To me, the holidays involves the fireplace, Christmas pyjamas, cookies, family time and lots of celebrations with friends and family. As we all know, 2021 is going to look a  lot different. PJs and cookies are still in, but the circle of people I’ll be celebrating with is going to be a lot smaller.

Like coach Kate brought up this week, the holiday season normally provides a number of challenges regarding social events and how to navigate them while staying on track with your program. This year, the challenge became how to not try to make yourself feel better with food and alcohol. Remember: food is nourishment, not therapy.

Food is here to provide nourishment to your body. Yet, we need to acknowledge it is also a vital part of our social connections and family traditions and can provide comfort. I think the problem lies when food and alcohol becomes our only coping mechanism.

How do you want to feel going into 2021?

Dieting over the holidays sucks. Who wants to stress over the scale when they should be making memories with their loved ones? But using the holidays and the pandemic as an excuse to eat and drink your feelings is a sure fire way to feel like shit on January 1st. Pardon my French.

Now is not the time to start a new diet, but it might be the perfect time to take a closer look at your lifestyle and see which habits are worth focusing on during the holidays to feel your best and still enjoy this special time of the year.

The average diet does not fail because the diet didn’t work. Most diets fail because we fail to implement the right dietary protocols. Eventually, we fall off track and go back to our habits, which is why focusing on building habits and a lifestyle to support your goals is where the magic really is.

Almost all diets will work if we stick to them, but the likelihood that you will stick to a restrictive diet during the holidays is quite low. If you make your goals this month too ambitious, you are likely to not stick to them when faced with all the temptations this time of year brings. Attempting to diet now when you know you are likely going to “fall off the wagon” will only make you feel like a failure. And we know from experience that the more time you fail at this, the harder you make it on yourself. Why not set yourself up to succeed? What if I told you that all or nothing wasn’t the only option?

You have control over how you feel going into 2021. How we chose to behave and eat now affects how we feel later.

  • Stay up all night, and you feel crappy the next day.
  • Give yourself 8hrs in bed most nights and you will feel a lot better.
  • Don’t workout for a month and you will feel very lethargic and out of shape in January.
  • Pair down your gym routine to make time for family fun but commit to doing something active most days and you will feel a lot better.
  • Eat a tray of cookies and you feel sick to your stomach.
  • Eat a few cookies and really, what’s the harm?

So while I am not advocating that you diet and restrict, I think we can all agree there’s a happy middle ground somewhere in there. You get to define what that looks like for you. For most of us, focusing on maintenance over the holidays is a solid goal. For me this means baking holiday cookies with my daughter, and eating those cookies without guilt or shame. It means eating a solid breakfast, including vegetables in my plate, and prioritizing protein at every meal. Basically, making sure that short bread cookies do not overtake my diet. It means keeping up with my gym routine, but not stressing out if I miss a day here and there this month to sleep in and watch Christmas movies or go skiing with the family.

What makes me feel good? On the most basic level for me, it is about sleep, movement, social connections and good food.

If I am short on sleep, everything unravels. I crave more sugar. I have less mental energy left for willpower and I have less physical energy to prepare healthy meals for myself. I make sure I keep a firm bed time. I am very consistent about my wind down routine at night to make sure get my solid 7+ hours of sleep. My phone is turned off by 7pm almost every night, I need time to mentally relax in order to get a good night sleep. My nightly routine includes a warm show, cozy PJ, a cup of tea and either a TV show or a good book. I know I need to have the lights out by 9-9:30, because my wake up time is about 5:30am.

Moving is another key habit for me because it holds everything together in some ways. Moving keeps my energy up. I get lethargic and achy without it. I make a point to at least walk every day. If I fall off my gym routine completely I automatically care less about how I fuel my body. Because to me, it’s in the gym where I most feel the impact of how I am eating and treating my body. Without it, I don’t notice as quickly how much my poor choices affect me. 

As an introvert, you would think this year wouldn’t have been too hard on me, but I think we can all agree we are missing our regular social connections this year with the pandemic and social distancing. Make a point to connect with your loved ones, talk on the phone, send hand written notes or invite a friend for a hike. We are all in this together. ❤️

And good food = good mood. If I eat well, I feel well; it’s as simple as that. Food is meant to be enjoyable and a shared experience. Don’t overly restrict yourself and miss out on all your favourite holiday traditions, but also don’t lose track of how food makes you feel. For me it’s about making choices that allow me to enjoy the experiences but also continue to feel my best.

And because this is 2020. I’d be remiss to not mention the mental health aspect. Right now, managing my anxiety is important. This of course means that I am taking care of my health and making good choices. But it’s also important for me to show myself more grace and to be okay with things being a little bit different and not perfect all the time. Gyms might close down at any moment. For some they have been closed for a while. What I learned this year is that any movement is good; it’s not about performing or being as fit as I used to be right now, it’s about taking care of myself. I make sure I do a little something everyday just for me. If I have more time I might go for a relaxing forest walk, or if I have less time, it might just be putting my legs up the wall for 10 minutes or reading a chapter of my book.

Sometimes you have to make choices for your mental health first. This can mean a glass of wine after a hard day or saying no to wine because it only makes you more anxious.

You get to chose how you feel.

So now let me ask you, how do you want to feel? What are the important holiday rituals you really want to enjoy with your loved ones? How can you make those fit into your healthy lifestyle?

Annie 🙂