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Thriving - not Surviving - the Holidays

Holidays are always challenging for most of us - too much to do, too many distractions, too much stress, too little time for ourselves, and usually too much food of the kinds we don't normally eat.  And even if we are alone and not with others, food choices are being pushed on us by TV and promotions in stores in a way that they aren't at other times of the year.
So how do you make it through all of this without forgetting yourself and giving in to stress and temptation?  Here are a couple of suggestions.

1. Make a commitment to spend at least 5 quiet minutes with yourself every day.  Perhaps doing diaphragmatic breathing to relax and get oxygen moving through your body.  As you fill your body with air, you can reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and overtaxing that come with the holidays. This only takes a few minutes and you have just taken a satisfying breathing break instead of food or a cigarette.

A common diaphragmatic breathing exercise is as follows:
  1. Sit or lie comfortably, with loose garments.
  2. Put one hand on your chest and one on your stomach.
  3. Slowly inhale through your nose or through pursed lips (to slow down the intake of breath).
  4. As you inhale, push your belly/ stomach out and feel your stomach expand with your hand.
  5. Slowly exhale through pursed lips to regulate the release of air while squeezing your belly/ tummy.
  6. Rest and repeat

2. Consider reframing your food choices.  You do not have to deny yourself; but you can consider eating only those foods that properly nourish your body.  There is a difference between eating as a substitute for emotional needs and feeding yourself to nourish the cells in your body.  At most food-centered events, there are usually options for protein, vegetables, lowfat and low sugar choices such as fresh fruit that are both delicious and good for you.  Decide to only eat foods that nourish.

3. Be consistent with your eating habits and don't miss feeding and hydrating yourself as you normally do.  Binging and overeating can happen when we become too hungry and will eat whatever is there because we are feeling starved.  A healthy body craves regular water and regular amounts of protein, vegetables and fruits.  Throughout the holidays, be consistent with yourself and don't skip that regular opportunity to feed yourself.  You will not be as hungry when presented with extra goodies that you don't need or even really want.

4. Identify food that you consider special and still nourishes you.  I worked with one of my clients to take a tour of the Thanksgiving meal he was anticipating.  He saw the mashed potatoes first and considered them to be bland. When pressed to find something on the table that wasn't bland, his next choice was radishes, then cooked carrots, cucumbers and green beans with ham.  This is a client who weeks before couldn't say no to a doughnut, and he was now choosing radishes because he really likes the taste of them.  During this tour he noted that if he chose not to overeat, he had time to talk to people, to enjoy the day, and he could always come back in 2-3 hours for more if he became hungry again.  He didn't deny himself anything - he just decided that he got more with moderation than he did with overeating.

5. Relax and Forgive Yourself. This is probably the hardest thing to do.  Be sure you get sleep, take care of yourself, and remember that you eat food every day and you can do the same today.  And if you eat more than you wished you had, you do not need to punish yourself by eating even more.  Forgive yourself for the lapse and move on.  We're not aiming for perfection, we're aiming for thriving, and allowing personal imperfections and learning balance is all part of the process!

Happy Holidays!!

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