As the holidays approach, so too can anxiety about sticking to your healthy eating plan. If you’re not careful, negative experiences over the holidays can ruin months of healthy eating habits. Here are 7 powerful tips for eating healthy during the holidays that you’re unlikely to hear anywhere else.
We’re currently in the midst of the holiday gauntlet in the U.S. We just wrapped up Halloween. Before you know it, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years will be here.
For many people, eating endless amounts of junk food starts in October and doesn’t end until January 1st. That’s when people make resolutions they never stick to and goals they should give a lot more thought to.
Neither outcome is preferable.
On the one hand, you completely let yourself go, gain a bunch of weight, get out of shape, and are faced with starting all over again come January.
On the other hand, you completely restrict. Or, you mostly restrict and then shame and guilt yourself when you “slip up.” If you slip up too much, you end up defaulting to scenario #1.
That’s not going to happen to you this year because you’re going to implement better advice and foster a much healthier mindset and relationship with food.
Here are 7 tips for eating healthy during the holidays that I want you to test out this year. I can almost guarantee you’ll have a better overall outcome than with any previous year.
Tip #1 for eating healthy during the holidays: drop the perfectionism.
Not only is perfection unattainable, you shouldn’t want to be perfect! Being 100% “on plan” and refusing to indulge at any capacity is not something to be proud of, it’s the mark of an unhealthy relationship with food.
It’s also important to understand that you can reach your fat loss, body composition, and health goals without being perfect.
The fitness and dieting industry promotes the idea that perfectionism is necessary. It’s not. I promise. I’ve led thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world to succeed absent of perfectionism.
Want to know what perfectionism does to the people who are unwilling or unable to let go of it?
There are two primary outcomes. Either they fail, or, they get a body they love and a life they hate.
Perfectionism has no place your life if you want to finally get and keep a body and life you love.
Eating healthy during the holidays, free from perfectionism, is possible by using the Bank Account Philosophy.
Tip #2 for eating healthy during the holidays: understand the big picture.
Let’s get something out of the way: You could binge for the entire 3 months of the holiday gauntlet and it would have very little, if not zero, measurable impact on your long-term physical health.
Now, don’t mistake that for permission to go off the rails.
I’m making the point because there’s too much fear, shame, and guilt around holiday slip ups. Too often, those slip ups drive people into a binge eating death spiral.
No understanding the big picture also does severe harm to your relationship with food, body, and Self. There are only so many times you can work up the courage and conviction to “get back on the wagon.”
Eventually, the losses pile up so high that you throw in the towel forever.
This is the end result of years of dieting, perfectionism, and black-and-white thinking for most people.
Eating healthy during the holidays is possible if you keep the big picture in mind. This 3-month timespan doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things unless you make it matter by approaching it with an unhealthy mindset.
Tip #3 for eating healthy during the holidays: don’t force it.
Rules, willpower, and discipline are favorite strategies of dieters this time of year. But, one of the best ways to ruin the holidays is to try and will yourself to stay “on plan.”
If you approach the holidays with a willpower mindset you will kill all the joy involved. You will kill the spontaneity. You will kill the connection with others and with precious nostalgic experiences.
I want you to look at this in a different way…
Successfully using the force of your will is not a sign of a powerful person or a healthy relationship with food, body, and Self. Rather, it’s symptomatic of someone who is acting out of fear.
The fear creates a micromanager mindset. You become manic about planning, adhering to rules, and avoiding anything that threatens perfection. You play constant defense from failure triggers.
Truly powerful people are able to thrive in any circumstance. They’re flexible and willing to adapt. They have no need to be perfect. They play offense, not defense.
If you find yourself trying to force it or trying to micromanage situations, you’re doing it wrong.
Eating healthy during the holiday is only possible if you let go of the micromanager mindset.
Tip #4 for eating healthy during the holidays: focus on how you want to feel and why you deserve to be well-nourished.
Why do you want to succeed at eating healthy during the holidays (or at all)? Why do you want to exercise consistently? Why do you want to get more sleep? Or better sleep?
If these healthy habits are a means to and end for you, that’s a big problem.
And yet, it’s so common. It’s why the search phrase, “how to eat healthy to lose weight” is so popular.
Most people aren’t looking for healthy eating tips so they can feel better, think better, or perform better. The only reason they want to eat healthy is so they can change their body.
The same is true with exercise. Most people are seeking out exercise plans so they can achieve a specific look.
