December is a month that most of us usually look forward to, filled with festive lights, good cheer, endless get-togethers, delicious food, and generally, some time off work to relax and reboot.
Yet amidst all of the excitement, the holiday season can also leave us feeling pretty overwhelmed. Between buying (and affording) gifts, making the time for an endless stream of relatives, and tying up the year at work — while also spreading the holiday cheer — this time of year can downright exhausting.
Throw in trying squeeze in a workout between social engagements and saying “no” to non-stop treats and drinks that are constantly being placed in front of us, and we’re almost destined to feel a little crappy by the end of it all.
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The holiday chaos of December can be a recipe for a disastrously unhealthy month. However, by focusing too much on trying to have a perfect, healthy December while also taking the time to participate in all of the activities of the season, we often end up burning ourselves out, and not enjoying any of it as much as we should.
The stress that comes with trying to maintain this illusory balance over the holidays can get the best of us. Inevitably, we reach a point where we throw our hands up and give in to the indulgence. Perhaps we gain a bit of weight, and then we end up feeling like a failure.
However, gaining weight around the holidays doesn’t have to mean you failed. While diving head first into an all-out daily binge fest is not advised, accepting some of the not-so-pleasant side effects of the holidays, like a bit of weight gain, can actually help you set yourself up for an all-around healthier season and happier New Year.
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We so often set unrealistic expectations for ourselves to only end up feeling let down. This is why so many people don’t follow through with the resolutions they set every New Year — they make them too difficult and become frustrated when they don’t see the results they hoped for and end up giving up. Trying to do it all during the holidays season and work on your bikini bod is nearly impossible.
This may not be true for everyone, but for the vast majority of us, putting on a few pounds instead of attaining six-pack abs over the holidays is inevitable.
This year, instead of entering the New Year feeling like a failure, focus on changing the way you think about what it means to have a “perfect holiday season.” Vow to let go of any guilt before the indulgence begins. Re-consider what you normally perceive as a failure, and re-frame it as a time to regroup and refresh. A little “failure” can actually be good for us; it allows us to take a step back and reassess what is important.
The fact is that some indulgence is good for the soul. Life shouldn’t always be about adhering to rigid rules and diets, because it’s simply not realistic. Doing this can only perpetuate a negative relationship with food and lead to endless guilt. Furthermore, total deprivation and stretching yourself thin with time commitments can lead to even more unnecessary holiday stress, and even worse, potentially larger binges and a lack of sleep. Accepting that some indulgence is going to take place, and that you may gain a bit of weight along with it, can help protect you from feeling overwhelmed by guilt, and in turn, from over-indulging. Deciding to accept this and anticipate a little weight gain can help you feel in control and less stressed about the season overall.
After all, the holiday season is meant to be enjoyed. A few extra pounds may be good for your mental health if it means you were able take a step back from the chaos, enjoy a few mornings of sleeping in, drink some wine with your friends and eat some of your absolute favourite foods. Food and rest play such an integral role in regulating our bodies, and that certainly doesn’t exclude our moods. While a major binge and gym hiatus can definitely have a negative impact on your mood, they key, as always, is moderation.
This holiday season, let go of the guilt and go easy on yourself. Remember, that this time of year is only temporary, and accept the indulgence that comes with the holiday cheer. Gaining a few pounds over the holidays is not going to set you back months and months. By accepting it and knowing you will get back on track once all the festivities are over, you are already setting yourself up to succeed in the New Year and you’re likely to be more motivated to get back at it.
You may find that re-framing your thoughts, relaxing and taking care of your mental health is exactly what your mind and body needs — and you may not end up gaining any weight at all. As the saying goes, “this too, shall pass” — so enjoy it while you can.