Six Tips For Surviving the Holidays

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve got a clear goal in mind. You’ve got your action steps laid out. Everything should go like clockwork, because all you have to do is actually do those actions steps. But, everything seems to go wrong. Life gets in the way. Circumstances seem to conspire against you, and suddenly those action steps seem impossible to meet – even if you have been meeting them all for weeks or even months.

Yeah, I’ve been there too. Heck, it’s something I’m struggling with right now. December is a tough time to try and meet your exercise and healthy eating goals, after all. It gets dark earlier and earlier, and stays dark later and later, and it gets colder and colder, and all of that conspires to make it harder and harder to… well, to do anything. Cold and dark makes me want to sleep, not exercise. There’s holiday parties, and people bringing snacks to the office, and getting together for meals with friends and family. And the food is always good, the kind of food that makes you remember being five and eating a candy cane and thinking Christmas would never get here. And that makes you want to eat – subconsciously, you want to recapture the magic associated with those memories.

The end result? You get slack on your goals, and you make excuses for doing it.

No, no, I’m not accusing you of anything. I say “you”, but clearly I’m talking about me as well. Because I’m doing it right now. Because I love Christmas candy and cold, dark weather makes me want to hibernate until Spring. So, what do you do about it? What do I do about it?

The answer is frustratingly simple. “Simple”, because it’s a matter of sticking with those action steps. “Frustrating”, because ‘sticking with those action steps’ isn’t easy. Even if you’ve established a habit of doing them daily, it isn’t easy to keep that habit up when you get busy. They’re in Stephen Covey’s “important but not urgent” category of tasks and they’re easy to overlook in the teeth of “important and urgent” things like spending time with family and friends (or the “unimportant and urgent” things like eating more cookies, since they’re right there…). So, with that in mind, here are a few tips for making it a little easier:

  1. Know yourself. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and your weaknesses. Can you eat just two of those mint chocolate chip cookies your cube mate made, and just have one cup of eggnog? Great! Let yourself have them, as long as you keep honest track of it. If someone offers you mincemeat pie, are you going to eat the whole thing? Then resolve in advance to “just say no”.
  2. Schedule an appointment with yourself. Do you use a day planner, or the calendar app on your phone? Schedule your exercise time each day, then, and treat it as being every bit as important as any other appointment you make. Then, if someone wants to meet for a meal or invite you to a party, you can respond with this: “I’d love to, but I’ve got another appointment at that time. Could we do it an hour later? (Or on another day, or whatever.)” You don’t have to tell them what the appointment is – that’s entirely your decision.
  3. Budget your calories. If you’re going to a party, or going to meet someone for a meal, decide in advance how much you’re going to allow yourself to eat. Then, keep that portion of your calorie budget in reserve for the event. Don’t track the items you’re eating at the event (unless everyone already knows, and is supportive), but keep an accurate mental tally of what you’ve eaten and total it up as soon as you can. In your car afterwards, or even in the bathroom while you’re there.
  4. Tell your friends and family what you’re doing. This depends on them being supportive of your efforts, of course, but they’ll understand. If they know in advance that you’re keeping a daily calorie budget, they’ll (hopefully) be less likely to get that pouty, offended look that so many people get if you don’t dig in after they’ve made an effort to make something nice for the holidays. Or, if you’re eating out, they’ll be (again, hopefully) far less likely to encourage you to overeat.
  5. Avoid temptation. Stay on the far side of the party from the chocolate fondue buffet table. Pick a route to the bathroom or the break room that keeps you as far from the “food table” in the office as possible. Pack your lunch. Eat something before you go to the party, so you aren’t hungry (which helps curb the snacking). Don’t make the peppermint triple white chocolate cheesecake with crushed Oreo crust, and keep it in the fridge.
  6. Don’t beat yourself up. No matter what, you will probably miss goal at least once. It’s not the end of the world. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back to work. After all, as Zig Ziglar said, “failure is an event, not a person.”

At the end of the day, you’re doing all of this for *you*. So find a balance that lets you enjoy the holidays while still being true to yourself and your goals.

(PS:  I don’t actually have a recipe for a “peppermint triple white chocolate cheesecake with crushed Oreo crust”, and I don’t think I’d trust myself to make it if I did have one.  Because I would all of it, possibly while standing in the kitchen with the fridge door open.)

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