Being Intentional During the Holidays

gingerbread cookies. Unsplash - Lydia Matzal

Thanks to COVID, the holidays this year are going to be a bit different than the previous ones. However, there will STILL be some of the very same challenges presented to us around eating right and “staying on path” throughout this time!

My #1 advice to people around this time of year is simple: Be absolutely intentional with everything. Be intentional about the get-togethers you choose to say yes to, with the food and drink you choose to enjoy, and with the overall amount of “doing and buying” you choose to do.

Intention means “a thing intended; an aim or plan”. It implies pre-planning and deliberation. Let’s be honest, a lot of what happens around the holidays isn’t a surprise. It’s a time of indulgence and even more “temptation” than usual. We already know this. So we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens.

Holiday tart cookies

I always recommend that people begin with the big picture in mind. Start by looking at your calendar. Which get-togethers are worth it and which ones are best politely declined? And then, depending upon the event, what do you LOVE MOST and ENJOY MOST about the food and drink that will be served? Maybe it will be a glass of wine or two. Maybe it will be crackers and cheese because you normally stay away from gluten and dairy. Maybe it will be Aunt Sharon’s butter tarts because they are amazing and she only makes them during this time of year. (True story).

Believe me, I know how beautiful and tempting a spread of holiday baking can be. I also know how much thought and care is put into making these. BUT, when I take a deep breath and actually look closely at it all, I realize that there are only a few things that I would actually LOVE (and are therefore worthwhile) to eat. For me, it’s always whipped shortbread and gingersnaps (but only if they are soft). I take a couple of these, and I then allow myself to deeply and fully enjoy them SLOWLY, making it last longer, without a bit of guilt! This way, I don’t feel at all that I have been deprived because I have eaten what I REALLY wanted to, and left the stuff that is good but isn’t WORTH derailing my healthy eating for.

Planning ahead, or at least giving some thought as to the situations you will find yourself in can be very helpful.

When you are removed from the situation, you can think with your rational mind. How do you want to feel after the holidays are over? How have you felt in the past? What can you learn from your past experiences and take into the upcoming season?

Sure, you won’t always know specifically what will be served at some events, I’ll bet you have a good idea OR can find out by simply asking. For appy nights, choose a couple of things you are really excited to eat (or don’t normally have or normally cook) and balance it out with some healthy choices. No healthy choices available? Plan on bringing some of your own…I usually do! Cut up some of your favorite veggies and bring your favorite dip so you know there are some good options.

Dinner plate with greens, meat and sweet potato

Going to a dinner? Fill half your plate with veggies, add a good protein, and top with something that you really love — like a bun with butter or stuffing, or something like that.

Going to a sit-down meal with absolutely no say over what it is? Eat the veggies FIRST, then the protein, and if you’re still hungry (I mean truly hungry) eat the starches slowly until you are full. Save room for that dessert if it’s something you love.

And BTW, a reminder here: ONE BAD MEAL means absolutely sweet-tweet (aka NOTHING) in the grand scheme of things. (It’s the habit of bad meals over and over that is problematic).

The great news is that YOU are always in the driver’s seat. YOU get to make the choices. If you feel too tempted by the food in front of you, move. Go find a spot on the sofa talking to an interesting cousin. Need major accountability? Tell those around you that you are only having one plate and definitely NOT eating any sweets. (People LOVE to police that). Even better — use the services of an accountability coach throughout the entire holiday months. You’ll have a community of support and accountability so you’re much less likely to “stray”!

There are so many things you can do, but you do have to give some intentional thought to them first. If you need help with a specific event, reach out, and let’s brainstorm about some of the things you can do if you feel stuck.

It’s important to remember that saying YES to something always means saying NO to something else. If you show up to an event that you’re not too excited to actually be at (you said yes because you felt “obligated to”) and you’d actually prefer to be at home watching Netflix in your PJ’s, you may not make the best food choices. I totally consider saying NO as a form of self-care.

And finally, make life easy for yourself.

I like thinking about the season with BOTH of the “KISS” methods.

You all know the first: ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’ but I also like this one: Keep, Improve, Stop, Start:

Keep:

Maybe you love taking your kids to look at Christmas lights and then drinking hot cocoa and cinnamon buns when you get home. Keep that. It’s wonderful.

Improve:

Maybe you’re the one always making Christmas dinner which you find to be a huge burden. Start asking people to bring cooked dishes; use paper plates; stop making so many dishes; get it catered; tell someone it’s THEIR turn to do it. Maybe it’s time to pass the baton!

gift wrapping

Stop:

Maybe this is the year to stop buying gifts for the adult kids. Maybe it’s time to give cash (gasp) or a gift card instead!? Movie passes? Time spent together? OR, maybe it’s time to stop sending the Christmas cards that take you forever to do but don’t really enjoy.

Start:

Maybe this is the year you implement a form of self-care around Christmas and start slowing down. Saying no. Maybe this is the year you treat yourself to a couple of massages in December and use up that health spending you have to use up before the end of the year anyway.

I am quite sure you all can come up with your own Keep, Improve, Stop, and Start ideas. You do you!

In summary, my advice boils down to this: BE INTENTIONAL. You are the adult; you get to make the choices. Make choices that are worthwhile to you, and always be looking for ways to make things more peaceful, and more enjoyable for yourself and your family. A lot of times for us women, this means saying NO to things. Be your own best advocate. Know when to say no. And, know when you need to reach out for some help!


Hey there! I’m Stacy! I am certified in Holistic Nutrition and even though I am a nutrition nerd, I am actually a foodie at heart. My motto is: Be healthy, but enjoy life — just choose wisely!

In my current accountability practice, I help women take control of their own health through the use of real, whole foods, and assist them in creating (and sustaining) lifelong health habits so they can FINALLY get off that horrible diet-rollercoaster!

When I’m not coaching, eating, or trying out a new recipe, you might catch me hanging out with my amazing 11-yr old daughter, working out (I love barre and spin), or perhaps watching my favorite reality TV program, 90 Day Fiance!

I practice in my hometown of Calgary, AB but because most of my work is done online — I am available for consultations or coaching wherever it is that you happen to call home.

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