Struggling to stay connected to your health goals in December? Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Tori Vallen gives her 6 top tips for staying on track.
A common challenge with my coaching clients at the end of the year is WHAT ON EARTH to do about their health goals during end of year festivities.
Christmas Day gorge-fest aside, most people have a long list of Christmas parties, end of year gatherings, school concerts, networking drinks, family dos…and why do so many people seem to have birthdays in December?!
You too might be wondering if you can just let go of ideals for a while. Maybe you’re thinking it’s all a bit too hard to make healthy choices right now. Maybe you’re thinking – “I’ll start next year”.
Just as an aside, I sometimes reflect how bizarre it is that we live in a society that is so unsupportive of good health. If you want to eat well every day, including special occasions, you basically have to accept that you’re in the minority and most people will think you’re quite weird.
At some stage in our history, we developed the idea that to celebrate means to eat crap food. It’s a connection so strong that I don’t see it changing in my lifetime – but maybe it will in my kids’ lifetime.
At any rate – as things are today, events – and Christmas is no different – will commonly mean crap food is on offer in droves.
There’ll be spring rolls, fried bits and pieces, chips, cream-filled or sugar-laden cakes, puddings and mince pies. Oh, and there’s definitely gonna be booze, isn’t there.
How Do You Stay True to Your Path?
Just like the beautiful clients I work with, you might currently be trying to reach some health goals.
Maybe you’re trying to eat more home-cooked meals. Maybe you’re minimising processed foods. Maybe you’re trying to get more plant-based foods in. Maybe you’ve given up sugar, gluten, or alcohol. Maybe you’re trying to lose weight. Maybe more than one or even all of the above.
If so – congratulations on taking important steps towards better health.
But it begs the question – what should you do in December?
- Do you throw your goals to the wayside in December and eat and drink what’s on offer?
- Do you rock up at festivities but purse your lips tightly hoping nothing can make it past?
- Do you try to find a middle ground?
- … WAIT. IS THERE EVEN A MIDDLE GROUND…?
I think there is.
At least, I think we can be intentional and conscious about how we approach the silly season when it comes to our health and the food we eat.
In chatting to my clients recently, a bunch of great ideas came up on how to make good dietary choices (and good health choices overall) in the leadup to Christmas. Some were my suggestions and some came from my clients… and I wanted to share these 6 great tips with you in the hope they’re useful.
1. Plan Ahead to Ease Stress
Check out your Google Calendar, iCal or special dates calendar now, and choose an upcoming event that you want to ditch any food stress about.
Because rather than just winging it, you can make a plan for it.
If the event is at a pub or restaurant, Google the menu. Choose ahead of time exactly what you’ll eat and what you’ll drink, too. Choose foods that you know feel good in your body and align with your current wellness plan.
Can you choose something a little less ‘clean’? Sure, if you want to! Do it consciously, knowing you’ll be enjoying it in good company and that it makes it even more enjoyable because it’s part of a celebration.
And by the way, there’s a BIG difference between enjoying a burger at the pub with your work crew for ‘End of Year Celebrations’… and ducking into the Mc Donald’s drive through for a secret Big Mac that you inhale on the way home and then hide the evidence. Know what I mean?
If the catering is unknown, I want you to visualize some of the foods that will likely be on offer. It’s true that you might not know exactly what will be there, but I bet you’ll be able to guess based on your excellent intuition and past experiences.
Now that you’ve visualised what’s on offer, choose what types of foods you might eat on the day/night. If it’s cocktail style with lots of little mini things, decide how many of each thing you’ll have (put a number on it). Do the same for drinks.
Once you’ve planned your food, enter it into your Google calendar or iCal so that when the event comes up, you’re not relying on willpower, you’re just executing a plan.
2. Bring Your Own Food or Eat Ahead of Time
If you’re attending an event with share plates, you’ll be able to make sure that at least YOUR plate caters to the way you want to eat!
And, if bringing a plate *wasn’t* necessarily on the invite, why not offer to do it… or just assume it’s OK to do?
