How to stay healthy through the holidays

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Christmas?  Well, probably the first thing will be the twinkling lights, or busy shopping malls, or if you really have your mind in the right place it will be the sweet reminder of our Savior Jesus, as a baby in a manger.  

But after that, do any special foods come to mind?  Favorite treats that pop up at family gatherings, office parties, and as gifts from thoughtful and well meaning neighbors, perhaps?  

How will you handle those treats this year?  How do you usually embark on this festive season?  If you take the approach of, ‘no worries, that’s what resolutions are for’, then we really need to have a talk.

The thing is, resolutions aren't very successful.  Have you noticed?  The word has gotten around that most people fail before February 1.  You may believe that you are better than that, and that is probably true, but there are easier ways to get even better results.  Besides, if you are experiencing menopausal symptoms, indulging in decadence is a sure bet for making those symptoms worse.

I have some suggestions for you to maintain your health goals this holiday.  Take what you think will make the biggest difference for you this year.

Pick your days to indulge

Let’s get this out there right away.  You can indulge!  You should enjoy your favorite foods that say Christmas to you.  Yes, there is much more to the season than cookies and fudge, but by denying them completely you could have increased stress from the effort, and a full on binge can result when you “can't take it anymore”.  It happens.

So, instead, pick a few days when you will be with friends or family, or at a party, that you give yourself permission to eat at will.  I suggest no more than 4 days for the entire season (which does include New Year’s for those of you who like to push boundaries).

Even better would be to make that only one meal out of the day.  But, don't starve yourself before going to a Christmas party.  Eat all your healthy vegetables and sensible proteins at breakfast and lunch, so the evening can be enjoyed without gobbling up even tasteless offerings out of real hunger.  

Give away your goodies

If baking defines your Christmas, plan to give all your delicacies away as soon as possible.  Keeping a stash is too much temptation.  And certainly don’t leave them out in the open for easy grazing.  That is my biggest saboteur.   It is so easy to nibble on those plates of treats when you see them constantly.

But what if they were given to you as a gift?  It does seem ungracious to throw away perfectly delicious homemade candies, so that is for the toughest of us.  For the rest, you have a couple choices.  You can freeze them, and enjoy them a little at a time.  Or, you can keep them safely out of your line of sight, possibly in a seldom used cabinet.  When you have guests, you can pull them out and put them on a pretty platter.  Most people do expect desserts at the holidays, and this way you will save your time by not preparing them yourself.

Make your wishes known

For those who you know are looking for gift ideas for you, you might want to head them off at the pass.  For example, teachers can inform their students that you would love iTunes gift cards instead of Starbucks.  Don't you love it when you aren't forced to come up with gift ideas?  And no one likes the thought of their gift causing trouble for the receiver.

Give as you would like to receive

If you start early enough, and you are the first giver, the recipient is likely to follow in kind.  How often have you been presented with a gift by someone you weren't prepared to reciprocate?  It is uncomfortable, but when you are first you can set the stage.  Here is a short list of healthy gift ideas to get you started:

A pretty basket of fruit.  Apples and oranges are great, but try to throw in a few unusual but seasonal fruits to make it fun.

Herbal teas, with a pair of cozy slippers

A Christmas Cactus, or other holiday plant.

Gift card for a book store, or iTunes, or an unusual local shop.

A set of natural soaps and a nice body brush

Choose replacement treats

There are so many recipes for flourless and sugarless desserts.  Now may be a great time to try them out.  Find me on Pinterest to see some of the ideas I have come across.  As an example, when you are really hankering for some peanut butter balls, try this recipe with no refined sugar.    

A quick word of caution…just because they are healthier, does not mean you can eat them with abandon.  It is still necessary to practice restraint.  But, without the refined ingredients they may curb your appetite for sweets.

Everyday is a new day

If you have an unplanned indulgence, don't beat yourself up.  Most importantly, don't give up!  A thought many people have that ruins their effort to get healthy is “I might as well”.

I already skipped exercising 3 days this week, I might as well skip today too.

Since I overdid it at the Christmas luncheon, I might as well enjoy the treats in the pantry.

I can't fit in my jeans now, so I might as well wait until January to worry about what I eat.

Slow and steady wins the race.  It sounds trite, but don't ever forget it.  There will be failures, and regressions, but start fresh each day with belief in yourself.  This is a lifestyle, not a diet.  Never a diet.