The holidays truly are the best time of the year — there’s nothing like the excitement of the day after Thanksgiving, when you can crank up the Christmas tunes without anybody telling you it’s too early.
But, that first day after Thanksgiving can bring another feeling, too — feeling bloated, over-stuffed, and groggy from eating a few too many pieces of pie the day before. The holidays are wonderful, but all of the indulgence that comes with the season can be overwhelming and super hard to navigate.
We talked to Ellie Rome, a certified health and wellness coach, to help guide us through tips that can help us enjoy the holidays, without feeling physically horrible in the meantime — turns out it is possible to fully enjoy every single holiday party without the guilt that can come with overindulgence.
Party On, Girl!
First thing’s first: the holidays are meant to be enjoyed, so don’t deprive yourself of connecting with family and friends. However, there are usually not many healthy options available at holiday parties, so get creative and bring your own! Simple appetizers like prosciutto wrapped asparagus or roasted brussel sprouts with bacon can serve as healthy crowd-pleasers.
- Eat before you go. Don’t show up to the party starving, or you may be setting yourself up to overeat or indulge in unhealthy temptations that you wouldn’t normally succumb to.
- Sip on sparkling water or low-carb cocktails like vodka and club soda to give yourself something to do instead of grazing.
- Take your mind off of food. Set a goal before you go to drink 10 glasses of water or connect with 10 people. Give yourself something to focus on doing versus focusing on trying to not eat all of the things. Drinking tons of water will also help prevent hangovers and food cravings.
Release Restriction and Set Intentions
When we tell ourselves “ I can’t have that” or judge ourselves for “bad” food choices, we set ourselves up for the toxic cycle of Restriction, Binge, Guilt, Repeat. Trade in willpower for mindfulness. Set intentions and tune into what you actually want for yourself. How do you want to feel? Who do you want to show up as during the holidays? (Bloated, stuffed, and tired, OR energized, light, and fully present?).
Trade the “I shouldn’t have, or I can’t have” for these new Mantras:
I can eat whatever I want.
I get to choose high-energy foods that make me feel amazing.
And if you want to eat a piece of pie, great! Slow down, savor, and ENJOY IT.
Embrace Food Pushers, Sort of!
Dealing with food pushers can be one of the trickiest parts of the holidays. No one wants to seem rude or “extra.” However, you deserve to be your healthiest self, always. Stand up for yourself, and don’t make other people the reason you didn’t stick to your health goals.
How to handle food pushers:
- Keep it simple. “No, thank you” works wonders. Release the need to feel like you have to explain yourself and give some long saga about your bowel movements in 2009. If they continue to pry, simply say, “I feel better when I eat this way and I want to be able to enjoy my holiday time with you.”
- Delay, or take it to go. If it’s feeling difficult to tell that person no, or they persist, just say you’re full but may grab some in a little while. Or, ask if you may take some home — you can always give it to a neighbor!
- Understand their intent. If the food pusher is someone that shows their love through hospitality or food, you can honor this and communicate to them how grateful you are for them, and let them give you something else. You might say, “I’m good right now, but I would love a drink. Do you have any sparkling water or a coffee?” You can also take them aside and simply tell them, “I love you and I love your cooking so much. I am so happy to be spending the holiday with you, but I’ve been having some digestive issues. Please don’t be offended if I decline.”
Don’t Go Shopping Hungry
When you are shopping for holiday gifts, stuck in long lines, and surrounded by frantic shoppers, it is easy to get stressed out and run to the nearest Auntie Anne’s or Great Cookie Co. for a quick fix. Set yourself up for success by eating before you go. Pack some healthy snacks in your purse to hold you over until you get home, such as a bag of nuts and some dark chocolate or a protein bar.
Eat off a plate – whether you’re at a holiday party or at home, with food all around, it is easy to mindlessly pick at things. When reaching for food ask yourself, “Am I actually hungry? Why am I reaching for food?” If you are actually hungry, put the food on a plate, sit down, and enjoy.
Be Mindful of Sugar and Carbs
Holiday foods are typically LOADED with sugar and carbs, which put you on a roller coaster of energy crashes and cravings all season long.
- Pair unavoidable sugar or carb-loaded options with protein and fiber to help keep your blood sugar balanced.
- Ditch the liquid sugars and choose water or cocktails with low-carb mixers like flavored sparkling soda instead of wine, beer, or sugary mixers.
Gift shopping, relatives in town, special events, coordinating plans, travel — it can get pretty overwhelming! It’s common to reach for low-energy foods or overeat when we feel stressed out. Make your sanity and well being a priority.
- Honor your sleep. When we are sleep deprived, everything else goes out the window.
- Meditate. Even just 5 minutes in the morning to pause and start the day off on a calm, positive note makes a huge difference. Need guidance? Try an app like 10% Happier, Headspace, or Insight Timer.
- Exercise. Schedule it in, as if it were an appointment you can’t miss. Physical activity isn’t about calorie burning or “earning pie.” Do this for your mood, mental clarity, energy, and overall happiness. It doesn’t have to mean 3 hours at the gym — squeeze in a quick 10-minute HIIT video, go for a walk with a family member, or book some fitness classes ahead of time to help honor your commitment.
- Engage in relaxing activities. Carve out some YOU time and feel into what brings you joy and relaxation. Do some yoga, get a massage, take a hot bath with essential oils, read a book, drink a cup of herbal tea, and play with the cat, (but not all at the same time!). Avoid multitasking and sink into the activity that fills your energetic cup.
Get Out of the Kitchen
During the holidays, a lot of activity revolves around this very important room. There seems to be food lying around everywhere, creating a black hole of mindless eating. Get out of there! Plan activities outdoors, meet friends at a movie, schedule a yoga class, play a game in a different room of the house, or take family members on a walk around your neighborhood and connect.
Honor your fullness
How many times have you left the table during the holidays, having to unbuckle your belt, ready for a nap, or having difficulty breathing because you are so full? Tune into your fullness level. Slow down and set an intention for how you want to feel after your meal. Think light, energized, satiated — not stuffed. Take pauses throughout your meal and connect with your intention. Remind yourself you can always eat again.
Try instituting a post-meal ritual. When other people are still eating, you may be tempted to continue picking at your plate and eat beyond fullness. Instead, give yourself something to do while still at the table. Sip on a sparkling water, hot tea, or decaf coffee.