This weekend my family will enjoy our annual Christmas cookie exchange. It is one of our most exciting family events all year. We have been having this cookie exchange since I was a young child and now my kids look forward to this day for months!
All of my extended family (and often many friends as well) bake multiple batches of cookies and brings them to the exchange. My aunt bakes millions of Christmas shaped sugar cookies (it at least feels like millions of cookies after a few hours) and we sit around and decorate the cookies, snack on crackers and meatballs, and overall have a great time. There is lots of cookie eating and icing licking happening as well. Usually, my kids will decorate a few cookies, eat a bunch of cookies, and spend the rest of the time running around trying to burn off all the sugar.
At the end of the day, we spread out all of the cookies that were brought and all the cookies that were decorated and everyone wanders around the tables selecting cookies to fill their own tins to take home and enjoy throughout the Christmas season. We all leave with dozens and dozens and dozens of delicious, homemade cookies.
It is an event that would make a nutritionist have a panic attack. The healthy, anti-sugar part of me always feels a little uncomfortable with the idea of the day, but it is such a fun tradition that we have had for so many years that I just can’t imagine Christmas without it. I don’t even like sweets and I love our cookie party (and eating all the cookies for weeks after).
You may not have a family cookie party, but I am almost certain that feasting and sweets and indulgences will be a big part of nearly all the events you attend in the next few weeks. The holidays are a time for food. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. Food is meant to be enjoyed. We are supposed to celebrate at various times in our lives. I don’t think we should feel guilty about celebrating and indulging in all (or at least mostly all) that the holidays have to offer.
However, I don’t think that the holidays are an excuse to gain 20 pounds or completely derail all of the healthy choices that you are trying to implement into your life. Don’t start the New Year off feeling guilty about how much you overdid it during the holidays. That’s no fun.
I’ve come up with a few tips to keep in mind around the holidays to allow ourselves to indulge and partake in the edible holiday goodness without letting it completely wreck our physical health.
1. Remember that the holiday is only one day.
Christmas is technically one day, not an entire four week season. Yes, there are likely events that you will attend sprinkled throughout the four-week season, but every meal of every day during the four weeks is not a holiday meal. When you are at a holiday party or event, enjoy yourself. Eat the food, drink the drinks, and mingle with all the people. Parties are meant for celebration and feasting. Let go of the guilt and have a good time. You will not gain 10 pounds from one party.
However, on all of the other days and for all of the other meals during this four-week season, eat like a healthy person. Make sure that your non-celebration foods are the healthiest you can select to make sure your body is getting the nutrition it needs. Don’t overeat and overindulge just because it’s a Monday, save that for all of the holiday events you will be attending.
2. Drink extra water.
Carry your water bottle everywhere and constantly be sipping. Your body needs the extra fluids this time of year, so be sure to provide. Don’t fill up on sodas and juices on normal days, choose water instead to limit your excess calories and provide your body with proper hydration.
The extra fluids are necessary around the holidays to combat added stress, dryer winter air, and to flush out and rehydrate after a night of eating, drinking, and indulgence. Water is one of the most important things you can consume to lose weight, so it’s also important when trying to avoid gaining weight.
3. Crowd out the unhealthy choices with good ones.
Know that you will be eating a lot of extra calories and recognize that most of those calories are going to be fairly empty calories (empty calories are those with little to no nutritional value – think cookies). You want to make sure that the foods you eat outside of your holiday parties and events are the healthiest possible options. This will not only fill you up to make you less likely to overindulge during the party, but it will also provide your body with the nutrition it needs and won’t be getting from a night of wine and appetizers.
For example, you could start your day with a super green smoothie to make sure you get at least a few servings of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Before you head to the cookie party, eat a big healthy salad. Don’t skip meals on party days, but instead, choose foods that will best fuel your body for the night of partying ahead of you.
4. Make exercise a part of your traditions.
Maybe you could take a walk around the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights with your kids instead of driving. When the snow begins to fall, put on your layers and head outside with the kids to play in it. Before your holiday meal, head outside for a family hike or to go caroling. Think of fun ways you can incorporate activity into your family holiday traditions to combat some of the indulgences you’ll be partaking in later.
5. Practice moderation.
You don’t have to eat the entire plate of cookies. You don’t have to make a mountain of food on your plate and go back for seconds. Maybe you don’t need to eat a piece of all the pies. Give yourself permission to enjoy the foods offered this holiday season, but recognize that you don’t have to partake in all or everything. Choose your favorites, select reasonable portions, limit your alcohol intake, and truly take the time to enjoy your family and the season.
The holidays are truly one of my favorite times of the year. I don’t ever believe in depriving ourselves of things we love. Stop feeling guilty about the holidays and enjoy them. You don’t have to overindulge in them, but give yourself permission to taste and smell and indulge in your favorites. The holidays are meant for feasting and celebrating. Enjoy it.
Today’s action step to achieve a healthy holiday:
What is one commitment you will make to yourself regarding your health around the holidays? This can be a commitment to allow yourself to enjoy your favorite treat guilt free or a commitment not to overindulge in that particular food weakness or anything else that is important to you. Let us know in the comments what you are committing to.
Holiday Season Cookbooks to Check Out:
Click on the image to check out the cookbook on Amazon (affiliate links)