Updated: Jan 15
It’s that time of year again.
Stressing about last minute shopping plans, trying old recipes again (that you probably didn’t actually like last year),having guilt or shame around food (that you shouldn’t have), holding onto the beginning of the year bliss that comes with New Year’s Resolutions.
Oh, the holidays.
While some of it is unavoidable (cue your mother’s neurosis around Christmas being picture perfect), we’re here to remind you that the holidays don’t have to be a treacherous time; they don’t have to be a time of guilt and shame; they don’t need to be a time of indulgence and over exercise.
No matter what holidays you celebrate, they are notorious for “ruining diets” and we just don’t think it needs to be that extreme for you this year.
Here are some things we do know:
There will be more (highly palatable) foods accessible to you
There will be an increase in commitments to family parties, work parties, and friendsgivings
There will be an uptick in opinions around a lot of things
…but we also know…
There will also be love, laughter, and quality time
There is sure to be food that you love
There will be memories you’ll never have for the first time again
It might sound crazy, but we pick the latter versus the former this holiday season, and we hope you do as well.
That being said, we aren’t encouraging you to act as if you have no responsibilities when it comes to proper nutrition and exercise. We are, however, gently reminding you that the holidays don’t automatically mean swinging to the extremes either. Both under and overexercising have no place here. The same goes for under and over eating. It may seem like the “only way” to handle the holidays, but we challenge you to try to reframe that thought.
-What do I want the holidays to look like for me this year?
-How do I want to feel around the holidays this year?
-What do I need to focus on before going to that party? (Focusing on protein and veggies for the meals beforehand. Being sure to eat breakfast and lunch instead of “fasting to indulge” at dinner, etc.)
-How can I tap in with myself and understand if I really want that food or not?
-How can I politely decline?
-How can I create an environment of love and acceptance for myself and my choices through this season?
-Are there boundaries I need to create around my relationship with food?
-Are there conversations I need to have with people to set myself up for success?
When it comes down to it, you’re the only person you’re responsible for (unless you have children, but run with this thought for a moment). You’re the only person you have to answer to. You’re the only person that will truly know if you are proud of your choices or not. So, if you create a system for yourself, you’ll likely have an easier time navigating the holidays without feeling badly about how you’ve chosen to do so.
If you’ve been here for a while, you know we stand by the phrase “eat the damn pie” especially around the holidays. We do mean it- enjoy yourself. Enjoy the food, the family, the memories. We also stand by the idea that you don’t have to ruin yourself (mentally, emotionally, or physically) to do so.
Eat, drink, love and life but we encourage you to get clear on what that looks like for you and navigate it responsibly.
That all sounds great in theory, but what are some tangible ways to set yourself up for success? We’re glad you asked.
Remember that it’s a holiDAY, not holiWEEKS.
As tempting as this can be, it really is meant to be a day or so of celebration. Though most of November and December get seemingly swallowed up by the holiday feasts, you still do have autonomy on how and when you participate in certain festivities. Note, we’re not saying don’t go be with friends and family… we are saying to choose when and where you want to enjoy different foods.
Don’t skip meals
This is a sure fire way to have less control than you’d originally planned on. Fasting and “saving up for ”your holiday meal will likely leave you feeling guilty and uncomfortable. Think about when you go all day without eating on a regular Thursday… you typically reach for the more palatable, less nutrient dense options, right? We know we do. Now multiply that by a thousand because on that specific holiday, there’s probably on shortage of cakes, pies, cookies, and other highly palatable foods. Our advice is to eat breakfast and lunch as usual, potentially putting extra emphasis on fruits and veggies that will likely be conveniently missing from your Holiday dinner.
Be intentional with how you fill up your plate
We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: protein + fat + fiber. A good visual is to fill your plate halfway with veggies, a quarter of the way with protein and a quarter of the way with carbohydrates. So, try all the things… just see if you can keep a visual skeleton in your brain as you’re making those choices.
Stay committed to physical activity
There’s no need to “burn it off” or over index on exercise just because you had one or two things you don’t regularly have in your diet. Stick to your regularly scheduled programming and make sure you move your body at least 3-5 days per week.
Don’t leave it for the January version of you to deal with
We’re all for a good start off point, but January 1st is really just a regular day. There’s nothing too special about it. So, spending the end of the year pretending you don’t have responsibilities to your health just because you’re planning to “start your ____” next year doesn’t really make that much sense, does it? If you want to start implementing a nutrition change, do it now. If you want to start exercising more regularly, start it now. You know as well as we do that not staying adamant about our priorities creates an overwhelming sense of guilt, that is then met with a lot of holiday foods, and that’s not always the recipe for success. Do it FOR January you- make your future life easier.
As we head into this holiday season we want to remind you that there is no need to do or be anything that you’re not comfortable with. Establish boundaries with yourself and your loved ones. Make decisions ahead of time and stay committed to them. Remember that a day or two doesn’t ruin your progress. Be intentional with your time and space- make memories with the people you love most. Food is part of what brings people together so don’t be afraid of it.
From the GHT family to yours, happy holidays!
Katie Morra MS, RD, LDN, IFMCP is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in gut and hormone optimization. Katie runs a fully virtual functional medicine practice, Gut Honest Truth, based out of Maryland. Katie focuses on the root causes of inflammation, autoimmune disease, irritable bowel syndrome, food sensitivities, hypothyroidism, hormone imbalance, adrenal dysfunction as well as other chronic disease states.