It’s that wonderful time of year with all the holiday parties, family gatherings, and of course, holiday cookies (and for me, ice-cream)!
For people who are on their fitness journey, food and managing how much they eat is always a hot topic around the holidays. There are many strategies out there to make the holidays manageable from a food standpoint a.k.a. beating the holiday bulge.
Strategies aside, let’s dig a little deeper when it comes to our food habits and choices.
A “healthy” diet is all about eating “good” foods and avoiding “bad” foods. Or is it?
Let’s take a step back. Who comes up with what a good food is and what a bad food is? Remember the 90s where everything was low-fat? Or how about the low-carb 2000s? There is always a diet trend that seems to be the Holy Grail for health.
Whatever happened to eating sensibly, managing portions, and enjoying the foods you love while practicing moderation?
People carry their own ideas about what food means to them. Food can be…
- And more…
A different take on this is viewing food as information. When food is viewed as information, there are no “good” and “bad” foods, just choices.
If we take an honest look at ourselves and our relationship with food, we have the body we want and often, the level of health by the choices we make with food on a day-to-day basis.
Often, these choices are dictated by our emotions. Using food as information and observing our behaviors around food with non-judgmental awareness can help break the cycle of “bad” eating (whatever that means to you).
When we make a choice, that choice is a reflection of what is most important to us in that specific moment.
With the holidays here, my question is…
What is most important to you right now?
It may be…
- Spending time with loved ones
- Laughing and feeling great
- Surviving your “crazy” family get-togethers
- Remembering and enjoying your heritage and family traditions
- Staying on track with your health and fitness
You decide your priorities. And some of them will win out over “healthy eating”. And that’s okay.
- Sampling food as it comes out of the oven
- Stealing bites off the table before dinner is “officially” ready
- Trying new things
- Enjoying an extra beer or holiday cocktail
- Pure joy from the holiday season
For me, what matters most is spending time with loved ones and enjoying each other’s company. This means sitting around the kitchen table, eating, laughing, and remembering and enjoying family traditions. This is more important than sticking to my macros for a few days during the holiday season.
I encourage you to slow down. Be in the moment with yourself and your surroundings. Enjoy each bite, enjoy laughing, enjoy the people in your life. Find joy in your activities and try not to get distracted by guilt, anxiety, or regret over your choices.
If you overeat, move on. Each moment is new, and you can choose again.
You can enjoy food, indulge in the holiday season and all it brings, and be healthy and fit. Healthy and fit isn’t just about what you look like, but also about how you feel about yourself and how you interact with your world.
I know some are reading this and thinking…
But, I just wanted strategies on how to not overeat during the holidays.
I can’t imagine enjoying food guilt-free.
The only way I feel in control is for me to restrict.
I’m stuck in a nasty cycle with food and can’t get out of it.
“It’s easy for you, Aaron, to enjoy food. You’re a fitness professional and workout all the time. I don’t even have time to get to the gym.”
It’s all good.
I know with certainty that you can enjoy food while working towards better health. And maybe, somewhere along the way, I can help you discover the same thing.
What to do
Think about what is most important to you and what brings you joy over the holidays.
What makes you feel filled up? What gets you going? Do more of that. It doesn’t have to revolve around food, but it could.
Slow down and “be” in each moment.
Being fully present can have a profound effect on your choices and quality of life. You’ll make the right choice for you in that specific moment and you’ll also be aware of how you came to that choice.
Be kind to yourself.
We often don’t say the kindest things in our thoughts about ourselves, especially about our food choices. The only thing that this accomplishes is stress and anxiety, and it’s not very fun. Try having compassion and forgiveness for yourself no matter your choices. You’ll have more satisfaction and be able to accomplish your goals much faster.
Enjoy your loved ones.
Whatever you choose to do, eat, or drink, take time to be there with the people in your life. Strong relationships are a vital part of good health. Nurture them and make each moment count.
Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season!