Oh the holidays. They are so full of emotion, aren’t they? There’s joy, cheer, and merriment, but then there is also stress, fear, and anxiety. Sometimes it’s enough to add a few expletives to your daily speech. Today, I wanted to share with you some of the common F’words that you may struggle with around the holidays, and give you some tips or guidance so that you can have your most fabulous festivus yet!
So what are these F-words? A few of them are four-letter words, but I promise you none of them are swears. I’m talking about food, finances, and forgiveness. My goal is to give you some hot tips on how to navigate all three, so you can feel fabulous right into the new year!
F-word #1 for a Fabulous Festivus: Food
Let’s start with the biggie! Every single holiday event seems to revolve in some way or another around food. If you’ve been struggling with your relationship with food, or have been working really hard on reaching a goal that involves eating and health, then the holidays could definitely raise some big old fears. Here are some of the common ones I’ve heard from my clients:
“I’m afraid that I won’t be able to control myself and I’ll just eat all the things.”
“I want to be able to celebrate, but I don’t want to derail my progress.”
“I’ve been invited to a few parties and I don’t want to impose on the hosts to have to accommodate my diet.”
These are all valid points, and they’ve definitely crossed my mind before as well. I think we often approach food around the holidays as an all-or-nothing scenario, and we let our fears get the best of us. When in reality, there are logical, and reasonable approaches to addressing each of these fears. Let’s look at some:
Fear: “I won’t be able to control myself.”
If this is your biggest fear, I would spend some time reflecting on what your trigger foods are. If you can’t be left alone in front of the cheese platter but you have a dairy allergy, then step one is to recognize the trigger, and step two is to come up with a plan of action in case you get triggered. A few ideas to help you in the event you find yourself alone with a plate of cheese, or a box of cookies, or whatever your trigger food may be:
- Ask yourself “How is this food going to make me feel?” and “Is eating this food really worth it?” If you know that dairy makes you bloat up and get gassy, then is dipping into the brie in a small room packed with people really going to make you feel good? If you answer no, good on ya and move on to what you can eat. If you answered yes, then perfect, eat the cheese, but don’t stress about it. Enjoy it! Savour it! Often the stress we inflict on ourselves around the foods we eat is actually more harmful than the food itself.
- What else can you do instead of eating food-x? If you’re at work, and you keep walking into the lunchroom every 10 minutes to get a cookie out of the box your client dropped off this morning, then a good strategy to try is to come up with a list of 3 things you could do instead of going to go get that next cookie. Write them on a sticky note, and put it right on your monitor, then the next time you feel compelled to take a cookies break, check the list. Maybe at the top it says go for a walk outside for 5 minutes, or get a drink of water, or do 5 squats in your cubicle. Whatever it is, refer to the list first then check in and see if you still want that cookie.
- Be prepared and eat ahead of time. If you’re going to a party starving, you’re more likely to eat all the things. Instead, have a light meal ahead of time that is healthy and balanced. This will help keep your blood sugar stable and prevent it from crashing, which typically results in a beeline to the desserts table.
Fear: “I want to celebrate, but I don’t want to derail my progress.”
It’s entirely possible to remain on track but also give yourself some room to enjoy all the delicious holiday foods. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, when we make balance our goal, but if you find yourself with this particular fear, then a few things you can do are:
- Remind yourself of what your health and nutrition goals are. By reconnecting with your why you’ll be able to keep your food choices in perspective. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight so you have the energy to play with your kids, then suddenly the cookie doesn’t seem so important.
- A really good rule of thumb that I use, which can help address this fear is adopting the 80-20 rule. This is where for 80% of your time you aim to eat according to your best dietary principles, then 20% of the time you give yourself permission to eat and indulge as you wish.
- Don’t let a night of indulgence derail you. Derailment is a choice. Just because you had a couple of wines the night before, doesn’t mean you can’t have a kick ass, nutritious breakfast the next day. Between all the parties, brunches, and events, are all your normal breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners; if you focus on making these other meals as nutritious and delicious as possible, in the end everything will balance out.
- Plan some fun ways to celebrate that don’t actually involve food. Instead, maybe you and friends plan a day of tobogganing, or cross-country skiing. Get outside, and get active. Make a snowman, build a snow fort. Sweat, and laugh, and be joyful. You’ll be surprised how you won’t even think of food when you’re having fun. However, if at the end you and your mates are absolutely starving, then celebrate and eat accordingly. Have some sugar, or carbs, it won’t matter if you were truly moving all day long as these foods will just go straight to replenishing your glucose stores, instead of getting stored as fat.
Fear: “There will be nothing that I can eat. Or I don’t want to offend my hosts by asking them to accommodate my diet.”
Oh the stories we tell ourselves. While I can empathize with this fear, it’s typically based out of a story we tell ourselves, and not necessarily fact. Here are my recommendations for getting out of our heads, and getting to the bottom of what our options are for eating healthfully around the holidays:
- Do your due diligence first before letting this fear take hold of you, and get a sense of what the facts actually are. If your party is at a restaurant, call ahead and talk to someone. Let the establishment know what you can and can’t eat, and ask if there’s something they can do for you. Most places these days are very accommodating to dietary restrictions, but it may require you taking the initiative to make a phone call.
