Ahh the holidays are here. Dinners, parties and family gatherings have begun to take over our lives for the next 4 weeks. And while the anticipation for some relaxation time and good food with the ones you love is pretty high, there always looms the underlying feeling that you will probably also regret what goes on your plate and in your belly come January.

Not that you need to be reminded. Just about everywhere you look this time of year, you’re probably seeing tons of articles and videos on how to make it through the holidays without gaining weight. Tips and tricks on how to avoid overindulging at meals, how to substitute typical holiday recipes with healthy ingredients, and how to say NO to your grandma’s famous cheesecake without disappointing her (like that’s even possible…). And so regardless of how much you enjoy these once a year foods, you vow to fight off all cravings and be “good” this year no matter what it does to you.

But what I’m here to tell you is that it doesn’t have to be only one way or the other. While I applaud anyone who wants to make sure they don’t crush their healthy lifestyle goals – it’s also good to keep in mind that there is little enjoyment to be had when you can’t think about anything else but how you are depriving yourself. Food is meant to bring people together and unite us at the dinner table. So naturally, it doesn’t make sense at such a joyous time to feel like you are restricting yourself too much, especially when some of these foods only come one time a year.

If you have already adopted a generally healthy diet, you will see that you will naturally yearn for foods that you know won’t crush your mood and energy, will give you a wide array of nutrients, while still being delicous and satisfying. If you’ve just started your committment to a healthy lifestyle, then making the healthier choice may not be as much of an easy choice (just yet).

Whatever what the case may be, the best tip is this. No matter what you eat this year, take the time to really THINK about what you are eating. This means not mindlessly eating something while watching your kids or while in deep conversation with someone. Instead, take the time to sit at at table, maybe even away from the noise if its overwhelming and take in every bite with complete awareness. Look at your food, smell your food, notice how it feels in your mouth and how all the flavours come together. Basically, enjoy the food you are eating and eat slowly. By savouring each bite, you are bringing your mind to focus on what you are eating… rather than realizing halfway through your second cookie that you didn’t even fully enjoy the first because you too distracted. Doing this also means you will be less likely to over eat, as you are eating more slowly and taking your time to digest..allowing your body the time to signal to you that it had enough. Listening to your body is a tip that I find to be so incredibly useful, and has saved me from a lot of potentially uncomfortable post meal tummy aches.

Second, don’t let healthier options be the minority. What I mean by this is set yourself up to succeed by having enough healthy options to choose from amongst the unhealthier ones. If you’re hosting an event, then this is easier to accomplish as you will be able to set the menu and can balance it so that there are healthy choices to make if one so chooses. If you are going to an event, make sure to bring a healthier appetizer or side dish to fill up on and feel good about. You don’t have to completely eliminate unhealthier dishes, but at least ensure that you will be able to get lots of good nutritious options on your plate to out crowd out the not so nutritious ones. This way, you’ll still get to indulge as well as receive valuable nutrients and vitamins. Try appetizers like dried fruit such as dates and snacking on nuts and roasted chestnuts, which are rich in healthy fats that can aid weight loss. Also, fill up on nutritious, seasonal vegetables with your meals. If you over-indulge at one event, don’t restrict yourself from food the next day to make up for it. Instead, continue to eat your regular meals, but make sure they are extra healthy.

Finally, enjoy your family, friends and activities during this time. Of course food is a part of the festivities, but it’s not everything! Catch up with everyone, enjoy a deeply rooted conversation, engage in holiday games and activities and make your overall experience well rounded.

The holidays are a time to relax and feel good. So when I think of the things that make me feel good, I think of a good night’s sleep, exercise, social activities and good food. For me, this doesn’t mean no desserts at all – however I will also remember that I never feel good after I’ve overdone it. With this in mind, I am able to keep a balance throughout these next few weeks and will feel satisfied that I enjoyed them without going overboard. You can get back to your normal routine again when it’s all over.

Happy holidays everyone!

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