The holidays are no longer a day or two each month. We now have a "holiday season" that basically lasts from Halloween until the new year.
That's a long time.
The question is, how do you handle these eight weeks each year?
Staying on track may or may not be your goal, but for some people, their health depends on it. They don't have the luxury of letting their guard down because it's the holidays.
And for those that are making progress toward their goals they likely don't want to lose their momentum and be sabotaged by the holidays.
While others welcome the holiday and can't wait to indulge at every turn. (And are probably rolling their eyes at the sight of this title.) Some simply choose to put their health goals on the back-burner and tell themselves they'll get "back on track" in January. Whether or not they actually do it is TBD.
Which List Are You On?
There isn't a right way or wrong way to navigate the holidays. However, if you're still reading this article you probably want this holiday season to be different and you're probably looking for some tips and tricks to help you keep your momentum and health on track.
Knowing yourself and anticipating what takes you off course is key to your ability to move to the short list of people who stick to their plan each year.
Sometimes we create loopholes for ourselves and allow exceptions to the rules we've created to stay healthy.
In the book, Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin she covers this topic at length.
Loopholes sound like this:
It's okay to have one cookie today, because I'll skip it at the next party.
What difference will once piece of cake make?
You only live once!
I've been so good this week, it's okay for me to indulge tonight.
If you typically fall into the loophole trap ... be alert! Listen for this behavior and self talk and remind yourself that this isn't part of your plan. Spotting these loopholes will make you less likely to give into them.
Personally, I find it much easier to abstain than have "just one" of anything. I have a very hard time stopping myself from going back for more.
If you have difficulty having "just one" then you may find abstaining is the way to go. For some people, moderation is just too tough.
Again, this often leads to a lot of self talk and trying to reason with yourself on why you deserve one more or why you shouldn't. This mental battle is exhausting.
Spend a few minutes thinking about which camp you fall in and if you have trouble with moderation then know that you'll be choosing to abstain this season.
The holiday parties aren't the only thing to consider during the holidays. Your to-do list is a lot longer. From children's programs, to mailing holiday cards, and all the shopping.
And don't forget all of the holiday traditions like baking, making gingerbread houses, seeing the Christmas lights and Santa, and did I say shopping?
You're calendar is probably packed full and you find yourself away from home more than you're there.
How do you deal with stressful seasons?
If you're someone who is in crisis mode and just trying to hang on for dear life I've got some tips to help you be more intentional this holiday.
#1 - Make A Plan
I love to plan, but I realize there are lots of people who aren't fans (my better half is one of them). However, there is a really strong argument here. During busy seasons, you can spend 15 min a week making a plan so that your week is less hectic and stressful.
In this case, you can create an easy meal plan to feed you and your family at home or on the go. Simply look ahead for the week and see what is on your calendar. Can you make a crockpot meal, double a soup recipe for leftovers, pack a simple meal to eat in the car before you go into an event, eggs and bacon for dinner?
Or maybe there is a healthy restaurant you can dine at or pickup from on the way home one night. Do you use a meal delivery service or have you considered buying ready made meals?
Just a little forethought will go a long way.
#2 - Have A Stash
Don't be caught out unprepared. You may hit unexpected traffic or shopping might take longer than expected. You never know what might happen. Always have a snack stashed in your car or purse. It's better to eat than to show up somewhere ravenous because you lose the ability to think clearly.
Check out this post for some ideas on what to stash.
#3 - Carry Your Why
You have a goal ... write it down and look at it often. You can keep it in your purse, your car, on the bathroom mirror, as your phone screensaver, or even have a reminder pop-up throughout the day.
Whatever it takes.
Just keep it close by at all times. You will get frustrated, but reflecting on your why will help you stay the course.
#4 - Find A Buddy
Even if this buddy doesn't have the same goals as you do you might find having an accountability buddy is very helpful. This is someone you need to check in with or will be checking on you to make sure you are keeping your commitment to yourself. Many people find that having this accountability partner makes it easier to stay focused.
Do you think having accountability would help you stay on track, but don't have a buddy?
Don't worry, you don't have to miss out on all the fun just because you want to stay on track. In addition to the above tips, here's a few more for navigating the party scene.
#1 - Don't Arrive Hungry
Regardless if you know what food will be served the best defense is a good offense. The hungrier you are, the less likely you'll be able to make good choices. This doesn't mean you need to eat a full meal before the party, but you should have a well balanced snack before you go so that you can mingle without reaching for the apps.
#2 - Peep The Menu
If you can, it's a good idea to find out what will be served in advance. If it's at a restaurant you can even find out without disturbing the host.
This will help you know how much to eat before the party. If you're limited to just one or two things, you might want more of a meal instead of a snack.
If you can't find out, assume there won't be many options.
#3 - Bring A Dish
This not only helps out the host, but you know you'll have something to eat. Even if you don't eat a lot at the party, you will have something there to eat and will blend in with the other guests. You can always eat when you get home if you're still hungry.
#4 - Make A Plan
Here I go with my planning again. If you have a full social calendar you may need to be strategic. You may choose not to have dessert or a drink at every party.
Going in with a plan will make it easier. Without a plan you might let the mental mind games begin. Should I? Shouldn't I?
That's exhausting. You don't need that.
Make a plan for each event and stick to it. There is no decision to be made on the fly. You already know exactly what you will or won't have going into the party.
#5 - Have A Response Prepared
If you have decided to forego drinks, dessert, or any specific foods at a party you should plan a response ahead of time.
People will be curious if they notice and you don't want to be stumbling for a response. They sense this as weakness and the pressure will be on.
Avoid it all together by having a response prepared. Say it with confidence and they will move on. Expect to hear a response that they "could never do that" or "you're so much better than them", etc.
Expecting this response will prevent you from feeling like you need to elaborate. People often internalize your goals and make it about them, but you don't need to defend your why. Just say your response and keep the conversation moving.
#6 - Mocktail Anyone?
If you've chosen to limit your drinks or skip the drinks all together, it might be easier to have the bartender whip up a mocktail. No one has to know. 🤐 And you'll be less likely to have to answer questions.
Be realistic and intentional. Remember, a little forethought goes a long way.
You now have many tools for this holiday season and will be able to add your name to the small list of people that can stick to their goals through the holiday season.
You've got this!
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