Thrive Survival Guide: The Holidays

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Cookies Christmas Xmas Baking 1080X675 1 | Thrive Survival Guide: The Holidays

It’s that time of year.

The holidays.

Which, in terms of your health and fitness, means “tough times.”

For many folks, the holiday season marches to the same beat as summer vacation: A time to “let yourself go” or throw in the towel when it comes to your personal healthy lifestyle.

Your mantra?

“It’s the holidays…I’ll have a fresh start in the New Year.”

And don’t get me started with the weight loss challenges that ramp up this time of year—tugging at your heart strings to hold on to all you got, guilting you in to keeping lean (and fighting off holiday fruit cake).

What’s your approach to the holidays?

Are all efforts to stay healthy and “be well” lost for the next two months?

Perhaps not with Thrive’s Holiday Survival Guide (20 practical tips for surviving and thriving during the holiday season—and letting pumpkin pie happen along the way)/

Thrive’s Holiday Survival Guide 101

  • Remember: It’s not just about the food. The holidays, as an adult, tend to revolve around food. Parties, dinners, Christmas cookie exchanges. Remember though, food is just part of the landscape. Invest in meaningful conversation with others; serve, love and give with abundance; soak up time with family.
  • Make a Plan. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. What do you want out of your health, your nutrition, your fitness over the next few months? Think of your top 1-3 goals; write them down, then make your plan!
  • Meal Makeover. WOW your guests with transformations of old stand-by recipes that are not only delicious, but healthy too! (See Recipes handout). Even better? Get the fam or friends involved with holiday meal challenge of everyone to create a healthier dish to the next gathering…see what they come up with too!
  • Bring Something You Know You Can Eat. Along the same lines as your meal makeover, at events and gatherings, bring a complimentary dish/side dish that you KNOW you can eat—no problem.
  • Digest Well. Food coma doesn’t have to be in your future when you take these steps:
  • Chew your food. Really well. Digestion starts in the mouth. Chew that food until you no longer recognize its initial form.
  • Slow Down. Put your fork down between bites. Breathe. Digestion happens in a parasympathetic state. Rest and digest.
  • Probiotic Up. Pop some quality bacteria to kill off the bad guys. 
  • Enzyme Boost. While you’re at it, take an enzyme (or two) with your meals to help break down food. 
  • Drink water. It flushes toxins, wastes, gives you energy, regulates your metabolism.
  • Pre-Game Snack. Before hitting the holiday party, eat a little protein or fat before heading out. By filling the tank with a snack that tides you over, you are at less risk to over-indulge when hunger strikes during party time.
  • Make a Plate. At the gatherings or parties, instead of diving into whatever is in sight, or nibbling and noshing throughout the evening, make a plate out of what you intend to eat—and stick to that.  
  • Not bad or good. It’s the holidays! I get it. I don’t expect you to abstain from all treats and “cheats.” Instead of viewing each dessert or meal as a “bad” moment, or a “cheat” though, what if you instead viewed it as something to simply enjoy—not gorge—but enjoy what you have plated yourself? When we think of something as “good” or “bad”, we are more likely to have unhealthy behaviors and attitudes around our moments of “indulgence.” Instead, savor the tastes, experience the flavors of that slice of pie or sweet potato casserole with a bit more mindfulness of enjoying the moment.
  • Just say no. Feel pressure by Aunt Bethany to eat a third slice of her special Jell-O mold, or family giving you a hard time about your nutrition or fitness lifestyle? This one is tough, but you just gotta let it roll! Think back to elementary school: Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you. All you have to say is “no thankyou.” Or if anything, redirect conversation, “Thanks so much-it looks great, but I am stuffed…but how about those Yankees?” Honor your body—eat for your body, no one elses; and when in doubt, deflect conversation.
  • Understand what food pushers REALLY want. Simply put, a food pusher is someone who pushes food on you – someone who won’t stop trying to make you eat something even though you’ve already politely refused. Chances are, if you have to attend any kind of holiday party, you’ll run into at least one food pusher. Ironically, the real issue behind a food pusher’s behavior often has nothing to do with food. It doesn’t seem obvious when Aunt Susan is waving her tray of pumpkin spice cookies under your nose, but food is often just a proxy. Sometimes, food pushers want assurance that you like and appreciate them. This often takes the form of a guilt trip: “What, you don’t even eat Christmas pudding now? But I made it just for you! You don’t like my cooking?” This person is using food because it’s the cultural language of choice during the holidays, but really, they just want emotional reassurance that you care. Fortunately, you can address their actual concerns just as well without eating (maybe by spending quality time with them during your visits, or just by letting them know you love them), and head off a battle before it starts.
