How to stay FIT and SANE during Christmas
Three weeks ago I got on the plane from Ibiza to Düsseldorf.
Back home for Christmas woohoo, and a little longer in fact. I love island life, but in the winter Ibiza is too cold, too humid and most of all, too lonely for me. I was close to losing my mind.
So I’m hibernating in my hometown, and it is almost scary how soothing this is. I don’t think I have felt such a safe and grounded security in my entire life. I feel like I’m in a warm, sanctuary bubble. I sleep like a baby and I’m eating like a horse.
The older I get the more I appreciate spending my winters in Düsseldorf. Yes I know, living in Ibiza is paradise but let me assure, there simply is no place like home.
So up until March I’m indulging in all those delicious home comforts I don’t get to enjoy in Ibiza:
My family and friends from back in the days, who love me just the way I am. Central heating, a large kitchen, German TV, a christmas tree, hot bubble baths, an abundance of great organic supermarkets… And Aldi, my guilty pleasure. Yes I know, I’m hard to please :)
It’s probably inherited from my dad that I’m a little cookie monster addicted to sugar, and there might also be some unresolved emotional issues, as in the past it has always been a struggle to resist all the sweets I used to eat as a kid.
Going home for christmas always meant let’s throw all good habits over board and binge on sugar for days. It was my way of dealing with difficult family situations.
Luckily I’m a little wiser and more aware of my emotions now, but these neural pathways are still ingrained in my brain, somewhere in the back. The cookie monster is sleeping and fading, but still there.
I have an ALL OR NOTHING tendency that I am consciously working on, and a strong inclination to PERFECTIONISM. Finding a balanced middle ground has never been easy for me, especially with food.
But December can be a tricky month for many, not just me.
The pressure of christmas, family affairs, christmas parties with plenty of opportunities to indulge... One can easily let BALANCE and SELF-LOVING HABITS slip into distant memory. Some people simply accept this as part of the holidays - things get so busy you can't help but let your healthy habits fall off.
However, if you have suffered from emotional and irratic eating for many years, the countdown to christmas can feel a bit like navigating yourself through a minefield.
I LOVE December precisely because of all the coziness, the social gatherings, the taste and the smell of all the deliciousness. But in the past, instead of being FULLY PRESENT with my company and truly enjoying myself and the people around me, these gatherings were a mere excuse to overindulge.
I’d either avoid these occasions (how sad is that) or I’d overeat, feeling heavy, bloated and tired for days, followed by self-loathing and empty promises to myself.
Years of unchecked, destructive eating habits left their mark in my brain. It took many different mindfulness practices, daily yoga, meditation and journaling to shine the LIGHT OF AWARENESS and break through these walls as an adult.
Gradually I started to implement a new holiday mindset that is in alignment with my wholesome yoga lifestyle. FLEXIBLE and RELAXED, it allows me to enjoy those delicious, social weeks before christmas without falling back into destructive behaviours.
It’s a pretty simple plan or rather mindset, nothing groundbreaking. In fact SIMPLICITY is key. It’s about being conscious of your behaviours and automatic habits, so that you can choose to act differently.
Staying fit & sane during Christmas
If you can relate, here's what you can do:
Be as CONSISTENT as possible. Establish HEALTHY RITUALS but remain FLEXIBLE when you’re travelling or during social occasions. If a meal isn’t up to my standards (rather difficult) I tell myself that it was prepared with love and best intentions. My body will forgive me, but I try not to overdo things to the point of being unwell.
KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES. If you have food sensitivites, or simply don’t like eating dairy, sugar or heavily processed rubbish, stand by your side. You don’t need to please. And if you do overindulge, let it go and be kind to yourself the next day by going back to your usual healthy habits.
No processed sweets, more NOURISHING WHOLE FOODS. If it’s homemade christmas cookies made with love - woohoo! But no cheap supermarket sweeties. Even during social times, I limit all processed foods to a minimal amount and focus instead on eating as many NOURISHING WHOLE FOODS like veggies, glutenfree grains, nuts, seeds and fruits. Maybe you can even be the host this year and cook up a lovely HEALTHY, TASTY FEAST. Roasted vegetables followed by warm chestnuts are so easy and so delicious.
Limit PORTION SIZE & eat moderate amounts. I don't track my calories, macro- and micronutrients, or anything else. But I know my tendency towards overeating. So the key, other than healthy food choices, is to eat a MODERATE AMOUNT. Meaning eat slowly, taste your food, and enjoy your company. MINDFUL EATING is a bit of a challenge when you’re at a lively christmas dinner, but you don’t need to go to bed with a food coma.
NATURE & YOGA. I love fresh air and being out in nature. Even if it rains and storms (especially if it rains and storms) I go out into the forest for a brisk walk and some DEEP BREATHING. It’s the best remedy after intense family gatherings. Daily YOGA and breathwork bring me back to myself - I instantly feel strong, centered and grounded. For that I happily set my alarm and get up before everyone else does. Having a little bit of quiet time before the madness starts really does make a huge difference to my entire day.
And that’s it - a pretty simple plan, right?
Easier said than done you might think…
But trust me, it is possible. If I can tame my wildly neurotic monkey mind and have a beautifully MINDFUL christmas, so can you.
The key is to stick to your plan:
Pick some SIMPLE rules that work for you, according to your lifestyle and circumstances (like the ones above). Make things clear in your head. No decision making or negotiating every day.
WRITE IT DOWN. Get a little notebook and write down your intentions for the day ahead, it only takes a few minutes. You can do this either at night before you turn off the lights, or first thing in the morning with your cup of tea. Bring CONSCIOUS presence and awareness into your day.
SIMPLIFY. When things get busy, pick a few EASY & WHOLESOME meals and just make those on most days. If you start the day with a lovely, nutritious breakfast you’re a lot less likely to overindulge on sugary food later, you just feel too good. I like scrambled eggs with veggies. Or if I’m really pushed for time a delicious green smoothie, overnight oats, cooked quinoa with a banana and some cinnamon. Really easy, no fussing around. Lunch and dinner are usually more veggies with wild salmon, organic chicken or glutenfree grains. Have something green every day.
KEEP YOUR PROMISES. Does this matter to you? Does it matter more than the temptation to overindulge? Does it matter more than being a people pleaser?
If it matters, make a promise to yourself and keep it.
The holidays are always busy, always filled with overeating and too many unhealthy habits. But they don't have to be the time when you just drop everything. Do your best to stick to a few simple rules, and keep your promises in the most COMPASSIONATE, SELF-LOVING way.