Every holiday seems to have food attached to it. Thanksgiving is all about turkey and potatoes. Christmas is all about sugar cookies and candy canes. Easter is all about turning every candy known to man into the shape of an egg. We even make up holidays so we have an excuse to eating random foods on random days (National Doughnut Day, anyone?).
It’s practically impossible to separate holidays from the food we eat on them, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. It can feel like an insurmountable obstacle, though, when a holiday is coming up and you’re also trying to stick to specific health and fitness goals.
Every time a holiday rolls around (and there’s a lot of them, let’s face it), I see a ton of stuff online about how to “survive” them. Everyone takes a different approach to this issue, too.
The “Relax, it’s the Holidays” Approach
On one end of the spectrum, some people say that the holidays are meant for indulging. They tell you to eat whatever you want, no holds barred.
I think these people are coming from a good place. They want to help people get rid of obsessive thoughts around food and eat without guilt. That’s great.
Sometimes, though, I think these posts can come across as encouraging people to overeat or consume foods because they’re traditional, even if those foods might cause them to feel less than their best.
The “It Doesn’t Matter that it’s the Holidays” Approach
On the other end of the spectrum, some people really push this idea that you need to stick strictly to your diet 365 days a year. It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday or your birthday, you need to be hitting your macros perfectly or avoiding specific foods 100 percent of the time.
I think these people are coming from a good place, too, for the most part. They want to help people to develop discipline and overcome a need to feel dependent on food. That’s also great.
Sometimes, though, these posts come across as overly harsh or judgmental. A lot of people see posts like this and feel guilty or ashamed because they didn’t follow that particular person’s advice.
I think the most important thing to remember when it comes to juggling the holidays and sticking to your health and fitness goals is that everyone needs to do what works for them.
Some people need to be strict with their diet, even on holidays. Other people need the freedom to eat without restriction so that they don’t obsess on the other days of the year.
You need to do what works best for you, even if other people don’t get.
When People Comment on Your Food
This brings me to my next point, the focus of the Instagram post that corresponds to this blog.
Nobody likes when someone comments on their food. Okay, someone somewhere probably likes when other people comment on their food. In most cases — I’m even willing to bet it’s 98-99 percent — most people don’t like when other people comment on their food. I know I sure don’t. I feel awkward, I feel judged, I feel like I need to justify my choices and also make sure that I’m not speaking about food in a way that causes other people to feel awkward and judged. It’s a lose-lose situation. If you have a tendency to comment on other people’s food, just stop. Everyone will feel better if you do.
What if Someone Comments on Your Food?
This is hard. There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer that will appease everyone. I like the short and sweet approach, though.
Basically, when someone makes a comment about what you’re eating, or comments on how much or how little you’re eating, or asks why you aren’t eating a particular item, just say something along the lines of, “this is what I want to eat” or “when I eat this way I feel my best.”
If someone continues to pester you, it’s important to realize that they’re the ones with the problem. They’re most likely pestering you about your food choices because they feel insecure about theirs. They see you eating salad and feel guilty that they’re not eating salad, too. Instead of confronting the fact that they’re not eating salad, though, they’d rather turn things back around on you and try to bring you down to their level. I think a lot of people do this without even realizing it.
When you realize that most food commentary — especially food commentary that occurs around the holidays — has more to do with the person making the comments than it does with you, the recipient, it’s easier to just politely reply to their comments and continuing eating your food.
If they’re really annoying you, though, you can try being a little sterner and saying something like, “keep your eyes on your own plate” or “you don’t have to eat what I’m eating, so don’t worry about it.” Then, go back to what you’re eating and don’t engage any further.
This isn’t going to work every time, but I think it works more often than it doesn’t. Some people are annoyingly persistent, but most people can take a hint.
What About Exercise?
Exercise is another tricky thing to deal with on holidays. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
If you choose to exercise on a holiday, some people will say that you have an unhealthy relationship with food and are trying to “make up” for the big meal you’re going to eat later. If you don’t choose to exercise on a holiday, some people will say that you’re lazy or undisciplined or don’t take your health and fitness goals seriously.
Surprise, surprise, neither of these responses is true for all people who do or do not decide to exercise on holidays.
It’s totally acceptable to exercise on a holiday. Maybe the holiday falls on a day when you’d normally be working out anyway and you don’t feel a need to skip the gym. Maybe you know that you’re going to be sitting more than usual later in the day, or spending a lot of time in the car, and you want to move around a bit beforehand.
It’s also totally acceptable to not exercise on a holiday. Maybe the holiday falls on a day when you’d normally rest. Maybe you just want to relax and be fully present with your loved ones. Maybe you have too much else to do that day and don’t have time to fit in a workout.
What if Someone Comments on Your Exercise (or Lack Thereof)
If someone feels the need to comment on your exercise or lack of exercise, I recommend handling it similarly to handling the food situation.
Explain to them that you feel better when you exercise or that you wanted to make today a rest day. Then, move on with whatever you were doing before that person so rudely felt the need to comment on your activity levels.
If they really keep pestering you, you can always ask them what they did for exercise that day. There’s a good chance they’re going to awkwardly come up with an excuse to stop talking to you 😉
Sticking to Health Fitness Goals on Holidays: Bottom Line
The main thing I want you to get out of this post is to do you. Eat what works for you and don’t eat what doesn’t.
If you need to avoid dairy and gluten to feel your best and avoid getting sick, avoid them. It doesn’t matter if Aunt Carol made cheesy potato casserole — you don’t have to eat them just because she cooked them.
If you want to eat dairy and gluten because you love Aunt Carol’s cheesy potato casserole and only have an opportunity to eat it once a year, do that. You get to decide which food decisions are “worth it” and which ones aren’t.
The same goes for exercise as well.
If you want to exercise on a holiday because it’s a day you would normally exercise or you just know you’re going to be eating more or sitting more than usual, go for it.
If you want to treat a holiday as a rest day and really relax with your friends or family, go for it. Both are perfectly acceptable ways to “handle” the holidays.
How do you like to address your health and fitness goals on holidays? What kind of approach works best for you? Let me know in the comments below!