11.11.2022

Finding Balance During the Holidays

By Sam Presicci, MCN, RD, LD, CPT

I blinked, and somehow it’s already November. Time is FLYING. With the holidays rapidly approaching, it’s tougher than ever to continue prioritizing yourself and maintain your healthy routines. This is especially true when it feels like there’s so much to do. Add to that indulgent holiday recipes and frequent get-togethers and parties in November and December, and it’s clear there’s a lot to navigate.

But do have a secret to share with you: you don’t have to oscillate between “perfect” wellness and diving face-first into the pie during the holidays. All-or-nothing is decidedly not where it’s at. While balance is an overused word (what does it mean in practice, anyway? It’s different for everyone!), it’s a concept that can be helpful when imagining what you’d like this season to look like for you. For example, balance looks like having meals that nourish your soul and meals that nourish your body - it doesn’t have to just be one or the other. You don’t have to maintain a strict diet or toss your healthy eating to the curb; it’s not either/or. Instead, hang somewhere in the middle, and maintain your flexibility and sanity in the process. 

I’m here to break down how you can bring balance to your life this holiday season, and enjoy the calm and presence that balance brings. 

  1. Eat mindfully. This is definitely easier said than done, but if you can eat slowly and truly focus on enjoying the wonderful food in front of you, it’s a lot easier to recognize fullness and stop when you’ve had enough. Eat without distractions (no phone or TV), sit down at the table, and pause between bites. 
  2. Cook (or purchase!) nourishing meals for yourself. This is important all the time, but especially at this time of year. It’s a lot easier to eat foods that make you feel good if they’re already ready for you in the fridge. Take some time each weekend (or whatever day works for you) to cook up some veggies and protein to get you through each week the next couple of months. We have a whole bank of recipes if you need some inspiration!
  3. Eat in a blood sugar-friendly way. What this really means is to reach for veggies, fat, and protein first. If you start your meal with non-starchy veggies, it can help you avoid a glucose spike, even when eating starchy foods at that meal. The key is to start with veggies, then eat some protein and fat before diving into the rice, mashed potatoes, etc. But this is meant to be a glucose hack, not a method for taking your enjoyment of food away! If you really want a bite of those mashed potatoes first, go for it. 
  4. Say see ya to negative self-talk. Ever had that voice in your head tell you that you. wrecked. everything, simply because you ate too much at dinner? Did that then lead to a total spiral of unhealthy habits for days (or weeks) on end? You’re not alone. This type of negative self-talk is way more damaging than the food itself. If you eat too much at a meal, or snack when you’re not hungry, just remind yourself that this is not a big deal. We eat a lot of meals in a given week - you’ll have more opportunities for eating in a way that makes you feel good. Just don’t throw in the towel. That’s akin to going out to buy a new car because yours got a flat tire. Just change the tire!
  5. Prepare ahead. This can mean a few different things. For example, don’t go to the party, or to dinner, or to the holiday get-together, starving. If you need to, eat a snack with protein and fat beforehand, or even a mini-meal. Bone broth is a great support here, since it has satiating protein and savory flavor to keep cravings and hunger at bay. Preparing ahead also means that if you’re following a more restrictive eating pattern for health reasons (like gluten-free, AIP, or low FODMAP), you’ll have to think ahead and bring yourself some yummy options that you can safely eat. 
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes this feels really hard to do, but it’s often the best way to avoid excessive stress and overwhelm, especially around the holidays. Ask for what you need, whether it’s telling your partner you need extra help around the house, purchasing some healthy prepared meals to lessen your prep responsibilities, or bringing in someone to clean the house every couple of weeks. Our needs will vary, but the important thing is to ask for support when you need it. More often than not, stress leads to less-than-ideal health and lifestyle choices, like eating when we’re not hungry, eating too much, moving less, and forgetting to take deep breaths! 

What this all boils down to is that the holidays will only impact your goals and your health if you let them. If a few indulgent (and totally worth it) meals turn into a few weeks or months worth of choices that don’t support your body, that’s when you get into trouble. As long as most of the choices you make in November and December are ones that support your health and wellbeing, you’ll find yourself feeling great heading into 2023.