9 Tips for Maintaining Your Health Goals This Holiday Season

SCNM student Julia shares some tips about how to stay focused on your goals during the tempting holiday season.

Remember your why

This has been found to be an incredibly important yet frequently forgotten step in goal setting. Writing down a clear statement of your motives and your reasons behind them will hold you to your goals that much stronger. So many people simply like the idea of their goals, but inevitably something throws them off their path because they are to abstract. Another added tip is to recite your "why statement" to yourself in your head or out loud in the mirror before you go to an event that you anticipate might sweep you up and throw you off your healthy path.

Decide, then free yourself from future decisions

It is as simple as deciding how the night is going to go and what you’re going to eat - then no exceptions. Your mind will whisper all these very creative and persuasive ways to throw you off track “well what if I have half a cookie then run an extra half mile tomorrow”. DON’T GIVE IN! If you feel strongly about your goals, decide ahead of time how you want to act and be firm in your decision. You make a decision in the beginning, then anything that comes after is has already been decided by that original decision. 

Recognize that it’s okay to be tempted

It is perfectly natural to be tempted to indulge, don’t beat yourself up! The food industry has made desserts and other unhealthy food very tasty (and even addictive in some cases) so that you can’t get enough of them. Sugar is addictive! Recognize that it is normal to feel this way, but that you want to try something different this year.

Think long term benefits

Ask yourself, “How will this decision tonight make me feel tomorrow?” Think of how good you’ll feel tomorrow if you keep everything in moderation and remind yourself  how awful you felt the last time you indulged and went overboard. It only takes a few seconds of space to allow for this. You could even put a reminder in your phone that will pop up with a question like “How will I feel about my decisions when I wake up tomorrow?” Honor yourself and your goals!

Be honest

Think about it, why would anyone be ashamed of health and taking care of your body? If people give you gruff about your healthy habits, they just have something going on with themselves- either they’re jealous, struggle with it themselves, etc. Don’t take it personally! Do what’s best for you and don’t mind what others think. If they really love you and support you and are worth being around, they will respect what is best for you.

Have external accountability

Psychologists and author of the habit formation book “Better than Before” Gretchen Rubin has shown that people respond well to external accountability buddies when it comes to successful habit formation and sticking to their goals. It can be even more powerful than affirming it to yourself. I personally have even went as far as making a Facebook post about something I intend to do because once it is out to the public, it motivates me to uphold my commitment. Find your unique way to do this. You could text a family member or friend going to the same gathering to tell them what your intentions are, you could ask a family member or friend to go to an event with you, write it down on your fridge, text your personal trainer, or any other good form of accountability you can think of.

Drink water 

As many of you have probably heard, most of the hunger sensation you experience is actually thirst. Try drinking 8-16 oz of water 30 minutes before the dinner. Worst case scenario water speeds up your metabolism by 30% so you’ll either be full and eat less and you’ll have a ready to go metabolism that can process the food effectively.

Practice mindful eating

Ask yourself if you are actually hungry. Take a second to look at the food and really think about why you’re eating it. Are you eating a lot because everyone else is?  Because it's a "given" during the holidays? You don’t even know why? If you want to stick to your goals, ask questions like “will this properly nourish my body and support the fitness and health goals I am trying to reach?” One quote that makes me laugh is “Don’t treat yourself with food, you’re not a dog”.

Prevent the food baby

One of my favorite health books by Shawn Stevenson taught me this trick: you should be able to go on a brisk walk or a light jog after you eat. If you don’t feel like you can do that, you have overeaten. As you’re eating keep this in mind. As you know, eating slowly and putting down the utensils to wait and see how you feel helps a lot because it takes about 15 minutes to really see how full you are, but we usually stop when we feel totally stuffed and then it’s too late!