- If you’ve been invited into a friend or family-member’s home, call or email them and explain your situation. Offer to bring something that you know you can eat that you’d be willing to share with everyone at the table. This way you’ll know for sure there will be something at the party that you can eat, and you’re also removing any pressure on the host to come up with a dish to accommodate you. Many hosts may welcome the offer of help, as it may mean one less dish they need to prepare. If your host is a loved one, and you help them understand where you’re coming from, or what your health struggles are, then they should naturally want to help you in anyway possible.
- If you’re in need of some ideas of treats and desserts that you could bring to a party that you can eat without guilt or pain, I have just the thing for you! Check out my brand new Holidays Sweets & Treats Recipe eBook. It has 10 gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free (and some dairy-free!) recipes that will keep you from feeling like you’re missing out on any of the holiday fun.
F-word #2 for a Fabulous Festivus: Finances
Money can be one of the biggest stressors in our regular, everyday lives, and as you know from my post on stress, it is no bueno for a healthy body. Throw the holidays into the mix and financial stress seems to get amplified by almost a million (a very scientific number I just made up). I personally have always been a fan of gifts. I love giving gifts, and I love receiving gifts. If you’re like me, you may put a lot of pressure on yourself to find that perfect something, for that perfect someone, and often any attempt at a gift-giving budget gets totally canned.
I know that for myself personally I really don’t need anything. As I strive to keep my life simple and stress-free, I’m also constantly removing clutter from my life. It breaks my heart when gifts from Christmases-past end up in the donate pile because I really haven’t used them. However, what I could never get rid of or donate are memories, which is why I’d recommend that if you want to reduce clutter and give a gift that really lasts a lifetime, then gift experiences to the ones you love. This can be anything as large or as small as your imagination allows. Here are a few suggestions:
- Babysitting services – you get special time with the kiddos, and your family member or friend will really appreciate the extra help.
- A day of self-pampering at home. Invite your friend over and give each other manis and pedis, or make your own sugar scrub.
- Plan a games day on the ski hill, or at the park when the weather warms. Include a BBQ, and yard games like three-legged races, and a pinata full of love notes.
- Make a tea and go on a long hike in nature. The deep conversation that you’ll share while walking and experiencing nature’s beauty is priceless.
You can also go the homemade route. Now a days with Pinterest in existence, there are so many creative, low-cost gifts you can make at home that would make amazing presents. To get you started, a quick 5 minute search yielded me these:
- Preserved lemon (I received this once as a gift, and it was awesome for healthy salad dressings!)
Or make a few batches of gluten-free, grain-free, and refined sugar-free cookies. Put them in pretty jars or boxes, add a little ribbon, and you have an amazing healthy yet sweet gift idea!
Lastly, I want to remind you that YOU ARE ENOUGH. While it’s wonderful to want to give gifts to show your love and appreciation, I want you to also remember that you, yourself are what matters, not the gifts you give. Your presence in your friends and family’s lives is a gift, so sometimes the best way to show gratitude is to just be present and available. This can cost you nothing but time, attention, and possibly putting your cellphone on silent.
F-word #3 for a Fabulous Festivus: Forgiveness
I recently was lucky enough to be gifted the opportunity to see Gabby Bernstein speak live in Vancouver. She was speaking on the topic of happiness, and she shared with us some of the key steps in fuelling your own happiness. One of the steps she touched on that really resonated with me was forgiveness. I specifically wanted to talk about it as the third and final F-word today because forgiveness can be one of the most powerful things we can give to others and ourselves for a fabulous festivus.
The holidays can often bring you together with friends or family members where there may be some negative tension. Past resentments can keep you in a space of negativity, and turn down the “joy-knob” on your holidays. Instead, I encourage you to choose forgiveness. I absolutely love this video interview with Gabby Bernstein on practicing forgiveness (the topic of forgiveness comes up at the 4:15 mark).
My favourite point she makes in the video is this: If you’re in an argument or tense space with someone, ask yourself “Would you rather be right or happy?” Often it’s your ego that is compelling you to stick to your guns and be right all the time, when the fastest way to happiness is to just let things go.
Lastly, I want to challenge you to practice forgiveness with yourself. As women, it’s easy to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do it all, hold it all together, and live life perfectly. Striving for perfection is only setting yourself up for failure, because in reality life is messy, unpredictable, and imperfect. So to take some of the pressure off of yourself, and to help relieve any added holiday stress, I want you to forgive yourself for not eating 100% according to your diet, for not wrapping your presents perfectly, for not making everything at Christmas dinner from scratch, for not being able to make it to your best friend’s dinner party, for not being able to buy your husband the watch that he really wanted, and so on and so forth. Instead of feeling guilt and shame for not being able to do it all, choose to practice forgiveness, and focus on being present and grateful for a happy and fabulous festivus.