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Mindful Nutrition Through the Holidays

            What do you truly look forward to the most about the holidays? Is it the time away from work to spend with family and friends? Is it that Tucson cools down just a bit giving us a glimpse of "Winter"? Is it how everyone just tends to get slightly less stressed and cheerful? (actually I find this to be the opposite most years...) Is it the festive decor, the music, the ambiance that IS "the Holidays"? it the FOOD?

        ‘Tis the season for Peppermint Mochas, Peppermint Bark, Fruit Cakes (does anyone even eat those??), all types of cookie known to man, gingerbread everything, and the wine, the eggnog, the hot toddies the… I could go on and on but you get the idea. We show affection through food during this time of year and the more sugar we throw in it the more love, right?! Don't show up to a holiday party without bringing either alcohol or some type of sugar filled pastry; pretty sure everyone would point and laugh if you brought a veggie tray because this is the time of year where it's allowed, acceptable and encouraged to just give in.

        The biggest challenges we run into are two-fold: the marketability of the season through every store you walk into and the pressure from family, friends and co-workers. We know the challenges that are on the horizon - it's NOT simply an issue of willpower because we are human. Making it through the holidays and not coming out on the other side as a butterball turkey… literally… means you simply have to anticipate the inevitable. Mary Jo is going to bring those quadruple chunk chocolate chip coconut pecan cookie bear claw clusters that she makes each year to work and place them in front of you and say "have some!" while she watches you argue with yourself internally that you shouldn't be eating this, then reluctantly take a bite. Aunt Becky will send you a Hickory Farms gift set with abundant amounts of exotic cheeses and baby sausages you never even knew existed. Everyone on your friends list on Facebook will share pictures of their food and recipes you will save to eventually try on "cheat day", however too often we find ourselves having "cheat weeks", then eventually throwing our hands up and saying "Well, whatever. It's the holidays", and just procrastinating until January 1st.

        So stop it. The holidays come every year. Why sacrifice all of those burpees you've done, all of those deadlifts and rowing you've sweat into? Be mindful not mindless. Be selective and put thought into what and when you're eating. And above all else, DO NOT stop working out! All you have to do is maintain through the holidays.

You should know by now that you FEEL like crap when you EAT crap, why would you want to go through the holidays in a sugary comatose state of mind rather than nourish yourself? Here is what I encourage to help you maintain the progress you've made all year:

 1. GO TO THE GYM - do not disrupt your routine.

2. Don't go shopping hungry (like ever…!)

3. Eat at home before you hit that holiday party OR...see #4

4. Plan to eat what you want on the days you have a holiday event, but stick to your plan on the other days.

5. Drink water. Always be drinking water consistently throughout the day - every day.

6. Bring your own snacks to work to have on hand instead of finding yourself indulging in what someone brought to share.

7. Make the SAME imitation holidays foods you love with BETTER ingredients. Check out some great recipes here:

8. It's ok to say no. I like to say "no thanks, I just ate" rather than "no thanks, I don't want to consume your sugary gob of whatever it is and send my blood sugar spiking so high that I need a nap at 2pm".

9. If you choose to drink, opt for better alternatives in your alcohol choices. There are tons of recipes online and "skinny girl" drinks to have versus that spiked nog.

and finally...

10. Go to the gym! Consistently working out will keep you mindful of your food choices.

        When I was about 9 years old my parents, for the first time in my life, didn't have a lot of money during the holidays. I remember running out to the Christmas tree at the crack of dawn and seeing a whole lot less under the tree than I had expected - probably proving that I had been pretty spoiled. I opened what few presents Santa had brought me and when I was done my dad told me there was something special in my stocking from him and my mom. I grabbed my stocking and poured out fifty Susan B. Anthonys and I was so excited. It was the best Christmas I can remember, but not because I thought I was rich with "exotic" coins, but because of the traditions we had still kept sacred during that time of year: the feeling of being loved, the care and thought put into the little things. I helped my parents make Christmas dinner that day, we sat around and watched the "Yule Log" on PBS and listened to Bing Crosby croon Christmas carols. My dad passed away in 2007, and I'm grateful that I have that memory of him to look back on and know that as a parent it's hard to always try and do your best, but time and affection matters more. So this year I encourage you to "indulge" in the spirit of the holidays instead of just the food. Take more time for family, for kindness, for gratitude and maybe bring something other than frosted sugar cookie dough brownie peanut butter peppermint melts to share with your loved ones.

And don't forget, whether it's getting through the holidays, recovering from a food coma, or just general nutrition advice, we're here to help! Happy holidays!

Nyki Harrington

NASM CPT, Precision Nutrition L1 Coach, Purgatory Nutrition Guru

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