Did December sneak up on anyone else? I feel like it gets earlier every year! The last couple weeks with clients have centered around readjusting our goals for the season and preparing practical strategies to emerge still feeling energized and on track come January. Aren’t we all tired of feeling like we have to start all over again and feeling sluggish and frustrated after weeks of social time, drinks and treats?
Now you know me, we don’t do wine spritzers, low fat gravy or other unrealistic expectations of just avoiding anything delicious and hibernating at home to avoid temptation at parties. I want you to fully embrace ALL the wonderful parts of the holidays and feel centered in what approach makes the most sense for how you want to feel January 1st. Let’s dive in!
Be realistic with your goals
I’m not here to tell you exactly what they should be, motivation doesn’t work that way. But I do challenge you to look at what December usually brings for you and readjust your goals and measures of success for the month. This keeps us from hitting the “screw it” button when we feel defeated from not meeting some lofty, restrictive ideal that inevitably brings on overeating and feeling frustrated once we emerge from the haze.
If you have a ton of social or family events, parties and food-based traditions, you may want to make your goal stability instead of weight loss or rapid improvement in gut health.
- What are 2-3 non-negotiables that have been helping you feel awesome? Is it 2 L of water, protein or veggies on every plate, prepping healthy lunches weekly, or getting in a couple of activity sessions a week? Pare down for your best success. Write them down, and schedule a quick reflection or check in on Sunday nights.
- Mine right now? I’m consistent with my meal balance so I’m focusing on 8 hours of sleep, 3 L of water, and 3 workouts a week.
Lighten up your weeknight meals
We don’t do arbitrary restriction here. Most attempts at skipping a meal before a party or drinking broth all day just result in you becoming a hunger crazed, appetizer inhaling food monster by the time you get somewhere with food. Your willpower doesn’t stand a chance against raging hunger hormones and high value treats. That’s not a you problem, that’s a human problem! A better plan? Lighten up your planned meals (and for the love of Rudolph, don’t stop planning, however you do it in your household).
- Plan a few hearty on the protein and veggie but lower carb lunches and dinners. All that fibre and protein will fill you up and dampen hunger hormones, while a little lower carb will deplete glycogen in our muscle making room for the starchy or sweet treats later. This one is especially important for those with pre-diabetes, PCOS or other blood sugar impairments.
- Ease off on portions of more calorie dense snacks like nuts and seeds, and bulk it up with veggies to keep you full. Don’t forget to be extra mindful of if you are actually hungry at snack time too – snack for physical hunger, not habit.
- Save calorie rich (and seriously un-filling) sugar sweetened gingerbread lattes, mochas, hot chocolates, and apple cider for treat time. Stock up on bubbly water and fancy teas to soothe the craving during the week.
- David’s Tea has a hot chocolate-y version that’s nice with some steamed milk of choice
- Pick 2 or 3 “healthy-ish” take out places like Chopped leaf, Nandos, Greek….
- Peek at the website and choose a specific order that has lots of energizing protein and veggies
- Write that down! Note in your phone or a sticky on the dash of your car, wherever you’ll see it when you’re tired, hungry and tempted to grab something that will leave you regretting it later.
There is no shame in not being perfect. We all need a safe middle ground sometimes and to just accept that December is more unpredictable, dreary (at least here in BC) and packed than other months. Be prepared to need some help getting good food on the table.
Plot your socials on a calendar
This one sounds nerdy but is a client favourite! Each week when you plan your meals or write out your grocery list, start by plotting out any social, family, or work events. From the smallest meeting a friend for coffee Monday night, to the big blowout Friendsmas party where you know Karen will be serving THE best cheesecake.
Seeing them all laid out allows you to thoughtfully choose where you’d like to really indulge, and where you can probably rein it in by eating before, trying to balance your plate while you’re there, or paying special attention to fullness and portions. That AH-mazing cheesecake? Probably worth the indulgence. Stale Christmas themed doughnuts at the office luncheon? Be prepared to skip them.
We’ll be talking a lot more about mindfully eating these next couple months, but even just a little presence while you’re eating can help you stay satisfied through December. What does that look like ?
- Actually stopping to enjoy your lunch, snacks, or treats. Push away from the computer, savour every bite, noticing exactly how delicious it is. This tells our brain that we’ve actually had a treat, so it feels more satisfied and less constant cravings.
- Slow waaaaaaay down. Do you tend to wolf down treats or meals, out of feeling rushed or a bit guilty about eating in the first place? Your brain needs time to register you’ve eaten, so slowing down will actually help you feel fuller and more satisfied. Find this one tricky? Try stopping half way through everything and setting a 2 minute timer before going back to the meal or delicious goodie. Sometimes it takes something concrete to break those long ingrained habits.
There is no shame here – you all know I love wine and harbour no hate for your adult beverage of choice. All that being said, opportunities to drink go way up for most of us in December and sometimes it just feels cozy to pour a glass of red on Tuesday night, or Baileys while you’re watching a movie on Saturday morning. The challenge? Alcohol not only “counts” towards calories and carbs, but also affects metabolism for a good 24 hours after. That means all those extra drinking days can add up to accelerated weight gain and an unhappy gut after a few weeks.
- Try every other day, or keeping it just to weekends, to allow some time for your gut and metabolism to get back on track – whatever makes the most sense for you.
- Drink plenty of water when you’re drinking. This not only offsets the side effects the next day, but helps keep our hands busy so we can enjoy those bevvies more mindfully.
- Have pushy friends? While I’m a firm believer you shouldn’t need to drink or eat out of obligation (we’re all adults, right?), it can feel awkward to argue with the serious pushers at parties. Club soda or bubbly water and lemon or lime often does the trick.
- Do think about minimizing sweet mixers like soda and juice where you can. Sugar is already up, and our bodies need a break.