It is that time of year, we are overwhelmed by holiday parties, big family feasts, social gatherings and endless office Christmas cookies. How can we possibly stick to our health and fitness goals throughout the holiday season? Well, here are some solutions to maintain control during this time of year.

Develop a happy, healthy holiday mindset:

Our mindset towards food this crucial this time of year. If we say “it is too hard to eat healthy right now” that will be our truth, BUT if we say “I have control over the holiday season” that will be our reality.


How do we get our minds right? 

Awareness: Being unaware of how much we are eatingwhen we are eating, and why we are eating, leads to major overindulgences, especially with all the temptation during this time of the year. It is important to approach eating pattern awareness with compassion and curiosity, avoiding judgment and guilt.

Awareness of how much we are eating– I recommend keeping a food log, this will help avoid “mindlessness” because you are monitoring your intake. Also, we tend to over-eat if we are eating fast or in a social situation that makes us slightly uncomfortable (hello, work holiday party!), so slow down and chew your food. I challenge you to chew your food a minimum of 8 times before swallowing. This may seem very aggressive in the beginning, but it will make a huge difference!

Awareness of when we are eating This is where we become aware of the times of day we are eating. Do you have that urge to munch on sweets in the afternoon? Are you a night-time eater? Do you eat well all day and then become a savage in the evening? Are you an all-day grazer? Do you go 4 hours without eating and then have a really big dinner due to the result of intense hunger? I challenge you to pay attention to when you are eating and notice if you really are hungry at a specific time?

Awareness of why you are eating– Food plays a lot of roles in our lives, it is nourishment, fuel, culture, pleasure, pain, comfort etc. Sometimes we eat because we are bored, sometimes we eat because it is there, sometimes we eat because we always eat at that time of day regardless of hunger signals. We eat to celebrate and we eat when we are sad or stressed. It is important to identify when you are eating and whether it is because you are hungry or AN alternative cause. What are your triggers?  It could be people, places, times of the day, environment etc.


Remember your goals

Saying you want to eat healthier isn’t enough, it takes serious willpower during this time of year. It is important to look deeply at what your goals. Although the New Year might seem like a time to “start” over, there are no rules saying you can’t get a head start during the holiday season. In fact, it is the best time to get started, if you can stay strong at this time of the year, the rest will be a walk in the park.

ExternalExtrinsic goals- These are the goals often involving an end date (vacation on the beach, wedding, big work deadline, etc.). These goals are important because they give us drive to accomplish something within a set period of time. The problem is, there is an end date and we have a tendency to checkout upon completion. What if there isn’t a new extrinsic goal to look forward to, how do we keep going? For that we must look to our internal goals.

Internal/Intrinsic goals- These are the deeper meanings behind our goals. They are important reasons like being healthy enough to play with your kids, set a positive example for your community, avoid family genetic health conditions or be able to truly love your body and self. This is the hard stuff, but we need to know our true Why’s to avoid fleeting external goals.


Scenario 1: Holiday work parties 

(Apps, cocktails, wine, endless dessert tray etc.)

As you might have guessed, this is going to take a lot of willpower, but you’ve got this!


Solution 1: Plan-ahead. I am not saying bring your own meals with steamed broccoli and chicken to eat it at the party instead of the apps (because that is just not realistic for most of us). What I am saying to do is load up on veggies throughout the day and eat a snack before you go, this way you aren’t starving when you get there. The best snacks before-hand: holiday trail-mix, veggies and hummus, guacamole and whole grain crackers, roasted chickpeas or a healthy nutrition bar such as BioSteel’s blueberry bars.


Solution 2: Take 10 minutes when you get there to see what your options are. This means doing a quick scan of the room to pick up what you really enjoy and would like to eat, rather than just trying everything. Pick your top 2-3 items and stick to those.


Solution 3: Slow down with the drinks. Before you indulge in wine, cocktails and beer have a glass of water. Chances are you probably need it anyway, but it also helps to hydrate you before the wine and cocktails beginA ratio of one glass of alcohol to one glass of water will help avoid over indulging on alcohol. Sparkling water with a lime or lemon can help to satisfy cocktail cravings as well.

