The holiday season is in full swing, time for Hallmark Movies, an air of kindness (except on Costco lines), and time to “eat, drink and be merry.” Well, most of us have gotten the ‘eat and drink’ part down, and sometimes one or both of these affect the ‘merry’ part in ways that we’d rather they didn’t.
There are so many temptations during the holidays. So many choices, and of course, the food is more decadent and abundant than at other times of the year. Many social gatherings are centered around eating and drinking. Even hot tea and coffee drinks have calories and sugar-laden that are dessert-like. Also, the combination of annoying relatives (asking one more time about when that baby is going to arrive), & holiday parties can generate an increase in alcohol consumption (not advocating for this, just saying), at a time when less is definitely more.
So, what should we do? I have a few thoughts as both a fertility nurse and as someone who personally has alternated both flunking and successfully navigating the holiday season. Since it’s the gift-giving season, I present my gift to you- tried & true strategies for a healthier holiday season:
1. Make the decision to turn on autopilot. Automate some of your meals. By this, I mean have a rotating list of 3-5 healthy breakfast or lunch options to choose from every day, as opposed to wondering what you are going to eat that day. This works for a few reasons. By planning the meals that you are having that week, you can ensure that you have the ingredients needed in your house. My favorite rotating breakfasts consist of avocado toast, banana with natural almond butter and hard-boiled eggs. So, on Sundays, when I shop, I make sure to buy these so I have them available, without fail, for the whole week. As a result, when breakfast or lunch is a rush, I still have everything I need. That avoids the temptation to 'just buy something while I’m out,' which inevitably is not a healthy option. Also, bringing in lunch is the perfect excuse for turning down those tempting baked goods that people invariably bring in over the holidays. You just say, "no thanks, I brought my lunch," and people will leave you alone. I do this with the bread basket at restaurants too, by the way, when it is passed to me, I just say “No thanks, I don’t eat bread,” and the basket gets passed to the next person. This is a lie. I do eat bread. In fact, I love bread, but once I said that I can’t rescind it, so it forces me not to eat the bread.
2. Opt-in & start the day with fresh lemon or mint water. A ‘clean’ strong taste in the morning can temper your taste for sweets for the entire rest of the day. I have started to keep a citrus-infused water with me the whole day. As I’m I packing my lunch, I grab my water bottle with lemon or orange water too and bring them both in the car and I sip away on the way to, and during, work. Citrus and mint can also promote digestion in addition to tasting great, and who couldn’t use some extra digestive help during the holidays? Starting the day with water as opposed to a sugary/creamy coffee or tea drink helps prevent fluctuating blood sugars throughout the day which are the main culprits for grabbing more sugary/creamy things, creating a vicious cycle of bad foods and the bad feelings that invariably accompany them.
3. Pick a treat that’s not food. If you feel like you need a treat, instead of a food or drink treat, consider something fun but not edible. My goto lately is lip color. Lipstick, lip gloss, anything lip. Now, I’m not advocating becoming, well, obsessed like I am (see pic below) BUT if you’re about to spend $5 or more on a drink, why not spend it on something that lasts, is fun to use and causes much less guilt? Maybe try a holiday lip or eye color that you might not normally wear. If the usual is a meal as a way to spend time together with friends, try bundling up and going for a walk or treat yourself to a manicure and/or pedicure together. Sometimes these mini cosmetic changes can bring an unexpected moment of joy (and they always ‘fit’).
4. If you indulge, forgive yourself and move on. You’ve made a choice and there will come a time (probably many) when you want to eat something that is not healthy. And that’s ok. If you do, enjoy it. Savor it. The definition of indulge is to ‘allow yourself to take pleasure in’. Give yourself permission to do this because food is meant to be enjoyed. Know that you made the best decision in the moment and that you are free to make different decisions in other moments. I try to follow the 80/20 rule, where you eat well 80% of the time or 80% of what you eat is healthy. Maybe during the holidays, this scale slides a bit, but so what? I just jump back into the 80% when I can and I forgive myself as I go along. I love the quote below, “It’s not about what you eat, it’s more about how you feel about what you eat”. So true. If you are inclined to be hard on yourself, talk to yourself the way that you would talk to a friend who feels like they overdid it: with kindness and consideration. Why would you treat a friend better than you treat yourself?
Why not make a radical choice this holiday season and focus on self-care, self-love, and self-acceptance? Practicing and cultivating these behaviors isn’t easy, but could be your best gift for yourself, especially if you are experiencing infertility or PCOS and are feeling a lack of control. If you can’t control your external environment, maybe strive to cultivate your internal one.
From all of us to all of you, have a joyous, peaceful and, most of all, accepting holiday season.