From Thanksgiving to the winter holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, landing at New Years’, it is fair to say that holidays are quite food-centered. For many of us, it is what we look forward to during these special events! On the other hand, the potential of overindulgence can create or trigger disordered eating; that, combined with not getting outside as often due to the harsher weather, can put us at a greater risk for falling into unhealthy habits. You may experience pressure from family and friends to eat and drink excessively under the guise of celebrating. While it is absolutely important to enjoy yourself, especially after such a challenging year, be honest and mindful of your goals and intentions.

HOW IS THIS RELATED TO MENTAL HEALTH?

While mental health disorders don’t necessarily increase around the holidays, signs and symptoms worsen around this time of year. Overdoing it when it comes to eating and drinking can heighten stress, anxiety, and depression. It impacts us physically (bloat, lethargy, nausea), but it also evokes feelings of guilt and shame. If we do not maintain our self-care over the holidays, it can start the new year in a downward spiral, allowing stress and shame to manifest and generate further into a potential mental health problem. It can be helpful to enter the holiday season with a plan to prevent these unpleasant feelings from stealing away your holiday cheer.

HOW CAN WE PUT THIS INTO ACTION?

DON’T GO HUNGRY
There is no need to starve yourself in order to partake in a holiday meal. Eat at some point prior so that you don’t feel faint and overeat to compensate.

STAY HYDRATED
Between eating and drinking (especially alcohol) it is easy to become dehydrated. If you are drinking more water, it is less likely you will mindlessly snack on what is around you.

CHOOSE QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Just because it is available does not mean you have to have a complete serving of everything. Pick something that you are really going to enjoy, like a piece of cake or pie, and build the rest of your plate around that.

EAT SLOWLY
Give yourself a chance to savour and taste the food. Enjoy every bite! Sometimes we eat so fast we end up going for seconds or thirds since it can take around 20 minutes for our stomachs to tell our brains we are full.

FORGRIVE YOURSELF
One day of not eating particularly healthy is not going to make a big difference in the long term. It is how we treat ourselves most days that matters.

“Food is the most abused anxiety drug. Exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant.” -Bill Phillips

HOW CAN WE Practice intuitive eating?

From the moment we label foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, we create associations that lead to temporary avoidance behaviour – only to later binge on cravings you earlier denied. Adopting an intuitive eating mindset can help to heal the ‘forbidden foods’ mentality that is so ingrained in our culture, especially through media. It is about trusting and listening to your body as it communicates what it needs and wants. It can be as simple as eating when you are hungry, stopping when you are full, and coping with your feelings without using food as a crutch.

This looks like:

Giving yourself permission to eat different foods, to enjoy your food, to rest, and to exercise if you are craving movement.

Discovering the satisfaction factor of the eating experience. If you are eating while driving, talking, watching television, or multi-tasking in any way, you are distracted and more likely to eat beyond fullness.

Respecting your body by letting go of any expectations you have of body image. Accepting and respecting all body types and sizes will help you to make food and exercise choices that are health based rather than stemming from emotions.

If they say… “You HAVE to eat some of that pie!” You could respond… “It does look good! I might have some after dinner.”

If they say… “Why aren’t you drinking? Are you pregnant?” You could respond… “I’m fine with water right now.”

If they say… “Can you eat that? I thought you were dieting?” You could respond… “I practice balanced nutrition so I believe all foods fit in moderation!”

If they say… “You look fine! Stop worrying about what you’re eating!” You could respond… “It’s not just about appearance, balanced eating helps me feel my best!”

If they say… “You MUST eat more of this! It’s SO good!” You could respond… “It was good, but I am full now. If there are leftovers, maybe I can take some with me for later.”

HOW CAN WE stay physically active indoors?

High daily movement helps to manage hunger cues and curb boredom eating. You don’t need to have high-end gym equipment to keep moving. Incorporate activity into your daily routine through:

HOUSEHOLD CHORES: regular tasks like vacuuming, dusting, laundry, and general tidying up are a great way to get your steps in and they make for a more comfortable home environment!

SET HOURLY REMINDERS TO GET UP AND MOVE: if you are working from home, learning online, or sitting on the couch for too long, it increases the risk for chronic health problems like heart diseases and diabetes as well as poor mental health. Walk around the house, get a water refill, and run up and down the flight of stairs.

MULTITASK 10 MINUTES OF FITNESS: there are many exercises that can be done without needing to give your full attention. Wall sits, hula hooping, stretching, and jumping jacks, can all be beneficial to our health. Getting 10 minutes of continuous moderate activity three times a day is equivalent to 30 minutes of nonstop exercise. Do these while you watch TV or listen to a podcast!

holiday health tips:

  • Don’t skip meals before big dinners
  • Keep plate sizes and portions small to start
  • Drink mostly water and limit alcoholic or sugary drinks
  • Make time for daily exercise routines
  • Eat 70% vegetables and 30% other foods
  • Eat slowly and thoughtfully
  • Schedule time alone to rest and recharge
  • Keep up your spiritual disciplines
  • Trust and act on your inner guidance
  • Go for a walk after dinner
  • Be thankful and see lessons and blessings
  • Remember that you are loved and valuable
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