With Christmas coming up, I thought it might be helpful to talk about how to navigate this time of year. Because, you know, it's traditionally a fairly challenging time for those concerned with their wellbeing, due to the fact that it is a time when, despite our goals and hopes, we can wobble and waver through being assaulted on every side by mince pies, chocolate logs, mulled wine and ENORMOUS tins of chocolates.
We know that indulging can lead to consequences we maybe don’t want, but this kind of food festivity comes along but once a year, and...we WANT to indulge! Right?
Plus, our skills for ensuring our good habits stay intact maybe aren’t so well embedded that the Christmas excesses - and stresses - won’t easily overpower them.
The adverts don't help. I don't know how many times a day and night our senses are assailed by heart-warming scenes of tables heaving with food and surrounded by smiley happy people. That could be your family. Your friends. Clever adverts stimulate positive emotions and hooking them to party foods…well, we don’t really stand much of a chance!
Now, spoiler alert. I’m NOT Gillian McKeith. I’m not here to tell you that you must eat brussell sprouts every time you have a craving for Cadbury Heroes, or that ZERO alcoholic beverages must touch your lips during the festive period.
Let’s be truthful, here - we’re humans, not robots. And there is a long tradition in the human community (clue - that’s all of us!) of celebrating and expressing love, friendship and conviviality through festivals of food and drink.
As such - let’s relish that part of ourselves. But WITHOUT letting it throw our health under the bus.
Ok, so I think you’re on board with that idea - yes? 🙂
In which case, let’s look at the HOWs.
HOW do we make this happen? Here’s 3 ideas for you to try on!
The first is a classic: the 80/20 rule. But not the way you know it!
This is a rule I’d normally present like this:
80% of the time, do the healthful thing. 20% of the time, indulge as you wish!
But for Christmas, we’re going to flip it. Because you know - realism!
That said, this WILL keep you a few percent healthier than normal at this time of year, with as much or as little extra effort as you wish.
Here it is. Pick one thing that you can do EVERY day.
Something that feels pretty easy but also meaningful. It could be a different thing every day, or the same thing every day.
This is how you’re gonna practice healthiness throughout the Christmas season.
Examples might be:
- Doing 20 reps of an exercise each morning, or for the more advanced, before every meal.
- Eating a portion of veg per every piece of Christmas cake you eat - or every 3 chocolates, if you’re open to a challenge! -
- Drinking 1 glass of water with EVERY alcoholic drink.
- Going for a 20 minute walk every afternoon.
- Spending 10 minutes a day deliberately practicing mindfulness.
Mix and match and make up your own - do whatever works for you.
This has obvious benefits, right? But it also has a sneaky, ninja health benefit too.
And that’s that every time you hit your chosen activity you’ll be consciously or subconsciously aware that you are spending some deliberate time investing in your health and wellbeing in this tricky ol' season.
It may spur you on to do more. Or it may not.
But it WILL remind you of what's important to you so you remember WHO you are - someone who values your health! - and don't get completely lost in a big Christmas-chocolate-booze-pies-crisps-cake-leftovers-cheese fest.
AND - added bonus 2!! - it'll give you a head start on the whole “I’ma gonna get healthy in the New Year!” thing.
Because you’ll already be in a good routine of doing SOMETHING.
That’s option one. Here’s option 2.
Whether you do what I’ve just suggested or not, one thing stays the same...you don't have to feel one iota, one smidgen, one jot of guilt over Christmas (or in the New Year - or ever again!).
Here’s the surprising truth about guilt - for an emotion we feel A LOT in conjunction with doing the thing we “shouldn’t” - it’s not a motivating emotion.
It doesn’t spur you to better things or healthier actions. If we really were to look at it closely, we’d notice that guilt does nothing other than spoil your experience of life.
It steals what likely is an otherwise lovely day out from underneath you, and for no good reason.
If this resonates with you, here’s a good book on the topic - It’s called "The Gifts Of Imperfection - Let Go Of Who You Think You're Supposed To Be And Embrace Who You Are" and it's brilliant.
It's about getting rid of the unhelpful head-trash we carry around with us every day, like anxiety,
self doubt, perfectionism, fear, scarcity and so on, and replacing them with cool, life-affirming things like play, rest, trust, self-compassion, authenticity and so on.
I'll be honest - I read the book and promptly forgot most of it. As you do. 🙂
But the other day, it came back to me because I suddenly realised what a waste of good brain space guilt was. What purpose does it serve, except to make you waste time regretting something you can no longer change?
What is the point of all our guilt?
There is none. It doesn't help us stick to the straight and narrow.
Only values, goals and priorities really do that.
It doesn't help us succeed.
Tenacity, self-compassion, skills and a good support network do.
So I vote we kick it out on its ear. Make this the Christmas - the YEAR, in fact - that you are no longer receptive to that feeling of not being enough, not doing enough, not doing well enough.
Guilt is actually the only thing I would URGE you to remove from your diet.
Starting right now, take guilt out of your diet altogether.
Take it out of your exercise efforts.
Take it out of your working practices.
Out of your family life.
If you screw something up or could have done better, fine.
Try again, do better. But skip the part where you feel guilty about it.
It'll take some effort. But I bet, if you try it, you’ll notice your choices of what to eat, how to exercise, how to spend your time will improve drastically.
You won’t suddenly decide that, as you’re banning guilt you can eat 3 chocolate muffins a day. It won’t change your values, your priorities, your identity or your goals. You won’t stop working hard to create the life and self you want.
But you WILL have a peace of mind you’ve not had before - and a peaceful mind is the most fertile ground for building great health and strong habits.
So that’s suggestion 2!
Here’s my 3rd and final suggestion for today.
Use this precious Christmas time for…REST and RECOVERY!
Woah. That’s a bold statement! But the way I see it, the very best thing about Christmas is not the food. Not the telly. Definitely not the incessant playing of Slade and Paul McCartney. 😄🙄
It's the time.
Time to sit and relax.
Time to spend with loved ones.
Time to read books and play with the dogs.
Time to sleep and wake up with no alarm clocks!
Now, you could easily make Christmas into a busy-busy-busy time of stress and frantic activity, if you wanted. It could even quite easily default to this kind of craziness, if you’re not careful.
So, make a deliberate effort to SLOW DOWN.
And to do this, there is one practice that’s super helpful. The practice of APPRECIATION.
To get the most from the gift of time you get over the festive season, you have to appreciate it.
Savour the time you have and what you get to do with it.
Love every second of your Christmas season, whether you're chilled out in front of the fire, cooking a turkey or going for a Boxing Day walk with your family.
From an investing in your health perspective, this is top of the tree. You've worked really hard this year - I know you have. All of us have.
So, how can you make your Christmas a feast of unwinding, relaxing and indulging in those things you know make you feel GOOD.
Not the kind of feel good you get from burying yourself in a tin of Roses, but the kind of feel good that’s REAL. That comes from nourishing your energy through extra sleep, or nourishing your positivity though time with good friends.
Health is more than just food and exercise and, having been a health coach for as long as I have, I can safely say that time spent in RESTORATIVE activities is possibly the MOST important foundation for your overall health.
Those who take time to rest and recover from the pressures and stresses of life are those who find it easier to eat well and move often.
So there you have it - my guide to 3 things you can do to invest in your health whilst having an amazing Christmas.
And all with no mention of how many vitamins there are in cabbage.
What more could you want?! Give them a try and let me know how you get on. 🙂