No recipe today, kids. Sorry about that. I was planning to post a delicious cabbage frittata that I made this week, but… well… hubby and I were hungry. So hungry that I completely forgot to photograph it before we attacked. I’ll just have to make it again and post… maybe next week. Because it was defnitely good enough to eat twice in two weeks.
This is that time of year when things are just that crazy and busy, that photo-forgetting happens. Oh, I’m no stranger to the holiday anxiety. And even though I am really, really looking forward to Christmas at my in-laws’ place, I’m currently experiencing varying levels of panic when I think about all of the things I have to do before I get to relax with the fam. Things like decorating the Christmas tree (we still haven’t)… painting my living room (I might be insane)… touching up the paint in my downstairs half-bath… deep-cleaning the kitchen… writing Christmas cards… shopping for Christmas gifts (I haven’t bought a single one yet)… and assembling and mailing off packages to the family and friends that I won’t be seeing in person. It’s enough to make a girl go haywire. No wonder I forgot to photograph that frittata.
I’d love to say to you, “The holiday season doesn’t have to cause panic attacks! You can have a fun and relaxing holiday, and here’s how!” But I’d be lying if I said I had those kinds of answers. As much as I love Christmas, I have yet to experience one where I wasn’t in a heightened state of anxiety for the month leading up to it. The best I can hope for is to get out of the month still smiling and relatively sane, with my energy levels intact and my goals for the past year not completely derailed. Okay, that’s a fairly modest endeavor, but it still feels like a tall order this time of year. Here’s how I (try to) stay healthy at the holidays:
Prioritize exercise. I’m someone who gets cranky if I go too long without a good sweat session, but taking long breaks also makes it harder for me to get back on the wagon. I learned that the hard way during my summer funk this year, when I knew that a good run would make me feel better but couldn’t seem to motivate myself to get out there. This time of year, it’s way too easy to let your workouts fall by the wayside in favor of tasks that seem more pressing at the time. But don’t! Get up early if you have to, or schedule a sweat session into your calendar like an appointment, and stick to it. It IS an appointment – and an important one at that. It’s an appointment with yourself. Sure, this time of year is all about giving selflessly, but you also need to take time for you. You’ll have more energy for giving if you keep to your exercise routine, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be much happier and more in the “holiday spirit” if you do. I’m generally a morning exerciser – I like to get it done before the day butts in and tries to distract me – and I stick to that schedule as much as possible. This month I’ve been working my way through a boot camp challenge and running on the weekends and if I have extra time in the evenings. I always feel energized and ready to tackle my to-do list if I’ve gotten some Me Time in, in the form of a workout.
Indulge, but only when it’s worth it. December is SO tempting when it comes to treats. If you try to eat healthy most of the year, as I do, it can seem as though the entire month is rigged with land mines. The cocktail parties, the cookie swaps, the treats that people feel compelled to leave in the office kitchen… and then there are the big holiday meals themselves. It’s no wonder people start January on a major “clean up the diet and hit the gym” kick. I’ve personally swung back and forth on the pendulum. One holiday season I might be totally insane about calorie counting, and refuse to eat anything with a single fat gram in it. And then another year I might say “It is what it is, can’t avoid it, so I’ll just have anything I want and then pay for it in January.” Neither attitude is healthy. So for the past few years I’ve committed to keeping up with my healthy eating for the most part, but indulging when it’s worth it. The key is to recognize when it’s worth it. “Worth it” means something different to everyone – it’s a personal decision. For me? Well, for example, store-bought red and green food coloring-dyed cookies that someone left out in the office kitchen? Not worth it. My mother-in-law’s delicious homemade dessert on Christmas Eve? Worth it. So I focus on eating “close to the Earth” for most of the month – lots of vegetables and lean proteins – and indulge only when I get the chance to have a really delicious treat that was made with love. (This works with time, too. An hour spent cleaning a closet that absolutely no one will see over the holidays? Not worth it. An hour on the phone with my best friend, who lives halfway around the world? SO TOTALLY WORTH IT.)
Don’t go nuts at parties. This is similar to the above. We all have multiple parties to attend this time of year, but they don’t have to ruin our eating for the month! I like to have a small meal before a party so I’m not tempted to make “dinner” out of fattening appetizers. Then I just have a few bites of the party treats and I’m happy because I’ve gotten to taste the goodies but not gone crazy. And when it comes to drinking, I sip red wine because I can make a glass last for awhile. I’m not really a big drinker (regardless of the impression that the multitudes of wine posts on here may convey) and I like that I can enjoy a glass or two of red wine over the course of an entire party. Oh, and the next day I don’t wake up unable to remember seeing friends that I only see once a year or so or worried that I might have regaled my entire office with an off-key rendition of “O Canada!” Think of it this way: if you need to be drunk to enjoy a party, then you clearly aren’t having much fun. So bail and go to a movie. If you really want to be at the party, you’ll have a good time without needing to suck down seven margaritas.
Plan active ways to get in your family time. As fun as it is to snuggle on the couch with your special someone or park your tush in front of the TV for hours on end with the fam, there is another way! You can get in family time and movement at the same time. For instance, last Thanksgiving I ran a Turkey Trot with my sister-in-law, and two years ago hubby and the sisters-in-law and I all took a wintry hike together over the Christmas visit. This year, I’m already brainstorming… a snowy run through the park? A yoga class with my sister-in-law? No matter what, I’m sure we’ll find new, fun ways to be active together as a family. (And if you really want to get away from your family? Go for a run solo or hit the gym on your own.)
Sleep! This last tip is huge. I have always been someone who needs a lot of sleep – it’s probably the single most important thing to my well-being. If my bedtime is delayed or if I have an interrupted night, I’m sluggish and cranky all the next day. So I won’t be burning the midnight oil addressing envelopes or ordering gifts on Amazon. If you’re like me, and you need your sleep, DO NOT worry about being selfish or boring. If you have to tell the fam, “I’m tired, see you guys in the morning,” then tell them – they’ll understand. If you’re worried about getting it all done, then jettison something else. Maybe you only need to make one dessert for the neighborhood cookie swap, not three. Or maybe you could keep one eye on the hockey game while you write out cards. The absolute last thing I sacrifice is shut-eye.
So there you have it – my favorite tips for staying sane, healthy and fit over the holiday season. Now it’s your turn to share, because I’m always looking for tips and tricks!
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