6 Tools For Your Holiday Health Toolbox!
Ho Ho Ho! Here comes Christmas!
Does your eating tend to change over this time of the year? Does this time of the year bring you a wad of unwanted food anxiety? (And… like clockwork… cue guilt induced New Year’s resolutions?)
Ho- Ho- However you spend the day, the week, or the whole ‘silly’ season, be that alone, with family (or fur-family), and/or friends (aka…the family you choose!), you might have worries that arise regarding your food choices and how they might fit in with your current health goals.
'How much of the holiday foods should I be eating? Should I skip that barbeque? What should I do about those drinks? Arghh!! What do I DOOOOOOO?'
Sound at all familiar?
If so, I would like to introduce the idea of developing yourself a proverbial ‘toolbox’ (or 'tool-belt'… depending on which way you sway!) to assist you with your health (and happiness!) over this season. The idea is, by pre-empting possible ‘issues’ that may occur before they arise and by having a little forward planning, you may then be able to whip out your ‘tools’ and enjoy your festive time with minimal guilt, minimal ‘shoulds’ and maximum health this season (compared to those ghosts of seasons past).
Following is a bunch of tools I use, that you might just find worthwhile borrowing (or stealing...) to add to your own proverbial toolbox or tool-belt. Of course, borrowing (or stealing) is encouraged here, but taking the time to add your own tools will definitely improve relevance and usability of your own toolbox/tool-belt!
TOOL #1 - PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE) FOR YOUR HEALTH
My main PPE is to give myself permission to enjoy ALL foods. That’s right. The ‘yes’ visor, the ‘sure-thing’ mask, the ‘ok’ gown. Here, the concept is, I feel like the food and so, yes, sure thing, ok, I eat the food (not rocket science, eh?). This concept however, can cause many people (especially traditional ‘dieters’) a lot of anxiety, feeling like it might all just ‘get out of control’… If you have uncomfortable feelings about giving yourself permission for ALL foods, I think a way to settle this discomfort somewhat may rely on your mindfulness and thought processes before eating. I suggest you put the effort into the 'pause' before you eat. Think about the food and where you are 'at' in that moment.
You might say to yourself:
'Is this a food I actually really enjoy, or am I just eating it because it's there?'
'Is this a seasonal food I don’t get often in the year or can I choose more of those 'special' foods instead?'
By slowing to pause and think about such small questions, you might actually notice there is some habit and impulsive behaviour involved too (cue overwhelm!) when there are a lot of foods on offer. Instead then of following impulse like you may have in the past, you might be able to instead focus in on those foods you genuinely feel like, or really enjoy rather than just eating because ‘it’s there’.
One thing I can stress as a Dietitian, is that no food in isolation is going to adversely (or positively) effect your health. Giving yourself permission to eat what you feel like can actually really (importantly!) improve your enjoyment of foods, reduce the guilt and all the unhealthy issues surrounding that, and can reduce unwanted deprivation-induced cravings later on. In my opinion, every single food on the planet has a place in your eating pattern if you want, but the question really is, do you actually enjoy it, how does it make you feel?
Food around the holiday season for you may be special, and even represent a feeling of connection and celebration with others. Sharing Granny’s infamous potato salad with the ones you love, sharing a Xmas pudding and a smile with your neighbour or sharing a favourite with your beloved dog not only fills the heart, but also can nourish the soul, and maybe this year in particular (as many people reunite after long periods apart) this could be something to especially cherish, rather than a guilt-laden food control fest.
So, in your toolbox, I'd suggest to aim to armour-up your PPE gear with thoughts like ‘I can have it if I feel like it’ to repel unhelpful (happiness busting) thoughts (and acts) of deprivation (or messages from others) like ‘I/you shouldn’t have that’.
TOOL #2 - TaPE MEASURE - MEASURE WHAT MATTERS
Another important tool I always carry in my toolbox are my (tape) measures. These measures, however, may not be the measures you might be used to if you have traditionally been on diets in the holiday periods (BMI, scales, weights and grams of foods). Instead, I aim to carry a measure of time and satisfaction with my foods. I ask myself how long my festivities will last for and how I can make sure I listen to my body over that time.
