Monday, October 26, 2009

The Holiday Season and Your Health Goals

Today is one of the busiest and most important work days of the whole year for me as the annual conference for the association I work for has just begun, and tonight is the awards ceremony for a program I manage. To say that the stress of getting ready for this has posed challenges to my journey to becoming a healthy writer would be an understatement. While I will work to make sure I enjoy as much of this week in Denver as possible, part of me looks forward to returning to a normal pace and the chance to devote more energy to my journey to becoming healthy and other personal goals.

I will return to the D.C. area on Thursday night just days before Halloween, the start of the holiday season for many people. Halloween through New Year’s Day poses many challenges to people trying to become or remain healthy. While I think it is really important that you let yourself enjoy the festivities, I also think we all should think about what we want this two-month period to do to our health goals. Do you want to continue losing weight? Do you want to maintain? Do you want to give yourself permission to gain a little weight with the intention of losing it in 2010?

I intend to lose more weight in the next two months. Now, I’m not so militant that I expect to lose weight Thanksgiving week or the week of Christmas, but I think I can lose weight during most of the other weeks. I will plan around the big (eating) events in the next two months and will be extra good on the days and weeks that don’t have holiday parties or other festive occasions. I will also focus more on the social aspects of the holidays than the culinary delights.

What do you plan to do during the holiday season? Do you have any advice on how one can still lose weight during November and December?


Elise Hayes on October 26, 2009 at 8:36 AM said...

Michelle--thanks for bringing this up! The holiday months are the hardest, I think. It's not just the big holiday feasts--as you point out, there are only really two or three big holiday weeks during those two months--it's the holiday snacks and candy that regularly make their way to workplaces.

Still, while those snacks/candy can pose a temptation, the workplace is probably my favorite place to get rid of excess candy/desserts. It helps that I work at a place with a lot of public traffic, so when I bring in candy/desserts, it's not just my co-workers who eat what I (and others) bring. That makes work an easy place to get rid of leftover Halloween candy, Christmas cookies, and Thanksgiving pies (just cut up into small pieces, provide toothpicks to spear the pieces with, and voila! No more pie!).

But I do think it's important to celebrate the feast days themselves. Years and years ago, when I was rock climbing (at a gym) a lot, I heard the guy at the climbing gym talk about how little they'd eaten at Thanksgiving--and how proud they were of themselves for it. But it kind of made me sad. It's not like they were working toward some big competition (I could have understood that); they were just doing their regular climbing routines and they didn't want to be thrown off by the extra pound or two they might have gained at Thanksgiving.

But I do think it's worth being thrown off your schedule for a week: the holidays are a special, celebratory time, and I think letting yourself enjoy the feast that comes with it is far better than spending that time watching other people eat and feeling deprived (which was part of the story the guys were telling, even though they were clearly feeling victorious about having conquered that sense of deprivation).

After the feast, you might need strategies to get back to your regular diet (I always try to clear the fridge as much as possible--I make certain guests go home with plates of leftovers; I freeze things that freeze well; I donate the pies and such to work), but I don't think it's a good idea to feel like you're living in world of constant deprivation.

Anonymous said...

Michelle, good luck with the conference & awards ceremony! Hope it all goes well!

I don't have much in the way of advice to offer. I guess I'm usually a "maintain through the winter" kind of person. In the warmer months, I eat a lot of fresh fruits and veggies from our local farm market, but in the winter, it's much harder to keep healthy alternatives on hand in the face of so many sweets & treats. I do try to eat a healthy snack before going to a dinner or a party where I know I'll be tempted to eat less healthy items, but it's still hard for me to walk past the dessert table without picking up something...

Theresa Ragan on October 26, 2009 at 12:26 PM said...

Michelle, this is a great reminder for me. If I'm aware of what's to come...all that food, then I can plan for it. I don't want to pig out too much. I mean a piece of pie is great, but I'd rather spread the turkey out and snack on turkey all week long. And I'm going to stay away from the mashed potatoes. :)

I think Halloween is the most difficult for me because I crave sweets every day. Ice tea is the only thing that can curb my sweet tooth cravings. Let me know if anyone knows any other tricks for taming the sweet tooth.

Elise Hayes on October 26, 2009 at 1:11 PM said...

Hey Theresa! Fruit (particularly apples right now, because they're in season) can help my sweet tooth. But since fruit doesn't always scratch that particular itch, probably the bigger help for me is controlling quantity: I keep bite-size candies around (hard candies work particularly well) and use one or two of those as my sweet treat.

What do others do?

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on October 26, 2009 at 2:02 PM said...

Michelle, I hope things are going well in Denver. I know this week is very busy for you.

I've been thinking a lot about the holidays and the temptations that come with them. I'm going to try to lose in the weeks where there isn't a major holiday or holiday event, but I'll be happy to maintain in the big weeks. I still hope to be down 20 pounds total before the end of the year.

Theresa, I hear you on the sweet tooth. I have a ginormous one.

Theresa Ragan on October 27, 2009 at 7:41 AM said...

Thanks, Elise, I'll try the fruit thing. Maybe long as I don't eat too many! I really want to lose five pounds during the holidays, Trish, so lets do this!

Michelle Butler on October 31, 2009 at 12:17 PM said...

I'm back from Denver, where it snowed and snowed and snowed. :) I survived all the work events, had some good moments and ate too much - though I knew I would and pretty much gave myself permission to not beat myself up about it. Honestly, I needed some of the stress relief and enjoyment the food provided. I was very good up to the minute I landed in Denver and am very good now I'm back in DC. I'll go to WW on Tuesday after two weeks and see where I am.

Yes, balancing the enjoyment of the holidays and trying to be healthy about food will be a bit of a challenge. I do fight the appeal of unhealthy thoughts at time - for example, I've thought about staying in DC for Thanksgiving - partly bc I'd eat less than if I went to CT. Not a really good reason, I realize, but still tempting at times. I find I have to fight the temptation to not get obsessed with what my total weight loss for the year will be. It's a great measurement, but I think obsessing about it is unhealthy. What does it really matter if it's 30 vs. 35 vs. 20 something if I'm ultimately heading to the same point?

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