiar?

A few years ago I realized it doesn’t have to be this way and it’s been an absolute game changer. I figured out what was really important to me, focused on those things during all the celebrations, and started gaining some real traction towards my goals.

My first epiphany came when I realized how many meals I actually consume during the holiday season. If I eat three meals a day from November 1st to December 31st, that’s 183 meals (if we include two snacks a day that’s 305!). I remember struggling with making good decisions while at parties or holiday get-togethers–realistically that starts around Thanksgiving but for kicks let’s say it starts right after Halloween. If I attend an average of three parties a week from November to December, that’s 9 weeks and 27 meals that I could say “derail my progress.” While 27 meals is a lot, if we compare it to 183 meals (or 305), it’s only 14.75% of the entire two months! Am I going to sacrifice most of my meals just because roughly 15% of my meals feel off track? No. And good news, this fits into the 80/20 rule, where about 80% of my meals are balanced and about 20% of my meals can be out of the ordinary.

I decided to eat my normal, balanced meals most of the time and then enjoy the meals at the celebrations I attended. Mentally, this approach helped me feel that I was in control during a time when I previously felt victim to my circumstances. It ultimately helped me make better choices and physically I felt so much better too! I wasn’t packing on unnecessary pounds and feeling like I took 5 steps back when January arrived.

So how did I approach those celebratory meals? By having a game plan and being mindful. Let’s take Thanksgiving as an example: Instead of viewing the day (or long weekend) as a time to stuff myself with whatever was available, I thought about what was important to me and made Thanksgiving feel special. For me, it is playing games with my family, listening to Christmas music while cooking together, and enjoying a few specific dishes. How I’ve approached this holiday now is eating a balanced breakfast and lunch (focused on protein and veggies) and then mindfully enjoying the Thanksgiving meal. I eat the things that I really want to, and I eat slowly and to about 80% full. When I’m done, I have thoroughly enjoyed the meal and don’t feel sick or overly stuffed after. If I want to go back and get more I can, but I don’t eat to the point of feeling uncomfortable. The next day I pick up where I left off and feel good about my choices.

I would like to make something clear–one meal or even one day is not going to derail your progress, in the long run, just like one day isn’t going to get you to your goal. However, the mindset we have surrounding that day can be really powerful in how we approach future days and decisions. If you want to approach Thanksgiving differently, that’s totally fine! But if you find that the “I messed up and might as well eat whatever while I can” mindset is taking over, maybe you approach these types of celebrations with a shift in your actions and see how you feel.

In the holiday season, there is still so much time to practice good habits. We still go about our regular day most of the time and typically only have special events/trips a few days or a couple of weeks max out of the two months. Maybe your routine shifts quite a bit if you travel or have family in town, but you can identify what habits are important and doable for you to keep during those times. Maybe you focus on sleeping for 8 hours, drinking enough water each day, or going for a brisk walk if you can’t make it to the gym. Even if you just focus on eating slowly and mindfully and to 80% full, that can go a long way in helping you maintain your progress.

What can you do to approach the holidays differently?

How can you surround yourself with others who are doing the same thing and encourage you to keep going?

For me, it was joining CrossFit and seeing people stay consistent all year round that really inspired me to make a change. I also worked with a coach that helped me create a game plan and hold me accountable no matter what obstacles I faced. After solidifying these habits, years later I am still practicing a routine that works for me, and really happy with the results I’ve achieved and been able to maintain year round. How can you set yourself up for success to feel the same way?