According to the Google and NORAD Santa Trackers, Kris Kringle is in the air. Holiday Cheer is approaching its peak, children are giddy with excitement, and adults are admiring their handy work. It is Christmas Eve. (For those disenchanted with the Christonormative celebration of solstice-related holidays, don’t worry, we know the Pagans kicked this off.)
If you check your calendar, it likely says that today is Christmas Eve, and my assumption is that you’re more likely to be participating in festivities this evening rather than this morning. Right now, we’re still in Wrap-Up mode, finishing our plans, presents, and pre-conceived notions of how to have the best Christmas Eve(r). Let’s talk about this before the Christmas Explosion.
Christmas is the 2nd to last day in Binge Eating Season, which I informally define as the Halloween – New Years stretch. Each ‘big’ day in that stretch has its own set of traditions with a big meal as the social focus. As tonight’s meal approaches we look forward to recipes with added cinnamon, family dinner, and controlled portions. Or at least that may be what you’re telling yourself.
Our metric-centric culture loves to track information from where Santa is to how many calories we’re eating/burning. Quantified self is a great idea, but I think it’s a weak long-term strategy. The data may not all be the useable (Read this) and it may be just a distraction from the real problem (read this). High-calorie holidays may seem like great opportunities to concur goals, but they’re not; they’re great opportunities to let yourself down. Christmas Eve is, to me, a great opportunity to get better without getting better.
Manage Your Expectations
One plate. Start with protein. Load up vegetables. Extra water. Nailing it!
These are great goals for day-to-day eating, but they’re hard to follow at holiday parties. How hard? That’s your call, but I urge for realism. If you’re surrounded by Buddy’s menu, the odds that you’re going to follow your plans are lower than you expect.
One day of eating Mom’s non-Paleo approved menu isn’t going to ruin all of your goals, but the mental hick-up may be bigger than the physical one. Determination is great, but realism is better. The “Be strong no matter what” is great for obsessive physique professionals, but not for you. Save your determination for moments when you can successfully balance self-control with strong habits.
I’m not saying to stuff your face until you hate yourself, but look at past experiences; how will your state of mind before the meal affect how you feel after the meal?
Water and Protein.
This is simple. Magical things happen when you drink more water and include more protein in your diet. By magical I mean we feel better and see better results in body composition. While hitting your perceived calorie count for the day can be challenging, it’s far easier to take an extra glass of water and snag more chicken before the chocolate.
If you look at food volume; there’s less room in you for dessert, or if your voracious appetite has few limits, you’ll feel better the day after.
This is your moment. Dedicate the time that you need to actually train. Several moments of conditioning or an all-out training session; take that time for you. I emphasize training over more casual just-move-a-little-bit-more because I’m not sure that the casual moments matter that much. Move, but move with purpose. Counting steps around your kitchen while you set out the Spode dinnerware is great mental motivation, but paltry metabolic motivation.
Actually train. Purposeful, challenging movement reminds your body that it’s alive. Stretch, lift, sprint. A few sets of sprints up the stairs, down the driveway, or swings of a kettlebell ought to hold you over, but I’m going to get a barbell in my hands for good measure. Santa’s doing it.
Now Relax. Seriously. Be the Reason for the Season.
I’m an adamant fan of the Spirit of Christmas. The Holidays, as a period of time, are about celebrating what you have, enjoying goodwill, Hope, and the human spirit. Be that Spirit.
It feels great to downshift from our “Crush It” mentality to celebrate who we are and what we’ve accomplished. Appreciate the time with your friends, family, and loved ones. Eat your childhood favorites, watch those traditional movies, and connect with those around you. BE the spirit that embodies the goodwill and hope of the holiday season. It’s not a religious holiday, it’s a Human holiday.