Before we talk about the holidays, I want to direct your attention to the sport of baseball for a moment. Baseball is sometimes considered a game of failure because, at bat, you miss more balls than you hit. If baseball players always demanded perfection of themselves, their stress would skyrocket and their performances would most likely suffer. In my opinion, for these athletes, a combination of striving for perfection and putting steps in place to recover from errors is best for peak performance.
During the holidays, I strongly recommend taking the same approach as baseball players: strive to eat and train as intended with the understanding that things will most likely not be perfect. Some days it’s less about perfection and more about recovery.
While I wrote about my top strategies last year, I have five new tips to help keep your holidays guilt-free. Three of the tips are to help you stay on track of your nutrition and physical activity. The final two tips are to help you to recover when you do get sidetracked.
1. Do something physical each morning.
Athletes have pre-performance routines to optimize their motivation, confidence, and concentration for the day. As soon as you wake up (or as early as you possibly can), engage in some type of physical activity. It could be a full training session or walk around the block. The objective is to start each day with the most physical and mental energy you can. You’ll be amazed how good you can feel and how ready you’ll be to take on the rest of the day!
Although normal fitness programs include rest days, for the holidays, I suggest engaging in a small amount of physical activity each morning. Some days can be active rest (like a walk around the block) instead of a training session. By doing something small each morning, you’ll give yourself the best shot at feeling consistently good throughout the entire holiday season.
2. Control only what you can control.
With all of the social events, candy corners at the office, and irregular schedules, it’s essential to stay focused on the things you can control. Take five minutes and list all the things you do have control over. Your morning routine, grazing throughout the day, and preparing healthier versions of the traditional unhealthy holiday treats are a few examples of the thing you can control. Then, when you do set holiday intentions, be sure they target what’s on your self-control list. This technique can set you up for maximum success because your intentions are based on the behaviors you believe you can implement.
3. Write down your achievement of the day.
To stay positive, present, and focused on the process of healthy behavior during the holidays, before you go to sleep, take one minute and write down (yes, use pen and paper) at least one thing you did that day to help you feel good. It could be the morning training session you completed, having one glass of wine instead of two, moving away from the dessert table, bringing your own healthier version of dessert, or something else entirely. Keeping the focus on what you are doing right instead of what you are doing wrong can help you to maintain a positive attitude for the rest of the season.
4. Accept indulgence as part of the holidays.
You always long for whatever it is you can’t have. The deprivation itself can make holiday food all the more tempting. Instead of fighting this inner battle between the one side of you that has promised to be perfect and the other side that wants no part of the food restriction, accept that you may indulge. Feeling guilty can amp up the stress, and can lead you right back to a second and third helping. Understand that you can enjoy holiday meals without beating yourself up.
5. Recover immediately with a nutritious meal or snack, or physical activity.
When you do indulge, instead of beating yourself up, exert your effort towards one action step you can make you immediately feel good. Engage in physical activity, eat something nutritious, drink water, journal an earlier achievement of the day, set an intention for the very next meal, or take a couple of deep breaths. When you focus on the process and the present moment, you’ll be able to treat your past indulgence as a fun experience and quickly move on to the remaining holiday season with a positive mindset.
How do you avoid guilt during the holiday season?