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Seize the Season! 10 Tips for Surviving the Holiday Festivities

“Variety, moderation and awareness are the keys…”

The key to a guilt-free holiday is to set realistic goals with awareness. Implement these 10 survival tips to navigate the holidaysand enjoy plenty of happiness and cheer along the way.

And remember, if you do overindulge, allow guilt feelings to pass on by. Guilt only weakens your resolve to maintain healthy habits, adds suffering to your experience and spoils the fun of holiday celebrations.

1. Don’t head to the party hungry. Have a light snack before you go and drink plenty of water beforehand.

2. Celebrate the holiday with conversation and people.  Don’t linger at the buffet table.  Take a few things and then step away to avoid nonstop eating. Engage with others and enjoy the connection.

3. At cocktail parties, take the opportunity to try the foods that you don’t regularly eat, that you might really enjoy. And make an effort to crunch on vegetables and fruits, enjoying the natural flavor of less rich choices.

4. Choose a smaller plate rather than a larger one at the buffet table.  This is an approach used by many successful mindful eaters. You’ll find that you have a full plate yet eat less food.

5. Enjoy the healthy reward of sweet potatoes and other cooked vegetables.  They are full of vitamins and minerals that are good for you.  Take a serving and enjoy the nutrition.

6. Drink minimal alcohol.  Besides adding calories, alcohol weakens your willpower.  Try a sparkling water with a slice of lime.

7. Enjoy a small desert remembering variety and moderation are the keys.  Avoid seconds by eating mindfully, savoring each bite.

8.  If you are the host or hostess: go light on the fat where it won’t be missed.  Substitute reduced fat or skimmed evaporated milk for whole evaporated milk and use light or nonfat mayonnaise.

9. Enjoy the colorful abundance of fresh fruits that are available during the holiday season: pomegranates, figs, apples, citrus fruits.

10. Maintain exercise and activity during the holidays. Keep up your walking and/or your exercise routine to balance your calories and your stress at this time of year.

These tips are a compilation of the suggestions of others as well as my own holiday experiences. The most important element in any “plan” is awareness. Take a few minutes (or more) each day and sit in silence, becoming aware of your wholeness, separate from any plan or holiday tip. Allow your focus to be on your breath for a while, simply noticing the breath and how the body lets the inhalation come in and the exhalation to go out. Then, if you care to, expand awareness to include the entire body, again, noticing anything that might be present: tightness, holding…or perhaps nothing special at all. And then, escort awareness back to the breath and eventually back to the room.

Taking a few minutes to cultivate mindful awareness can be a strength and an ally during holiday gatherings. Taking time to become aware of the breath and the body is well worth the effort (although it is, truly, effortless). Often we eat and drink mindlessly, so why not add a bit of mindfulness to your holiday experiences and enjoy good health and well-being. Think of mindful choices as being a gift to yourself!

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