The problem with this is that the why isn’t big enough. Wanting to look a certain way isn’t going to keep you motivated when times get tough.
Considering that changing your look will do nothing to change your life, it’s best to eat healthy, exercise consistently, and engage in other healthy habits for more meaningful reasons.
That’s not to say that wanting to look fantastic is a bad thing. You just have to understand that you’ll get much closer to that goal and be able to maintain it if you approach it from a deeper state of mind.
How do you want to feel (physically, mentally, and emotionally)?
What do you want to get out of life?
What do you want your relationship with food, body, and Self to look like?
Once you find relevant answers to these questions, you’ll naturally be more attracted to engaging in healthy habits. That will mark the beginning of a very powerful shift in your life.
If you do this work now, eating healthy during the holidays this year might be much easier than any year previous.
Tip #5 for eating healthy during the holidays: honor your body and Self.
Be honest. How often do you check in with yourself before eating something “off plan.”
Do you just see something that looks delicious (or think of something you’re craving) and go after it only to feel shame, guilt, and regret afterward?
Do you often eat something while telling yourself in the back of your mind that you shouldn’t be eating it?
Do you eat things knowing that your body doesn’t agree with them and that you’ll feel awful later?
All of these things are symptoms of an emotional eating issue and an example of not honoring your body and your Self with your eating habits.
While there is no “light switch” fix to this issue, a good place to start is by building awareness through a check-in process.
Before you eat, ask yourself, “what do I want this food to do?”
Be honest. It’s okay to say, “I want this food to help me cope with the stress that I’m experiencing.”
It’s also okay to eat whatever you’re about to eat after you do this check-in exercise.
Just make sure you ask yourself the question, dig deep to answer honestly, and then give yourself a moment of consideration.
What you’ll find is that this exercise, which combines awareness and honesty, will start to create a shift in your eating habits over time.
You can do the same with your exercise habits. Instead of choosing a default activity, ask yourself, “what physical activities does my body crave?”
Don’t do exercises someone told you to do or exercises you think you’re supposed to do. That’s never going to lead you to success.
Start honoring your body and your Self with your eating and exercise habits and you’ll move the needle in a big way.
Tip #6 for eating healthy during the holidays: guard your physical, mental, and emotional resources with healthy boundaries.
There’s one thing that all but guarantees inconsistency and failure and that’s a lack of physical, mental, and emotional resources.
In today’s modern world, being healthy requires some extra time and attention. In order to give your healthy habits that time and attention, you have to have the necessary physical, mental, and emotional “stamina.”
That brings us to the second major challenge with today’s modern world: it does a fantastic job of depleting that stamina.
Most people are over-scheduled, over-extended, and over-stressed. If your health and wellness goals are a relatively low priority, it’s easy to see why you choose fast food, skipping workouts, and less sleep over the alternatives.
The good news is that you can make a lot of progress in this area in a short amount of time.
If you’re like most men and women in today’s world, you’re subjecting yourself to a lot of unnecessary people and circumstances that are draining your resources. By erecting better boundaries, learning to say “no,” and doing a better job of prioritizing yourself you can quickly recover those precious resources.
You can also increase your overall “resource account balance” and decrease the amount of resources you spend on certain things by improving your emotional metabolism.
The more resources you recover and the more efficiency you squeeze out of your emotional metabolism, the more consistent you’ll be. Eating healthy during the holidays this year will be a breeze compared to years past.
Tip #7 for eating healthy during the holidays: extend yourself grace so you can recover quickly.
As I said in the beginning, being perfect is impossible. It’s also not necessary.
So, instead of falling into a death spiral of shame, guilt, and regret, focus on recovering quickly from slip-ups and binges.
Part of having a healthy relationship with Self is the extension of grace. This might be difficult for you to do, especially if you have a lot of issues with negative self-talk, but it’s critical.
If you want a clear game plan for recovering quickly from slip-ups and binges, check out my article, How to Recover Quickly From an Eating Binge.
I hope you found these tips for eating healthy during the holidays helpful.
Keep in mind that this all assumes that you’re actively working toward a healthy relationship with food.
If you’d like a clear plan of action for healing your relationship with food, ending emotional eating, and achieving rock-solid consistency, check out the Decode Your Cravings online program.
Kevin Geary is the founder of RebootedBody.com and a respected expert on cravings, eating psychology, and long-term habit change. He’s worked with thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy and programs like Shut Down Your Sugar Cravings.