Being a day (or month) out of your ‘normal’ routine is A-okay! Your body has the innate ability to regulate its appetite and body cues to match changes that occur with your routine, and the key is, if you can focus on listening to your body over this time and trust that there will be no explosions or diabolical scenes of devastation for yourself, you may be able to enjoy the season without the usual guilty cycle associated.
I use my measures to listen for my hunger and fullness cues (how hungry I am on a scale of 1-10), to take my time eating to fully enjoy the experience (am I eating quick or slow?) and to stop when I'm satisfied (and trust me, satisfied to me feels different to feeling full).
TOOL #3 - A SHARPENED HEALTH PENCIL
I really encourage a ‘Non-Diet’ approach to health during the holiday period. To do this personally, I take a sharp pencil from my health toolbox and ‘cross out’ and disengage from any diet talk (such as commenting on my own or others’ body size/shape, commenting on what’s on dinner plates, discussing fad diets, or labelling certain patterns of eating as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at the Xmas table). Instead of commenting on the way family members or friends look, I pencil in some non-appearance focused compliments and 'ideas based' rather than 'people based' talk such as:
‘Our friendship is invaluable! You’re really intelligent, I love hearing your ideas, you have the best laugh!’
'Tell me about your hobbies. What do you think about (refer to an interest based topic)?'
Sharpening your health pencil could help you notice the conversations around you during this holiday period and engage in more positive conversation.
TOOL #4 - A DIET FACT PAINTBRUSH
You may see a lot of advertising around or after the holidays regarding ‘working off’ those ‘unwanted’ holiday calories. I aim to paint over the multi-billion dollar diet industry BS messaging that sets us up for failure and guilt every time by replacing this harmful messaging with a fresh coat of (my Dietitian proven) facts:
Fact - We are worth so much more than our body weight. Fact - Weight gain is NOT inherently a bad nor permanent thing. Fact - Food does not need to be earned, neither worked off. We deserve to be nourished and do not have to ‘pay’ for enjoying food and the diet industry’s ridiculous standards. Fact - Body diversity is very real, and very valid (cue… genetics!). Though the diet industry argues a thin body is the right body, there’s no evidence for this with regards to ‘health’.
TOOL #5 - HEALTh AND WELLNESS NAILS
Most toolboxes usually have a nail (or 100) in them. So versatile in their use, I aim to try to use the time to ‘nail it’ over holiday periods, an opportunity to really get back in touch with my own health and wellness focus.
Now, what ‘it’ is, is completely up to you. You might nail trying some new recipes if you have a bit of time off, you might nail drinking water at each of your meals to work on your water drinking goal. You might nail an earlier bedtime in order to regenerate during this period. You might simply nail that awesome Xmas sweater!
Keeping health and wellness goals positive (and non-deprivation focussed) will help you use this period as one of opportunity and joy rather than dread and guilt. Simply nail it!
TOOL #6 - HeIGHTENED SPIRIT LEVELS
I always continue to move my body as is most comfortable throughout the holiday period to keep my spirits high. You may like to aim for the same and catch up with friends or family for an evening beach stroll, tend to your garden, bushwalk, have a splash around in the cool ocean on a hot day, jump on the trampoline with the kids (should your pelvic floor agree), dance to ABBA in your kitchen (like me!), or continue your gentle morning stretches or yoga routine.
We do know (thanks science) that movement is good for us physically AND can lift our spirits so it can be a great time to focus on this as a tool in your toolbox.
NOW TO CUSTOMISE YOUR OWN HEALTH TOOLBOX!
After borrowing/stealing some tool ideas from me, what other tools can you think of to add to your holiday season toolbox? A hammer (to hit those habits on the head?), an axe (to cut yourself the slack and be kind to your body?), a spanner (to…? Um…).
Please leave your comments below on what your tools are for the holiday season (and I'll borrow and steal!)
On behalf of the team at Fresh Nutrition, I would like to wish you a happy, healthy holiday!