How to keep your diet and lifestyle on track during the holidays

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If you are in the middle of a diet and lifestyle renovation, you are already aware of how plan-ful and intentional your new choices are. You are designing some new behaviours, challenging your thinking style and self-talk, exploring how you use food in your life (for eating, for comfort, for boredom, for enjoyment), forecasting ahead what barriers might get in your way of your newly renovated way of life.

Just as you are building your confidence with your new behaviours – drinking less alcohol, adding in more color to your plate, planning your snacks, moving more – you come up against seasonal situations for which you do not have enough practice with your new behaviours…several Christmas parties, platters of Christmas baking, drink after drink of Christmas cocktails…

The extra “project” of gift giving which takes some of your already-limited time, resulting in less self-care…less meal planning, less frequent grocery shopping, more eating out as a way to feed yourself, less physical activity. Your self-care takes time, effort and focus…ingredients that can be challenging to find and navigate during a season that is overly focused on food and often results in inactivity.  Just when you thought you had gained some momentum and were building your confidence, you are faced with a season that makes your newly-added behaviours tricky to maintain.

This seasonal situation is not about being on or off a diet, being on or off track.  It is about designing a life-giving lifestyle of balanced, soulful eating, exploring physical movement, and incorporating self-care for your mind, body and soul. It is about building your own personalized lifestyle that you can sustain, even through seasonal holidays.

The Holiday Season will add in a new layer of complexity to some of the lifestyle areas you are working on. Here are a 5 tips for keeping your diet and lifestyle on track during the season of plenty.

 

5 Tips for Keeping your Diet and Lifestyle on Track During the Season of Plenty:

  1. Continue to eat 3 regular meals and a few planned snacks. Do not skip meals. When people skip meals as a strategy to manage their diet before a big Christmas party, they set themselves up to overeat, partially because they get overly-hungry. Our body’s physiological drive to eat will always win…always. Get off the restrictive diet wagon and nourish your body.
  2. Take advantage of mealtime helpers – You know that your time is going to be at a premium. Stop by your local grocery store and pick up some mealtime helpers…pre-chopped veggies, a veggie platter, eggs, Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, frozen fish, a deli chicken…with some planful shopping (either in-store or online), you can put together a balanced meal in minutes.
  3. Say NO to foods that you don’t really love and yes to those you do. In a season of plenty, decide what seasonal foods you want to have around. For me, I have a few seasonal favourites. My mom makes me Vina tarter – an Icelantic Christmas cake. It has sugar-cookie like layers + stewed and sweetly spiced prunes. I get it once a year and savour every morsel! I also like to have Polish sausage sliced up…Pick a few meaningful seasonal foods to have around and enjoy. However, I’ll skip the Christmas cake. Even though it is a family tradition to have this fruit cake around, I don’t enjoy it. Say no to the foods that you don’t really love, and yes to those you do.
  4. Make an appointment with yourself for physical movement –Throw away your all-or-nothing thinking (for example, if I cannot do a 60 minute workout, I may as well not do anything), and build in what you can. Go walk the +15s at lunch. Do a lap around your office. I recently had a client share with me that she walks a few flights of stairs at work as one way to build in movement to an otherwise sedentary day. She said she feels more energized. She even noticed that her appetite felt more manageable. Just like you brush your teeth each day, find a way to build in some movement. You know you will feel better.
  5. Manage your expectations and respond with kindness. Redesigning your lifestyle requires time and effort. Just like there are blips in home renovation, there are lifestyle “blips” when you are self-renovating. Respond to these more challenging days with self-kindness and reflect on what you learned – When was it easier for you to incorporate your new behaviours? What worked better? What barriers to your lifestyle popped up that you hadn’t thought about?  What situations are more challenging for you? Reflecting on your day is part of your learning journey.

The Christmas season comes but once a year. Know that if you are in the middle of a diet and lifestyle redesign, new and unexpected challenges are likely to arise. With practice, your knowledge and confidence will build. But know that your investment in your self-renovation will pay off in dividends.

What tips do you have for keeping your diet and lifestyle on track during the holidays?

Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall MSc, RD, Food, Nutrition & Culinary Coach, Registered Nutritionist and Calgary Dietitian, Calgary, AB.

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