Finding the Balance

By Whitney Sweat, MS, RD, CSSD

As the holidays approach, daylight hours get shorter and our daily to-do list gets longer.  Balancing family, friends, and work throughout this time get stressful and it becomes easy to push aside our other tasks, like getting in a workout or doing some meal prep for the week.  If you are like me, you have a to-list that varies day to day, prioritized by level of urgency.  Those that must be completed right away go to the top (A list), while those that are not necessary “right now” get moved down (B list).  More often than not, your B list continues to grow as the A’s continue to present themselves.  Unfortunately, this can often result in preparing a side dish to share at a potluck or holiday party instead of a healthy meal.  We make ourselves feel by better by saying “I’ll eat better after the holidays,” and resolving that come January 1, big changes in our nutrition and exercise habits are going to happen.  Sound familiar?  If so, then I have a challenge for you.  Don’t put your health on the B list!

I know, it’s easier said than done, but it truly can be accomplished if you modify your priorities and goals and set out to invest in the most important thing you can, your health!  While now may not be the time to set out for more lofty ambitions like getting faster in your 10k time, PRing in a marathon, or losing that stubborn 10 pounds, you can most certainly MAINTAIN your current speed, strength, and weight.  Yes, you may be partaking in an extra party here and there, and everything else that comes with it, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the week can’t be about taking better care of yourself.  The key to your success is going to be how you plan and strategize for this busy time of year.  Below are a few tips that will keep you organized, less stressed, and in a better position to take charge of your health!

  • Put all of your known parties, events, and travel on a master calendar that includes family members.
    • Plan what you would like to make for each of these events.  Add ingredients and necessary items to weekly shopping lists to cut down on extra trips to the grocery store.
    • Make a holiday shopping list and start tackling it now.  Sales are already starting; there is no need to wait until after Thanksgiving!
    • Follow the 80/20 rule, meaning that 80% of the time you will maintain your usual (or even better!) eating and exercise habits.  This suggests that for the 21 meals a week, you have about 4 “flex” meals each week to indulge a little bit more.  Or, if you normally workout six times per week, try to maintain getting in at least four solid workouts in on a regular basis.
    • Stop with an “all-or-nothing” defeatist approach.  For example, if on Friday night you have too much to eat and drink, this does not mean you should let the rest of the weekend continue to the same way.  Get back on the track as soon as you can, the faster the better to prevent a continuous spiral to accepting that this is just how it is going to be until the holidays are over.
    • If you are visiting family or friends, offer to chip in with cooking and grocery shopping, this will give you more control over the situation.

Bottom line, you are in control this season.  Yes, it may be difficult to maintain your usual routine, but the less you deviate the better, and the easier that first Gut Check workout of 2016 will be!  Happy holidays all!

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