Maintaining Your Willpower During The Holidays

Raise your hand if your New Year’s resolutions includes eating better or losing weight? And I get it because I used to be the same exact way. I also get this, since you’re planning to make living healthy apart of your future goal, right now, you’re probably having these kinds of thoughts:  “The holidays are so busy, so there’s no way I have time to diet and exercise right now. I’m going to host or attend a lot of parties and meals where there will be lots of food and drinks, so there’s no way I can stay in control right now.”

Believe me, if you knew my family and how stressful being around some of them are, you’d see why food and exercise are the furthest things from my mind right now. Am I right? Yes, I’m right! And not only do I hear you, but I’m even going to cut you a little bit of slack, BUT don’t get excited, I’m NOT going to let you slide. Why? Because these are all, EXCUSES, and you are better than them. You’re worth more than any excuse you can make.

Now we’ve all read article after article featuring tips for cutting calories during the holidays; Drink lots of water, park far away from the entrance to the mall, bring a veggie platter to your next party and nosh on that.  These are all good ideas, of course, but here’s what they lack. They don’t put you in the FRAME OF MIND to do any of them. As a therapist, life coach and just a human being I know this for sure: We all need to be in the right frame of mind in order to succeed and stay on track. The question is, how do we get there?

The good news is, it’s not as hard as you think, and if you’ve read this far chances are you’re interested in making it happen.

Keep these 5 tips for staying healthy during the holidays in mind:

  1. BE MINDFUL. Keep it real, you probably know what your main challenges are going to be before they happen. Prepare for these challenges. For example, if a certain family member always stresses you out on Christmas, FLIP IT. Take mental notes of her behavior and find the funny, not the pain. This will help you stay sane and keep you from mindless or stress eating. If you are going to a corporate party that has the best eggnog every year, have some, but opt for a super healthy lunch that day to soften the blow. If you’re going to travel on a plane (like I just did with my own family), bring your own popcorn or almonds so you don’t opt for the cookies and chips. Enjoy yourself, indulge a bit, but plan ahead to “manage the damage.”
  2. REMEMBER YOUR WORTH. Most of us spend a lot of money over the holidays, but the greatest gift you can ever give is TO YOURSELF. Remind yourself that you are connected to your body and need to take care of it so that it can take care of you. Why did you or do you want to get healthy in the first place? Write it down and re-read it slowly, every day.
  3. ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS. Despite what all of the marketers in the entire world want you to think, the holiday season is not a perfect, joy-filled time of year every single second. There’s a lot of expense, stress, travel, work, and drama to content with. So, don’t expect perfection from yourself, either. Don’t even try to do everything right, including consistent healthy eating and exercise, but don’t throw caution to the wind. Just improvise and do your best. If you can’t get to your yoga class, do some stretching at home. If you can’t go for a run, opt for some push-ups and jumping jacks in your living room.  Every little bit makes a difference and keeps you in the right frame of mind to take care of yourself.
  4. FIND THE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES. Holidays—life in general—is one big experiment. We’ve got out trials, our triumphs, and our defeats every day and in every way. But when we face defeat, as we all often do, we also have an opportunity…to learn from it and do it differently next time. So if you find yourself disappointed that, say, you ate too much dessert at your mom’s or had a few too many flutes of champagne on New Year’s Eve, instead of beating yourself up, treat yourself kindly. These words are your friends: “What can I do differently next time to have a different result?” The answers are in you.
  5. MAKE TIME FOR YOU. Wherever you are, whatever you do, I want you to have a bit of “me” time everyday so that you can regroup and focus on your needs and desires. During that time, please journal, meditate, or read inspirational things to keep your head in the game. Remember why you’re on or starting a journey toward improving your health in the first place. I know you’re worth it. You need to know it, too…and it’s easy to lose focus unless you give your “willpower muscle” its daily workout.

The bottom line is so many people equate the holiday season with food and presents, if you choose to make it about PRESENCE, you’ll be better able to manage your food, exercise, and health a whole lot better. Good luck, and please know I wish you and your loved ones a very happy holiday and a wonderful new year!

Dr. Jessica Leon