But if you know for sure that walking in with a platter of veggies and dip wouldn’t be cool, eat yourself a yummy, healthy meal before you go so you’re less tempted to eat nibblies that make you feel bloated and terrible. (And again, don’t we live in a strange world, when bringing a healthy, nutrient dense plate to share is unusual or rude?!)
3. Ask Your Host to Cater to Your Requests
Invites for more formal events & functions will ask for the dietary requirements of the guests.
So, if you know gluten, dairy, sugar or similar makes you feel terrible, why not ring beforehand and see if the host can accommodate you?
If it’s informal, get brave & ask if your friends and family can be understanding of you making better choices for your health.
4. Be The Host
Is your family up in the air about whose house to have the Christmas party at? Volunteer! Hosting events doesn’t mean you HAVE to provide all the catering – but it does allow you to potentially set the tone.
“Please bring a healthy plate” isn’t rude, and if you’re inviting folks who aren’t yet conscious of health, you might start some really interesting conversations.
5. Eat Mindfully and Know When to Stop
If you choose to indulge in foods that don’t fit your usual idea of “clean”, do it with joy.
Savour the flavour, enjoy the deliciousness completely and thoroughly! But try not to ‘inhale’ finger foods and share plates mindlessly as many of us do. Putting a timed break in between refills (of, say, five minutes) might help you make better judgement about whether you’ve had enough yet or not.
Make sure you tune in to your body: listen to how things are feeling, notice when you’re full and can stop, rather than simply eating because it’s there.
And, by the way, I don’t insist that anyone try to completely eliminate “unhealthy” foods 100% – I’m an advocate for a roughly 80/20 or 90/10 rule when it comes to food and lifestyle.
6. Remember Your ‘Why’
It’s really easy to get tempted at parties and events and forget that we had health goals or wellness plan in place.
It happens to everyone – even me!
Planning definitely helps, but so does being mindful and remembering your ‘WHY’. So what’s a WHY I hear you ask…?
When my clients set their health goals with me, I insist that they also document WHY their goal is so important to them. Often there’s a really emotional or otherwise motivating reason why they want to hit their goal.
- If the goal is to temporarily minimise trigger foods and improve gut health, the WHY might be they feel embarrassed about the annoying skin condition on their arms and life would be better if they could wear short sleeve tops
- If the goal is to heal thyroid and adrenals (and refined carbohydrates are mainly off the menu for the time being), maybe their WHY is that they want more energy so they can run and play with the kids
- If the goal is to lose weight and to mainly eat home cooked meals, maybe your WHY if that you’ve got a family history of Type 2 Diabetes and you don’t want to be the next one with a diagnosis.
Think long and hard about your WHY.
Then write it down on a piece of card and keep it in your wallet or handbag. I want you to set reminders on your phone a couple of times through the event. When they go off, excuse yourself to the loo or to a quiet place and read your WHY.
Remembering why you’re taking actions on your goal should motivate you to keep making choices that align with the life you want.
If you LOVE Christmas with all the trimmings including the sweet treats, cakes, trifles and OH THOSE MINCE PIES… remember that there are tonnes of ways to substitute for healthy alternatives without sacrificing taste! Sweet treats don’t have to include white sugar, copious dairy and flour milled from wheat.
Google for healthy versions of Christmas classics. And if you’re having trouble finding good healthy versions of your favourite sweet treats, please drop me a line. I’ve been collecting recipes for over a decade – I’m bound to have something suitable.
Have You Got Other Tips & Tricks?
What ideas do you have for staying on track with your health goals throughout the Christmas period? I’d love to hear them because if they work for you, then they could also help other readers.
Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org so I can add them to this post!
If you’re struggling with making healthy habits part of your every day routine, I’ve got great news for you! My 7-day Healthy Habits Challenge starts in early January 2020!
It’s a great opportunity to kickstart your health in the new year with practical but important healthy habits you can build into each day. If you’re keen to join in, all you need to do is head over HERE to register. And yes, it’s FREE!