Remember don’t skip meals or eat less throughout the day just because you are going to indulge later in the day.


Scenario #2: Dinners out

Similar to the above scenario, but now we are dealing with multiple courses, bottles of wine at the table and what seems like ‘forced’ dessert.
Solutions #1: Plan-ahead. As mentioned above, eat well throughout the day before an event.


Solution #2 Investigate the menu. Take a quick peek at the restaurant’s menu prior to dinner so you are prepared to order without being swayed by the other options. Also, always order first, this will set the tone for the table. As humans, we mimic others, especially with food and drink choices. If they do not mirror your decision and opt for the healthy choice, no sweat – at least you have eliminated the chances of being swayed.


Solution #3 Load up on veggies. At restaurants order a side salad AND a side of veggies. The fiber will help to keep you full and you’ll load up on important nutrients. I recommend sticking with protein and veggies, go light on the starchy carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes, etc.).
Scenario #3 The holiday treats 

You bring your healthy snacks and healthy homemade lunch but you get to work and there are 3 trays of Christmas cookies, fudge brownies, and cheesecake.


Solution #1: Choose your indulgences. I know this sounds easier said than done, but this is where the awareness comes in. Are you just eating the fudge brownies because they are there, but you really love the cheesecake? Do you feel obligated to try your co-worker’s grandmother’s famous gingerbread cookies? Which one is it? I know it might seem like you want it all, but that may leave you with guilt and feelings of “I really didn’t even want to eat it”.


Solution #2: Ditch the guilt. If you do choose to indulge, do not beat yourself up about it, you had 2 cookies, so what, move on. What we do every once and a while vs. what we do every day is what matters. If you have 2-3 cookies every day that’s where we can run into problems. If you just had to try them when they first came into the office, great! Now, you’ve tried it and do not feel deprived.

Solution #3: Load up on protein and fats. This will help you to keep satiated throughout the day and decrease sugar cravings. A great option here would be snacks throughout the day like veggies and hummus, holiday trail mix and BioSteel’s protein coconut balls (on the blog)!


Scenario #4 Big Holiday Family Dinners 

The holiday dinners with extended family, our own family, close friends and before we know it we’ve consumed 4 huge holiday feasts.


Solution #1 Take it one meal at a time. We need to be mindful of our choices, meaning that we need to pay attention to hunger and satiety cues. It is OK to not have full servings at every dinner. Typically, we feel as if others will be offended and affected if we don’t go ‘all out’. You are the only one who cares, others rarely notice. Of course, you will encounter food pushers, but it’s fine if you say no. You are there for the amazing company more so than the food.


Solution #2 Slow down and chew.  As mentioned, this time of year can wreak havoc on our digestive systems. So much effort goes into preparing these large meals and they are gone in a total of 10 bites! Chew your food to help with digestion, and put your fork down in the middle of the meal (or even better – every 4 bites) to enjoy conversation with loved ones/slow down. Another trick to help support your digestive system is to take 5 big belly breaths, this will stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).


Solutions #3 Avoid drinking lots of liquids with meals. Going back to our digestion, liquid will dilute our stomach acid which is important in digesting proteins. Take small sips when needed but don’t chug water or other liquids with meals, it will likely leave you bloated and gassy afterward. (No Thanks!)




Keep up with your workouts- It may feel like there is no time to work out, but you can always sneak away for a quick half hour if we make it a priority. Working out not only helps motivate you to eat healthier, but exercise also causes a healthy endorphin rush, which in turn makes us feel healthy and happy!


Keep a gratitude journal- As it is a stressful time of the year, try to focus on the important things, like the time we get to spend with loved ones. This can be easily recorded in the notes section on your phone. Write one thing you are grateful for every day and it will help to remind you of what is actually important.


Be aware, but don’t obsess- This time of year can spark some obsessive thoughts about food and trying to be healthy. Although I have given you a lot of solutions, it is important to not get too caught up in this stuff. Be aware, but don’t let food take over and become stressful or “work”.


Enjoy the process- It is important to set goals and be motivated to achieve those goals BUT remember “the process is as good as it gets”. Enjoy the meal preparation with family.


By: Sylvie Tetrault