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Please Do Not Over Complicate This Holiday Season

Please Do Not Over Complicate This Holiday Season



So, it is the end of November and the holiday season is upon us. Here in Calgary, Winter is no longer coming… it is here in full force. Personally, this time of the year brings me mixed feelings. 

In one sense, it is one of my favourite times of the year. The world becomes more generous and seems to glimmer more brightly with sugar plums and golden rings. Not only that the New Year is around the corner and that means reflecting on the past year and setting goals for the journey ahead! 

However, on the flip side, this is also one of the most stressful times of the year. 

When we should be relaxing and enjoying the holidays, it becomes more of a rat race to make sure the house is clean, groceries are bought and of course, all the gift shopping and wrapping is complete. It seems to be increasingly more difficult to find time to truly stop and enjoy your rum and eggnog. On that, we cannot forget the food. That has been the question of the week, but what about the holidays? How do I navigate all the baked goods, alcohol, and turkey dinners?

My answer has been the same across the board – Keep Calm and Carry On. It seems when it comes to holidays we feel the need to overcomplicate things and what’s worse is all the so-called social media diet experts are starting early with their outlandish and ridiculous strategies for the Christmas Holidays – such as fasting 3 days before Christmas so you can, ‘look good and eat as much as you want because you have just fasted for 3 days.’ Or do a detox tea before or after Christmas Dinner to set yourself up for the New Year. I honestly don’t have enough hands to properly *facepalm*.

So, with all this… what do I mean by Keep Calm and Carry On? I mean – keep it simple. If you are already practicing good healthy behaviours, keep it up! So what if there is a few extra dinners out, or a couple of extra eggnogs and rum? Guess what? THAT IS OK!!! You know why? 

Because you are spending time with the people you love and appreciate and sometimes that involves breaking bread with them, and having a couple extra glasses of wine. Now does that mean you should just throw your hands up and say, ‘F*CK IT!! I’ll get back on track in the New Year!’ No, of course not – go back and read my previous paragraph. I want you to keep up with your healthy behaviours. For those of you who might be starting a weight management journey, here are a few things to consider in terms of your healthy behaviours:

Continue to fuel your body throughout the day. Personally, I am a big fan of 3 larger meals and 3 smaller snacks over the course of the day, but this doesn’t work for everyone so find what works for you and nourish your body just like you would any day of the year. Don’t fast or starve yourself the day before the big meal this will likely lead to you eating more calories than you intended. Trust me, you can’t overcome biology. 

Protein. Many of my patients struggle to get enough protein during the day. Add some to each of your meals and snacks, it will help to nourish your body and repair your tissues after activity or shovelling snow. 

  • Protein Snacks: 
    • Turkey pepperoni or jerky  
    • Cheese and crackers 
  • Hard-boiled eggs or if feeling fancy maybe deviled eggs
  • Protein bar
  • Peanut butter and celery sticks 
  • Hummus and veggies

Veggies. Again, nourishing your body. Load up your plate. Experiment. Maybe try some new ones. You never know, there might be some new recipes or vegetables you can incorporate into your daily life. 

Plan and organize. Especially during a stressful time of the year. The more planning and organizing you do the better chance of success in no matter what you do. Whether it is:

  • Ensuring you have a snack with you, 
  • Your gym bag is packed the night before, or 
  • Reviewing the menu before going to a restaurant to pick more nutritious items to fuel your body

Activity. Keep moving. There is nothing better you can do for your health – there is no pill or therapy I can prescribe that even comes close to the benefits of activity. Involve your friends and family – go walk down Candy Cane Lane together instead of driving down. 

Have alcohol AFTER you eat. Alcohol stimulates our appetite and inhibits our decision-making abilities. So eating before you drink will make it easier for you to make healthier choices and not over-consume.

Have the dessert. Pick the one you really want – you know the one that actually tastes good and you know you will love. Do you need to sample everything available? Or can we just have the cookie or treat we REALLY want? But maybe you do need to sample everything and that is OK, too!

ENJOY all the FOOD. Try everything, have the mashed potatoes, corn, cranberries and extra turkey. I expect you to consume extra calories. That is OK. One meal is not going to ruin all of your progress and hard work. 

There are no hard and fast rules and no strict diets you need to adhere to. Food is a part of our culture, our holidays, and a healthy lifestyle. You don’t need to throw your hands up, and toss all caution to the wind. Continue to practice your mindfulness, skills you have learned and listen to what your body needs. 

The final thing I will leave you with as we enter this joyous season that involves being with friends and family is:

Remember to show yourself some compassion and empathy. 

We are so good at giving to others but we often forget about ourselves. Without showing ourselves some compassion, we are no good to anybody else. So take the time you need for YOU, be kind, and get ready to plot your course ahead as we make our way to the New Year! 

– Dr. Dan

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