  • Fake a food allergy.  If a simple “[food x] makes me feel sick” doesn’t work, some people bring out the heavy artillery and pretend to have a life-threatening condition like Celiac Disease or a peanut allergy. Pretending to have a serious allergy when you don’t is a very controversial strategy, since many people feel that it’s “crying wolf,” making others less likely to believe people who actually do have life-threatening problems.
  • If you are traveling, come prepared. If you’re traveling at all for the season, it’s especially important to come prepared with everything you need, since you might not have the opportunity to find much healthy food while you’re there. Plan ahead and stock up on jerky, trail mix, and other easily portable healthy snacks so you won’t be stuck without an option when you’re hungry. If you’re going to help with the cooking, try bringing your own coconut oil or other cooking supplies: most people are perfectly happy to substitute coconut for canola (or another toxic vegetable oil). If you can work out menu details with your host, so much the better – try requesting eggs for breakfast, or lots of salad ingredients so you can whip up your own lunch in a pinch. Most hosts want their guests to feel welcomed and relaxed, and they’ll be happy to make these kinds of arrangements within reason. While you’re at it, look up some of the gyms in the area or fitness options (trails and such). You can STILL stick to your routine.
  • Rise & Shine. No matter what time of day you typically like to workout or move your body, during the holidays, shift your schedule to the mornings for your sweat sessions. That way: No excuses.
  • Just Move It. Your preferred workouts may not happen. And you know what? That’s ok. Aim to move a little most days—even a refreshing outdoor walk, or 20-minute at-home workout. (It’s better than nothing). Download my Top 10 Holiday Workouts Guide.
  • Find a Routine. While your at it (morning workouts), consider establishing some healthy routines that keep you aligned with feeling good throughout the season, like: a healthy go-to breakfast that you love,
  • Keep a log. Really want to stay on track during the holidays? Simply writing down what you ate that day can be a good reality-check to what you consumed that day. No need to calorie count or become obsessed with it, but take note. Around your meals as well, note how you felt (emotionally/physically) before and after your meals, as well as rate your hunger on a scale of 1-10 before and after your meals. (1=STARVING; 10=STUFFED). Aim to eat when your hunger is at about a 3, and stop when you reach a 7 or 8. See where any ‘triggers’ or sneaky habits lie.
  • Make a contest. Every family loves a little bit of friendly competition. Make a Health Contest this year to see: who can get the most steps in/days of exercise; drink the most water; get 7-8 hours of sleep every night; and eat the least sugar as possible.
  • Start a New Tradition. Host a Charity Party, Brunch Bunch or Healthy Holiday Treat Swap. Replace the ol’ cookie swap party with a new-flare gathering. Go shopping together for Make a Wish Angels or an adopted family. Write letters to the wives of soldiers or prisoners. Serve a meal as a group at a women’s shelter or homeless gathering. Meet up for a healthy brunch of egg and veggie omelets and fresh fruit along with a fun White Elephant game; or host your crew to swap homemade grain-free, or sugar-free grub and wow one another with your creativeness.
  • Sickness Prevention. The holidays are hard enough when you aren’t sick, but just when you least want to come down with that nasty winter cold, you’re in the ideal environment for it. During the weeks leading up to the holidays, most people spend more time than usual packing themselves into small indoor spaces like malls and shopping centers, sleeping at each other’s houses, crowding into cars for road trips to Grandma’s, and…eating sugar. Colds, flus, and nastier bugs like pneumonia flourish in that kind of environment. Fortunately, a healthy diet is a wonderful way to keep your immune system in peak condition – make sure to get plenty of Vitamin D (sunlight and supplements) and Vitamin C. In addition, sleep does a body good. It’s always tough to get enough sleep during the holidays, but sleep deprivation makes you much more vulnerable to disease, so try to get in at least 8 hours every night, or take a nap in the afternoon if you were up late.
  • Clear Your Head (& Make Time for You). Headspace is an awesome app for zen thoughts and re-connecting to your mind and body. Or simply carving out time for YOU time. The holidays are ONLY 2 days of the year—so don’t forget to take deep breaths, clear your head and make time for you and things you love to do (i.e. don’t neglect yourself). Schedule these times into your calendar if you must.

Bonus: Start the New Year Off Right.

Don’t get caught off guard come the New Year. Reflect on what you want your relationship with food, your body, and fitness to look like in 2017—when you’re more focused on you. Book a free Spark Session to learn more about how Thrive works, or contact Dr. Lauryn to get started. In addition, Thrive has several online and self-guided programs for optimal nutrition and fitness, including Break the Rules, the 7-Day Gut Healing Cleanse and the Thrive Life Project. Check ‘em out today.

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