Celebrating the Holidays with a Healthy Perspective

November 15, 2010

Today we celebrate Day #2 of Healthy Living During the Holidays Week, and I'm honored to share with you a guest post courtesy of Valerie who blogs at http://seattlerunnergirl.com/. She's a thirty-something who is so incredibly committed to losing weight and has done an amazing job so far! She is passionate about sharing her journey with others, so listen up!

Hello all! When Sarah asked me to write a guest post about strategies to get through the holidays with your commitment to living healthy intact, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. First off, though, let me tell you a little about me.

I have been obese since I was a senior in high school. I am now 34 years old and have just transitioned from "obese" to "overweight" according to the BMI scale. I have struggled to lose weight my entire adult life (my highest recorded weight was 298.6; I now weigh 189 pounds), and this is the first time I have succeeded and know that I will continue to succeed for the long-term. Other things to know about me? I love baseball; I'm a newlywed; I also enjoy salsa dancing, hanging out with my niece and nephews, and good Lebanese food, among other things.

One thing I have wanted for a very long time is to work through my emotional "issues" with food and develop a healthy, normal relationship with food. I believe that is possible for every one of us, but the journey sure looks different for us all! And that's the context in which I want to talk about holiday eating.

If you don't mind, close your eyes for a moment and think of the person in your life who you would identify as the healthiest person you know. A sister, friend, co-worker; someone who maintains a healthy weight, who eats healthy almost all the time, and who doesn't beat herself up when she chooses to eat something less-than-perfectly-healthy. That person? That's my goal. And I hope it is yours, too.

For me, achieving this goal is as important to me as achieving a healthy weight. Because adopting the mindset and practices of that healthiest-person-I-know? That is what is going to allow me (and you) to maintain my healthy weight once I get there.

So how do healthy weight folks approach the holidays? I have some thoughts on this myself, and would love for you to share your ideas with me, too!

Strategy #1: Focus on the WHOLE reason we celebrate holidays, instead of just the food.
People who have a healthy, normal relationship with food look forward to the holidays for a myriad of reasons, only one of which is the food. *gasp* I know, right?!? You mean someone looks forward to Thanksgiving without their focal point being the pumpkin pie?! People enjoy Halloween without overdosing on candy?! Who on earth ARE these people? I'll tell you who they are; they are the ones who make it through the holidays while maintaining their weight, enjoying the food, but also celebrating and enjoying everything else important about the holidays.

If you are spiritual or religious, many holidays already have a higher meaning for you. If not, think of all the other reasons to anticipate the holidays: we get to spend time with the people we love. Time off of work. Focusing on fun traditions that are outside of our everyday routines. And, yes, the wonderful food of the holidays, too. It's not that you should ignore the food or that looking forward to it is "bad;" it just shouldn't be your only focus.

Strategy #2: Enjoy holiday food in moderation.
Guess what? If you give yourself permission to go hog-wild on your eating every time a special occasion comes along, you will have a very hard time losing weight and/or keeping it off. Most people who maintain a healthy weight do indulge a little on the holidays. Maybe they’ll choose to eat an extra small plate at Thanksgiving dinner, or enjoy a dessert when they might not otherwise do so. Usually, though, that's where it ends. They treat the holidays like they do everyday life - with moderation. And while moderation can look a little different on holidays, that doesn't mean you throw it out the window altogether.

Don't let [insert favorite food holiday here] be an excuse to eat with wild abandon for a four-day weekend. Instead, identify the foods you don't get to eat the rest of the year, and enjoy them in reasonable portions. As my uncle says, it’s always something. Christmas, Valentine’s Day, your birthday, his birthday, your uncle’s cousin’s dog’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Independence Day…you get the idea. Special occasions aren’t as rare as we make them out to be.

Strategy #3: Stay committed to working out on special occasions.
I have friends who work out 5-6 days a week, no matter what. Yep, you heard that right – no matter what. It’s raining? They do it anyways. On vacation? They fit it in. In a remote locale with no access to a gym? They lace up their shoes and run or pull the resistance bands out of their suitcase and workout anyways.

Working out can cover a multitude of gastronomical “sins.” You can’t exercise 30 minutes per day and justify eating 3,000 extra calories that day. But if you commit to 45-60 minutes of high intensity exercise 5-6 days/week, you can probably choose one food indulgence per day over the holidays and maintain your weight just fine. Not to mention the fact that if you keep your body moving, you’ll sleep better and be able to enjoy little breaks from your holiday-peeps – those family and friends you love oh-so-much but sometimesyoujustwanttokillthemtoo.

So there you have it. My long-winded approach to enjoying the holidays and not regretting them when I step on the scale in January. These are just a few tips; what strategies do you use to enjoy the holidays without guilt and without weight gain?

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  1. Great post! You hit the nail on the head! I needed this reminder! Great strategies!

    My strategy for holiday eating is...it is just another day...don't go overboard! Eat like I would ever other day. Pick (fill the plate) the veggies and fruit and just "taste" some of the other items I might like. If I don't like them...don't feel obligated to eat. Often times when I want something my hubby has it on his plate so I ask for a bite and then I am statisfied. Sometimes I just go without!

  2. Love the post!!! Makes so much sense!!! I am with you!!!

  3. Wonderful common sense post! Thank you!

  4. LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing. I've also been watching my "healthy" friends very closely to see what it is they consume and their overall attitude toward diet and exercise. Great ideas!

  5. Super post Val (and I'm so excited to have discovered Sarah's blog)!

    You make excellent points and I agree that the key to enjoying the food of the holidays is to enjoy it in moderation.

  6. @Shrinking Mommy - I LOVE the strategy of having a bite off your husband's plate, and I totally do that, too!

    @Joy - Thank you, and good luck during the holidays!

    @Janece - Thanks for the compliment, and best wishes for a healthy holiday season!

    @Misty - Man, we can just learn SO much from those healthy peeps, can't we?! Thanks for the comment!

    @Betsy - Sarah's is a must-follow. I know we will both (ALL) succeed in enjoying the holidays without obsessing over the food.

  7. Glad you guys liked the post. Thanks Valerie! Betsy... glad to have you here!

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  9. The Turkey Trot here is 5k or 8 miles that morning, and I've done the 8 miler for years. I figure it covers a multitude of eating sins that day! I also like that I am the primary cook for Thanksgiving, so I have A LOT of control over the menu and ingredients, so most of what we eat is pretty healthy. For me it's just the quantities that are a bit out of whack. But the moderation is key. Enjoying reading more on this new to me blog!

  10. @Carina, I LOVE the idea of a Thanksgiving run, but unfortunately where my parents live, there is not a fun run that day - lame! I wonder if I could get any of the family interested in joining me for a 5K that morning...

  11. @SeattleRunnerGirl and @Carina -

    The turkey trot is a great idea. There wasn't one here that fit my needs so I made up my own. Doing a 5k that I mapped out around a local lake, and I setup a facebook event and invited some people from my Weight Watchers group, some other friends and family and so far there are 5 of us running. It is going to be awesome! So Valerie maybe you can do something like that. If you lived here (in freezing MN) you could come with us!


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