It’s almost here — a day designated to celebrating all we have to be grateful for with our loved ones eating ALL the things.
No but seriously, while we really know what the holiday season is all about, it’s easy to forget amidst the Black Friday sales, jam-packed calendar of events and food + drink coma that seems to extend to New Years Day (at which point we feel awful and make ambitious resolutions to compensate).
While all of that is somewhat to be expected, it doesn’t have to be YOUR norm.
Speaking from my own personal experience I can tell you I enjoy the holidays exponentially more now that I don’t waste a good portion of my time, energy and brain power worrying about what I “can” or “can’t” eat, gaining or losing weight, or how I’m going to make it through a meal/holiday party without eating and drinking everything within eyesight (and instantly regretting it).
By practicing some simple daily rituals and routines (not to mention plenty of work on my relationship with food in general) I can now honestly say the holidays bring me so much joy, calm and fun with food(without feeling bloated, foggy and in need of sized up sweat pants).
You might be thinking ok — easy for you, not so much for me. But I want to assure you if I can do it, you can DEFINITELY do it too.
Over the years and in working with clients I’ve developed a tried and true arsenal of tools to navigate holiday eating.
Simple strategies that empower you to fully enjoy and embrace this season while keeping your health, sanity and body in tip-top shape.
Here’s a few of my favorite to get you started.
3 EASY + HEALTHY TIPS TO THRIVE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
+ Use Simple Structure and Non-Negotiables To Stay On Track
The holidays disrupt our routines. Vacation days, late nights, house guests, celebrations, and even sleeping in can disconnect you from healthy habits and the usual cues that help you pay attention to your needs.
This is where your non-negotiables come in, which are simple things essential to our wellbeing. When we don’t attend to our non-negotiables, we are much more likely to overeat, so this step is key to staying in control with holiday eating and stress.
ACTION STEP —
Take a few minutes now to make a list of what is non-negotiable for you to be well and function at your absolute best.
From that list choose the top 3 things that are simple and realistic enough you can do every day, regardless of your schedule and the holidays.
For me this is simply drinking enough water (100 oz per day), getting in bed by 10 pm in order to get 8 hours of sleep (challenging but still doable with a newborn), and getting in a walk every day.
+ Get Clear On What You Love (So you can say NO to what you don’t)
As humans we are hardwired to crave pleasure, so strict structures and diets rooted in deprivation are NOT sustainable long-term.
Instead of binging on ALL the dishes at your next gathering (even ones you don’t really like that much) only to feel yucky the next day, try deciding in advance which special holiday treats you want to indulge in (like grandma’s infamous pecan pie, the stuffing your mom makes only once a year, etc.). When you do eat these foods, give yourself permission to do so without guilt (and make sure you do yourself the service of not being distracted so you can truly savor, enjoy and feel satisfied).
On the flip side, make a list of all the “junk” you’ll probably see this season that you don’t really like or isn’t particularly special to you (dried out buffet food, crackers, chips and dip that you can have any time, store-bought cookies, etc). Make a policy not to waste angst, energy, guilt and calories on food you simply don’t love (plus then you’ll have way more stomach capacity for the good stuff).
ACTION STEP —
Try writing out a full list and having it handy at all times (like in the notes section of your phone) as a good reminder.
+ Practice Gratitude and Mindfulness (Especially Before Meals)
Gratitude and Mindfulness are trending topics these days — and for good reason! Not only can practicing them help you improve your physical, mental and emotional health, but also aid in losing weight along the way!
When you take the time to pause and be more mindful and thankful during meals you’ll be much more likely to relax, allowing your body to transition into your parasympathetic nervous system, which is often referred to as the “rest and digest” mode. In this state, your body sends blood and resources to your center, where all your digestive organs are located. This allows them to function optimally, shuttling food through the steps of digestion at the proper rate and consistency. Eating with relaxed awareness prevents uncomfortable and painful physical symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea. Mindful eating also soothes anxiety and helps you more easily experience your hunger and satiety cues, so you don’t over eat.
No joke, my clients are surprised when they come to me with digestive issues and I don’t just ask them what they ate, but HOW they ate it. If you’re picking food off your kids plates while cleaning the table, shoveling a protein bar in your mouth on the way to the gym or snacking mindlessly on popcorn while netflix and chilling, you’re most likely not digesting your food optimally (often leading to the symptoms mentioned above).
ACTION STEP —
Before you sit down to meals at a table (key word being SIT) take 10 seconds to pause and appreciate your meal (and the people you’re sharing it with). Set an intention to be present and truly savor and enjoy the meal — then do just that!
And if all that was helpful but you’re still looking for some feel-good-food to incorporate into your routine (and in the case that it happens, post-holiday-meal-splurge) try this Roasted Delicata Squash Salad with Warm Cider Dressing.
It’s SO good, hearty and filling it barely passes as a salad (but still incorporates leafy greens and plenty of fiber/veggies).
1 cup apple cider (look for one with no added sugar)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp minced shallots
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp sea salt
black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Slice delicata squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, then cut into small pieces (so that they look like the half moon shapes pictured above).
Toss squash with a bit of avocado oil, garlic cloves, sea salt and pepper (and optional maple syrup) and spread out evenly in a large baking pan. Roast at 425 for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Add walnut pieces to a small stovetop pan and cook over medium low heat with a bit of avocado oil, sea salt + pepper for 10-15 minutes, until toasted.
While squash is roasting and walnuts are toasting, combine the apple cider, apple cider vinegar and minced shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 8 or so minutes, until cider is reduced to approximately 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the remaining dressing ingredients.
Place arugula in a large bowl or serving platter and add roasted squash, toasted walnuts, pomegranate seeds and optional cheese, avocado or chicken. Pour dressing over and toss to combine.