The festive season is a time of joy for all of us, a time where we can switch off from our usual day-to-day routine and spend with friends and family. Sadly the messages that we read in many women's magazines, online platforms, and are subjected to in the conversations we find ourselves are more often than not centred around:
- How to 'beat the Christmas binge'
- How to get in shape in the new year
- Food guilt
You know what I'm talking about right? It can be difficult to navigate these kinds of messages, but it's not impossible to do so. Staying healthy during the festive season is about more than just food and exercise, it's about approaching our meals with a "...physically and mentally nourishing mindset...", finding joy in the small things, and taking time to rest whilst we're able to step back from our normal routines.
5 Tips for Navigating the Festive Season
1. Care for others, but don't forget about yourself.
Many of us will be spending the next couple of weeks away from home, either with our smaller circle of family and friends, or with larger groups of other people. It's easy to get caught up in making sure that everyone else is enjoying themselves, and taking a whole lot of small burdens on our shoulders to make life convenient for everyone else. This is not a problem at all, but don't forget to care for yourself this festive season. Taking care of yourself is important too, especially if you have a week or two off from your normal day-to-day life and can afford to enjoy a proper break. Why not enjoy a hot bath, put on a facemask, and listen to your favourite music whilst you're at it. Switch off from technology for a period of time and go for a walk outside. Journal, write down things that you are thankful for, some of the victories you have had during 2017, and some of your goals for the month to come. Enjoy a slow cup of coffee with a dear family member or friend, away from the noise where you can connect on a heart-to-heart level. Accept gratitude and thanks from others, show yourself grace when things don't work out 'perfectly', and don't be afraid to say no if something is stressing you out. Take time out to just be still, whether you go for a walk, read a book, or just lie down and breathe. Self-care is underrated, and is often overlooked during the busier parts of the year, so why not plan a few things to help you relax and feel great over the next week or two?
2. Savour the flavours, and trust your body.
There is often such a big focus on food throughout the holiday season, from mince pies to mulled wine, roast dinners to Christmas pudding. Psychologically, it can be quite a lot to process, especially if you are not in a great space regarding your relationship with food. Don't deprive yourself, because when we start to restrict and 'ban' ourselves from eating certain foods we can actually end up overindulging when given the chance. Trust the fact that your body is able to metabolise what you give it, eat what you enjoy, and don't let anyone bully you into eating something if you really don't feel like it. There are some amazing resources that I will link to at the end of this post that might prove to be useful if you have time to read and listen to them (instead of listening to the diet talk that often creeps into dinnertime conversations).
3. Take a breather, if you need it.
It can be a bit overwhelming spending so much time surrounded by others, particularly if you tend to 'fill up your tank', so to speak, when you have a quiet moment to yourself. Christmas is often focused on spending time with friends and family, and it's often the one time of the year where everyone can get together and touch base before the new year begins. Dinners, lunches, and brunches are often planned in advance, and often we need to show up with a smile on our face. As much as this is a blessing, particularly when friends and family live all over the country/globe, it's also very normal to feel the need to step back and have a moment to yourself if you need it. Go for a walk outdoors, read a book in your room for an hour, or offer to do the dishes in the kitchen where you can have some peace and quiet if you need it.
As much as the festive season is about spending time with community it is also the one time of the year when we often have a few days off to reflect and prepare for the new year. It's ok to spend some time in solitude if you need it, particularly if it helps you become more present in the moments that you get to spend with others :)
4. Move for joy, not punishment.
This one ties in nicely with the food focus during the festive season. Often December can be the month of magazine covers telling us that they know exactly how we can all "Get the perfect bikini bod" and work off the 'overindulgence' of the festive season. First of all, you don't need to punish yourself for enjoying food or rest. Instead, try to find movement that brings you joy and pleasure. If that means going for a walk down to the beach, going for a quick swim in the refreshing water, and walking back home, that's ok. If it means going for a jog through the trails in the forest, go for it! If it means doing a slow and steady pilates or yoga routine, then honour your body and listen to what it needs. I've linked to a few resources down below that discuss finding joy through exercise, so hopefully they can help each of you!
5. Be present, don't just give presents.
One of my favourite authors, Shauna Niequist, writes this in her book Bittersweet:
"If what it takes for you this year to be present in this sacred, thin place, to feel the breath and presence of a Holy God, is to forgo the cookies and the cards and the rushing and the lists, then we’ll be all right with cookies from the store and a few less gifts. It would be a great loss for you to miss this season, the soul of it, because you’re too busy pushing and rushing. And it would be a great loss if the people in your life receive your perfectly wrapped gifts, but not your love or your full attention or your spirit. This is my prayer for us, that we would give and receive the most important gifts this season—the palpable presence of a Holy God, the kindness of well-chosen words, the generosity of spirit and soul. My prayer is that what you’ve lost, and what I’ve lost this year, will fade a little bit in the beauty of this season, that for a few moments at least, what is right and good and worth believing will outshine all the darkness, within us and around us. And I hope that someone who loves you gives you a really cute scarf. Merry Christmas."
If what you need is some time off, with fewer commitments, Christmas parties, and cards to write, then that is OK. It can become so easy to miss the purpose of this time of year amongst the pressure to buy others the perfect gift and to cook the perfect Christmas feast. Why not sit down and write down a few of the things that are important to you, whether it's having a quiet moment alone with each of your children, or phoning that friend who lives 100000000 miles away. Instead of holding yourself to the standard of perfection, rushing around here and there, be present right where you are with those that surround you.
Some AWESOME resources & activities for you to enjoy...
- Don't Salt My Game Ep 69 - How to have a non-diet holiday season w/ Fiona Sutherland of The Mindful Dietitian - Laura Thomas talks with Fiona Sutherland all about how to navigate the holidays around food, body image, and diet chat, including how to cope with food guilt & anxiety, stop food FOMO, break the binge/restrict cycle, and how to deal with diet chat and the food police.
- How to Drown out Diet Talk (Haley Goodrich of INSPIRD Nutrition)
- Make Your Own Grapevine Wreath (The Fresh Exchange)
- Thoughts on Thanks and Gathering (The Fresh Exchange)
- 5 Thanksgiving Table Conversation Prompts (The Fresh Exchange) - This may be written for Thanksgiving, but since Christmas is also a holiday that usually involves gathering around the table why not try using these prompts to spark spark deeper and more open conversation at your table?
- The Life Thief (Christy Harrison)
- Food Psych Podcast (Christy Harrison) - Christy has a whole lot of AMAZING podcast episodes here that address all aspects of intuitive eating and health at every size. I loved her recent episode with Haley Goodrich (find that here), and this one (here) addresses finding joy in movement and exercise.
- The Anti-Diet Project on Refinery 29 (Kelsey Miller) - There are a whole bunch of well-written pieces that you can find here, where Kelsey shares her journey to finding peace with food and exercise.
- Honesty Hour: My Journey to Finding Balance with Exercise (Meg Dixon - Root for Food)