The holiday season is a much anticipated time when exciting family trips, vacations, and gatherings can cause as much stress as they do joy and excitement. In terms of our health, they are also chock-full of temptations. Our internal monologues turn to mantras repeating sheer internal willpower that we test, bend, and break year after year. “I shall not drink a sip of alcohol” changes over the course of the season’s festivities to, “I’ll have just one sip,” and then to – “One glass won’t hurt.” The goal should be sustainability, not deprivation or guilt. Make this year different with our Be Well health coach, Anne Markt’s insight for healthy holiday maintenance.
I used to go into a trip telling myself I was going to resist the desserts this year with sheer brilliant willpower – do not drink a sip of alcohol, and keep my exercise routine going perfectly. Then in the moment of truth, without other options planned and at the ready, I’d instantly cave and eat in excess to “join the party.” When I’d return to school I’d feel like I was in a food coma; tired, grouchy, heavy, rather than refreshed and rested from the holiday break. It would take at least a week to rebuild and detox.
Looking back now, with my new habits established, I finally understand why that plan failed time and time again. One, I was focusing all my energy on resisting the habits I knew weren’t good for me, instead of maintaining the habits I knew set me up for success. Two, because even my healthy habits needed adjustment on trips to make them practical and realistic. Now, when I go home for the holidays, it’s with a very different perspective and a very different experience.
Here are my top personal tips for what I do during holiday travels to set myself up for healthy maintenance rather than resistance. Here’s how you can lay the groundwork for your own top non negotiables, and experience your own healthy holiday!
This is non-negotiable, period. I’m fortunate to have a comfy bed and a blackout curtain in my old childhood bedroom. If your holiday retreat is less than ideal plan to bring that extra support with you. Bring a face mask in case you get more natural sunlight in the room. Keep your room dark and cool at night. Bring blue light blocking glasses if you want to watch a movie/show late at night without it disrupting your sleep. Trouble sleeping when you travel? Try Sleep Formula as a plan B if Sleep Hygiene techniques aren’t enough in the moment.
I always bring a clean BPA free empty water bottle that I can get through TSA to fill at the airport. (Flying leaves us very dehydrated!) When I travel, I make sure to bring it with me when I leave the house, go shopping, etc. so I am always reminded to hydrate.
Stock up on Healthy Snacks
I use a pantry delivery service, like Thrive Market, to get my favorite healthy brands delivered to my door. I can order healthy snacks to take with me so I’m not at the mercy of airport food, and I can even ship a box to my home away from home and have the exact foods I need to support my health.
I do my best to keep meditating twice a day, every day, no matter where I am. The Holidays can be very stressful, especially when it comes to travel. Before meditating, I used to get occasional motion sickness in the back of cars or on plane rides that could sometimes wipe me out with nausea and vertigo for a full 24 hours, but no more! Now that I meditate on flights, I no longer get motion sickness that negatively impacts my trip. I also keep that meditation practice going on the ground to help me enjoy family time and be mindful.
Plan for Meals
Not everyone in my family is a health-nut like me, but I’ve learned to embrace that and still be myself when I’m home with family. What I love to do is bring myself win/win options to holiday meals that I love and work for my body. I always bring or make enough to share. I once brought Vegan Chocolate Mousse as a dessert to a family party because I knew there would be sheet cake, and I admittedly have a sweet tooth. Telling myself “don’t eat that” simply doesn’t do the trick, but having an option on hand that I can eat and makes me feel awesome works. I ate the mousse while others had the cake, and my cousin who is a vegetarian enjoyed it with me.
After sleep and water, the next habit that leads me to greater cravings for sugar, carbs, and unhealthy choices is dropping my exercise practice. Luckily I love my studio classes in NYC, so getting myself to go there is a breeze. However when I go home, I have to create a new experience. That’s where I use the power of accountability. I’m far more likely to show up to something when someone else is expecting me, so I ask friends in my home town to meet me for a class. I also travel with my Nike Fit training app (downloaded for free right on my phone), that’s like having a personal trainer on the go! There are exercises that require minimal to no equipment. Try an app called Yoga Glow for Yoga anywhere you go
Plan for Quality time
It’s easy for me to get wrapped up in my phone when on vacation. Whether I’m taking pictures, checking those addictive notifications on social media, or going through my emails, taking some time to put the phone away is crucial. I’ll sometimes leave my phone in my bedroom and be electronic free all day. Taking a break from your electronics will help you de-stress, be in the moment, and enjoy the company around you –and they’ll appreciate your undivided attention too. If you have to check work emails on a holiday, schedule that time first thing in the morning and maybe once at night and nail it all out in 20 minutes. You’ll feel much better knowing it’s done and can more easily detach.
I make sure to continue my supplement routine no matter where I go for a trip. I take the bottles I need, a little travel pill case for on the go, and my favorite powders like protein powder, cacao, and greens with my shaker bottle so that I can whip up a healthy shake. Daily Dose is a wonderful way to get your top 4 supplements in easy to carry packets and dump the bulky bottles altogether, and Sustain protein and Greens powder come in convenient pouches so you can take the number of packets you need and leave the tubs at home!
How do you keep your top habits going strong during the holidays, despite temptations?
Choose the top habits you know create the greatest difference in your life (or try mine above if you don’t know where to start!). These are your “Keystone Habits” you simply can’t live without. They have the greatest impact on your wellbeing and how you function daily.
Use the “how to” section to restructure the when, where, and how for each habit. This will help you foresee challenges on trips and make sure you can complete the habit even in a new environment! Otherwise, when you’re naturally thrown off your usual routine, it’s easier to forget the “reminder” to do it. For example, I always keep my supplements out on my kitchen table in NYC. When I go home, I plop the supplements down on my kitchen table there so that I still have that same visual reminder. If they accidentally stay in my suitcase, I forget to take them.
Keep a habit going strong by using win/win options and choosing accountability for added support. Accountability makes the biggest difference for me and is a huge motivator for staying on track. It’s also more fun to create habits that connect with others.