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Let’s Stop Talking About Making the Holidays Healthy

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‘Tis the season for family togetherness, twinkling lights, and town parades. Yet most of what I hear about is turkey feasts, sugar-sprinkled cookies, and a gluttony of food-related indulgences. I don’t know when the food part of holidays overtook the simple idea of cherishing moments with friends and family, but starting with Thanksgiving and rounding out all the way through New Year’s, it’s all about the food. If not the food, it’s how to burn off said food, whether it’s with a dose of morning cardio or a specific number of burpees needed to burn off each part of the extravagant meal. I don’t need thoughts of push-ups and crunches dancing in my head as I sit down to dinner; I need confidence in myself that everything is going to be A-OK.

A single meal — or even two or three if you have a non-traditional, composite family like I do — isn’t going to derail your health or your progress. Being worried about every bite you put in your mouth for the entire holiday season might. There’s two sides to every story and for staying healthy during the holidays, there’s no exception. On one hand, you have the “forget about it and just enjoy the holidays” crowd. On the other, you have the “nothing is more important than staying on track” group. I’m firmly planted in the middle, as you’re missing a piece of the puzzle with either extreme. And with both scenarios, you’re leaving the potential to conjure up guilt, regret, and stress, things we certainly don’t need more of during the holiday season.

I understand the need to stay healthy and motivated during a busy, chaotic, and cold winter holiday season, but measuring exercise by food isn’t the way to do it. Food should be a means of fueling exercise and nothing else. It shouldn’t be used to justify or permit ourselves to eat something, whether indulgent or not. Food is food and exercise is exercise. Food fuels our bodies; exercise makes us strong and fit.

Let’s stop talking about getting up and going for a run Christmas morning so we can “offset” all the cookies and eggnog we’re planning on drinking, and just let it be. Exercise is no more or less important during the holidays than it is any other time of the year. We should be exercising because it feels good or is good for us, not because it’s a requirement to enjoy a treat later. You don’t need to show up at every holiday party with a plan of attack – or avoidance – for the buffet table. Eat or drink what you like because you like it and no other reason or justification. You don’t need to steer clear of your favorite fondue dip because you have six more parties to attend this month, but you also don’t need to eat the entire pot by yourself because it may be another year until you have it again.

It’s not the time of year to be motivating ourselves with guilt or outside pressure or thoughts of wearing bikinis six months from now. It’s also not the time of year to throw in the towel just because you can. Instead let’s make it the time of year where we stop endlessly discussing things like temptations, indulgences, and calorie-bombs — and just enjoy the season.

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

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