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Getting Through the Holiday Season Without Falling off the Wagon!

November 11, 2016

The wonderful part of the holidays is that they are a great time to connect with family and friends with so many events, parties and gatherings. The challenging part of the holidays is that they are a great time to connect with family and friends with so many events, parties and gatherings. It’s a bit of a paradox that all the festive holiday celebrations can leave us feeling stressed, run down, disappointed in ourselves and thankful for Jan 1st to start fresh again. The average American gains about 10 pounds over the holiday season. Each year as the holidays approach, the most frequent question that I am asked by my clients is, “How do I stay healthy and on track in the face of all the food temptations, alcohol and long days that come my way during the holidays?” I am sure that many of you relate to this experience as well. We feel obliged to attend events for personal and professional reasons and with so much temptation, we ask “how can anyone hold out and resist overindulging?”

There are multiple ways to successfully approach this. When we start to look at this more closely, you will see that we all have patterns or habits that can set us up to fail. Sometimes people say that they don’t want to feel deprived or they don’t want to seem like a party pooper during the festivities. At the same time, most of us will admit that we don’t feel well after we overindulge. No one feels amazing and energized after they have overdone it with food and alcohol. The key is to be mindful of how we want to feel. Before the holidays begin is a great time to think about how we want to move through them. Looking ahead to potential roadblocks helps us to be proactive and avoid them as much as possible and to stay aligned with our goals.

Let’s look at some common roadblocks as well as some strategies to help you along the way.

3 common habits: We all have habits and patterns that we tend to repeat. These are things that clients have shared with me that tend to get in their way of success.

  1. I was so busy that I didn’t have time to eat regularly. This is especially true at the holidays when we are adding other events to an already busy schedule. It’s essential during the holidays that we take time to eat meals and not arrive to events hungry.
  2. It was there so I ate it even though I don’t really like it. Plan ahead for events so you don’t eat mindlessly; especially things you don’t even enjoy.
  3. I always gain weight over the holidays. It is possible to make choices that limit how much weight you gain. It’s why having a plan is so important as well as making choices in advance so you are not caught off-guard.

3 common limiting beliefs: So many of us have ideas or beliefs about how others will perceive us when we make healthy choices.

  1. “They” will be mad I don’t eat the food. This usually happens around family celebrations. Often our parents, grandparents or other relatives have special foods that they make at the holidays. It seems they have an expectation that we will overindulge with that special food.
  2. New approach: You can share how much you love “their food” but also share that you’re trying to stay healthy during the holidays. Eat a smaller amount at the meal and ask to bring some home for another time or to share with others.

  3. I always have that at the holidays, it’s the tradition. Traditions are wonderful but sometimes we have to adapt or modify them. Ask yourself how you will feel after the indulgence.
  4. New approach: Review all the holiday food traditions you have and choose a few that are really meaningful. Begin to create new traditions that don’t involve eating like going ice-skating, seeing a holiday play or giving food to a food shelter.

  5. I can’t be the “one” who doesn’t drink or have dessert. Everyone likes to have fun at the holiday celebrations and it’s true no one wants to seem like they are setting themselves apart by not participating.
  6. New approach: Choose wisely and have one cocktail or part of a dessert. The truth is no one really pays attention to what other people eat or drink. If you have a cocktail followed by sparkling water or only eat a small dessert and skip seconds, you will feel great and no one will even remember.

    3 strategies for success: With a little planning you can enjoy the holidays and feel good about the choices you make.

    1. Plan for a treat so you don’t feel deprived. It’s unrealistic to expect that one will not indulge in any way during the holidays. What’s more realistic is to mindfully decide ahead what is really important and delicious. For example, skip the random holiday cookies that show up in the office versus choosing a small portion of a delicious favorite homemade dessert.
    2. Don’t go hungry and keep snacks on hand. Hungry is a very bad decision maker and can set you up for bad choices. Keep snacks on hand with you at all times. Here’s a list of some of the best things to have handy so you won’t show up hungry and make choices that you regret: Individual packets of raw almonds, turkey jerky, Kind bar – nuts and spices variety only (they are very low in sugar), unsweetened Greek yogurt with a few berries, a couple of turkey slices wrapped in romaine lettuce, hummus with cut up vegetables. Be prepared and you won’t get caught in making a choice you regret.
    3. Decide ahead of time how you want to feel on Jan 1st. Be clear about your intention and the goals for your health. Make a list of why you want to feel well and perhaps reflect on previous holidays that didn’t go well and how you felt. This is really the key to making mindful choices. It’s important to stay true to yourself and your personal and health goals, especially during the holidays. Taking the time to set your intention about how you want to feel about your body and your life in the New Year is a big key to success.

    Holly J. Niles, MS, CNS, LDN, is a Licensed Functional Medicine Clinical Nutritionist. She is Nutrition Director at Integrative Wellness in Bloomfield. Holly has 25 years of experience in natural health. Her approach is to help individuals find practical ways to enjoy making healthy changes to create wellness in their lives. Holly specializes in Functional Medicine and Functional Nutrition. For more information about Holly, visit:

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