We all want to make the best choices every day so we can be our healthiest selves. Most of us invest plenty of effort throughout the year to remain consistent. We set goals, and we use apps or other means to track our activities. Then the holiday season arrives, and it can seem like an insurmountable hurdle to maintain our progress and efforts.
Maybe the first thing to acknowledge is that there are many different things about the holiday season. You might typically choose to eat meals at home, and that is an excellent way to control your portions and avoid foods that are not as healthy for you. However, the holiday season is a festive time filled with social outings. These outings almost always include food and beverages that we might only sometimes choose. Even family gatherings at home are often very different than your typical dinner during the week. After all, it is special to be able to come together and enjoy a meal with everyone contributing in their own way. These shared experiences are part of what makes us human.
It is important to remember that it is patterns of unhealthy eating that can harm our health. The isolated unhealthy meal or food is not what causes poor health. But something about our brains loves “streaks,” and when you break a streak, it can make you feel disappointed. When you enter the holiday season with a long streak of making all the right choices, it can be easy to get down on yourself for indulging at a party or dinner.
One approach is to be kinder to ourselves and accept that during the holiday season, we will experience some slip-ups. We are not robots who can do the same thing each day. We are humans who sometimes make mistakes, and that is OK. As with most things in life, do your best at any given moment. Sometimes, doing your best might mean you don’t have 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables! That is OK.
During the holiday season, my wish for everyone is they can acknowledge the slip-ups they experience but that they forgive themselves and keep on going the next day. Every day is, in fact, a new day and presents new opportunities to make the choices that make us feel good and keep us healthy in the long run.
With a PhD in Exercise Physiology, Jonathan Dugas spends his days thinking about how we can help more people be more active. With four Ironman finishes and 13 marathons and counting, he’ll see you out on the road.