If you came here looking for yet another internet post about how to restrict calories, squeeze in a 10-minute workout or bake 'healthy' holiday cookies this season...this isn't it.
There was a point in my journey where I believed that I could white-knuckle it during the holidays and avoid the seasonal indulgences. I mastered avoidance and wore that shit like a badge. I used to be 'that' guy.
But that guy was filled with guilt and fear of being judged. Guilt that if I started in November, I wouldn't stop and would lose all the hard work I put in all year to look and feel my best. On the other hand, if I did crush all the cakes and boozy things there was a pending fear that I would be judged.
Some people might even avoid those parties and situations. Sound familiar?
Nowadays, I take a more practical approach. I eat REAL cookies, go to all the parties, and train a little less than usual due to a more full social calendar. However, I still make good choices and try no to go H.A.M. on the sweets but when it comes to the most wonderful time of the year I live with no ragrets.
Here's a better approach to enjoy the happiest time of year because, well, the holidays will be back next year..and the next... and the next. You get it.
First, Understand There is NO Wagon.
It's easy to say , "It's Christmas, I'll just get back on the wagon in January. Huzzah!" But before you take that approach you must first understand two things.
There is no such thing as a wagon and
if there was, getting back on it typically means depriving yourself of things you want.
The image of a wagon implies that that we aren't in control of our actions. And falling off implies that progress is linear. Both are false.
So what if I told you that you ARE in control and progress is NEVER linear?
Enjoying yourself during the holidays is a glorious part of living your best life! Every last sugar cookie, peppermint mocha thing, gingerbread latte and glass of wine (or two or four) is YOUR CHOICE.
The best part? There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these delicious holiday goodies. Are they mostly void of any and all nutrition and full of empty calories? They sure are.
But you ARE allowed to enjoy those things without guilt and shame and feeling like you have fallen off track. Because if there is no such thing as a wagon... you are always in control.
Next, Indulge AF...Don't Binge.
So when does being indulgent AF lead to guilt and shame? When it turns into binging.
Hey it happens. I mean, hasn't everyone drank a bit too much on Christmas Eve and woken up naked in a tub of egg nog with a pack of Speedo-wearing reindeer frolicking through the house? Anyone?
But as soon as that one night turns into a pattern of feeling out of control it's easy to forget why we're indulging in the first place. It turns into numbing.
If you ARE in control you will be able to indulge in these moments and FEEL and ENJOY every bite, sip and tasty morsel. And for most of us it's all about enjoying and feeling the love and warmth of the holidays.
Being able to know the difference between binging and indulging will help you avoid the stress of feeling like you fallen off some wagon thing. Once that happens you can get back to truly enjoying all of the holiday magic and get back to living your best life!
Then, Seek What It Is You're REALLY Craving.
There's nothing wrong with indulging and craving treats that only come around once a year. They're nostalgic and feed the soul... but chances are these are not the droids you're looking for.
So what is that little sumthin' sumthin'? What is that magic you seek?
Could it be simply a feeling of belonging? Connection? Laughter? Joy? Warmth? Maybe it really is some of those treats?
Whatever it is, if you only focus on the food and boozy things then you miss out on how you can connect, laugh, celebrate and enjoy all the feels. If you spend the season hungover and in a food coma, chances are you don't get to be your warmest and cheeriest self.
Remember, that even though the holidays only come around once a year, there is NO WAGON and you get to choose to indulge. On the other hand, that feeling of being out of control and crashing the wagon into a field of snowmen can quickly lead to binging. And missing out what it is you're truly after: human warmth and connection.
Wrapping It Up (Get It? Like Presents)...
Just remember that the holidays come around every year and taking a few moments now to consider what it is you really want this time of year will save you frustration and guilt down the road.
Then take a good look at your calendar each year and take it slow. Decide where you want to just connect with loved ones and maybe one or two gatherings where you want to party hard.
And also understand that you can totally stay on track with your health and fitness goals by nailing your workouts, getting adequate sleep, staying hydrated AF, crushing veggies when you're not indulging. Now onward to the new year!
Looking for a fun group of humans to be festive with and guide you on your fitness journey in the new year?
Steve is co-founder and head coach of AMP Fitness, downtown Boston's most inclusive personal training studio. His background is in posture, performance, injury prevention and strength development and packaging fitness in a way that is accessible to everyone. He's a brand new father, an avid reader and enjoys nerding out to science fiction movies.