3 Ways to Navigate Food-Anxiety This Holiday

This is the time of year we start seeing tips on how to have a “well-balanced” or “healthy” holiday season.

This is not one of those articles.

If we’re practicing good habits throughout the year, eating whatever we want in moderation, and training regularly, then the next few weeks won’t make or break a year worth’s of healthy behavior. Yet as things get excessive this time of year, food-related anxiety can wear down even the healthiest person you know.

The last thing we need is to stress out over food, desserts or drinks. We can enjoy them guilt-free and without feeling crappy or bloated the next day as long as we get real and stop pretending like we have to eat everything in sight or avoid everything (I’m not into extremes).

To help, I’m giving you my simple strategies to help you navigate the holiday season no matter where you go. Enjoy your cookies, eggnog, and turkey and then get on with your bad self.

3 Ways to Navigate Food-Anxiety This Holiday


1.) I make movement a priority but don’t stress about workouts

Movement isn’t exercise, but exercise can be a form of movement. This means walking/running as much as possible or doing an at-home Pilates routine like the one in the Pilates FloWOD program. If time and weather permits, I’ll throw in a short strength training circuit or go out for a run. What I don’t do is stress out about going to the gym for a specific workout or sacrifice time with family or friends to spend hours exercising. When movement becomes the priority during travel and holidays, we can show up energized and still in “the routine” without getting way off track.

If you’re someone who enjoys working out on vacation, then stick to the Movement First principle: Pick the simplest form of movement available to you and go at it at a high intensity for at least 15 minutes. When I travel, that usually ends up being a run for 20 to 30 minutes first thing in the morning. If I’m on vacation and staying at a hotel, I stick to big compound movements in the gym (pull-ups, squats, push-ups, etc) for 3-4 rounds for 20 minutes.

2.) I pick my battles

In my early 20s I had such a saracity mindset around holiday foods. I acted as though if I didn’t eat all the things in front of me, I’d somehow never be able to have it again. Now I realize how silly that sounds because lets face it, Halloween candy, pecan pie, and Christmas cookies are a dime a dozen. We can have it anytime of year if we wish, but we allow the special-ness of the holiday season to trick our minds into thinking we have this one chance for sugary goodness or else.

Halloween candy, pecan pie, Xmas cookies are a dime a dozen. Pick & choose what you want to enjoy.

Now in my 30s I pick my battles when it comes to food and alcohol and choose what I want to splurge on and enjoy based on what’s worthwhile to me and my tastebuds. This past weekend I headed back East for a wedding,  met up with old college friends and am getting two Thanksgiving dinners with the family. I know that my biggest splurge will be alcohol because wine is way more enjoyable to me than a plate full of cookies. Does this mean I won’t have any dessert? Of course not! My mom can whip up something real good! But I can practice discernment and pick and choose what I’ll enjoy most without going overboard on everything else.

3.) I plan ahead to stay “on habit”

This rule ties back nicely to #1 and #2 in that if I plan ahead, then I know what I’m up against and can reduce any anxiety I feel about cramming everything in. For example, I never start a new training program over the holidays because the chances  of me sticking to 2 hour workouts (for competition prep) 4x a week isn’t worth it this time of year. There’s too much to do! Instead I do the best I can to stay “on habit”, meaning I never steer too far off my regular eating or exercise routine to the point of falling completely off the wagon.

A recent example occurred just this week. With only four days to prepare for my trip, train clients, and pack for three states and four events, I realized my regular training would take a backseat. I chose to go on a hike instead of the gym on Monday to get some fresh air. I squeezed a 15-minute dumbbell workout after teaching my Spin class Tuesday. I skipped Wednesday altogether to train clients, teach classes, and pack, and finally squeezed this quick workout in between teaching classes before hopping on my flight. I also bought a salad from Trader Joe’s to take with me on my flight to avoid airport food and made sure to drink tons of water before I left. Was my nutrition and workouts perfect? Heck no, but these things kept me as close to my regular routine of daily exercise and healthy food as possible.

Everything is a choice

It all comes down to choices. We may not have control over all the treats co-workers bring into the office and obviously can’t avoid all family obligations over the holidays, but we can control how we react and how we manage ourselves in the chaos. I’ve successfully navigated the holidays for several years with these three strategies, so that now it just comes up automatically this time of year.

Our behavior is a choice. We can choose to eat everything, skip exercise, and drink every night or we can choose to use moderation

The satisfaction I get from being able to enjoy myself this time of year without sacrificing my health or sanity (or gaining an extra 10lbs) makes it well-worth it. It means that when January rolls around, there’s no need to “detox” or jump on a new diet or start over. I just pick up where I left off without stress or anxiety.

Now over to you…what is the best tool, tip or strategy you use to navigate the holidays?

Comments 2

  1. Great article. I truly believe if you practice good habits all year round, are flexible with your dieting choices, and mindful of your activity in some shape or form you can get through the holidays with little to no damage to your progress!

    1. Post

      Exactly! So much easier than having to start from scratch in January or feel pressured to hit the gym every day to “make up for it”.

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