I am not quite sure how December is here…but it is. Personally, 2016 has been a roller coaster ride filled with growth, adaptation and new learning and I don’t know about you, but I am ready to celebrate!

Is anyone else tired of the ‘how not to gain weight this December’ articles? I sure am. Because it’s all just a bit insane: we are bombarded by messages of abundance, joy and celebration and then immediately chastised for having a bit of fun.

Enough is enough. This year, I am sharing tips on how to enjoy a more joyful, mindful holiday season that embraces feasting and celebration…without ignoring what your body really needs.

In the coming weeks, I will share a couple of festive recipes and take a wee break from posting as I prepare for a wonderful, diet-free New Year’s nutrition challenge.

  1. Strike the right balance for your body.

Check in with yourself and your schedule before things reach a fever pitch. Is your social calendar jam-packed? Is that a good thing? If it’s already looking too crazy, consider what obligations you can gracefully bow out of.

If you are ready for the onslaught, you are going to need to pay special attention to fuelling your body right.  A whole month of overindulgence can tank your energy levels so you aren’t feeling good by the time the December 31st hits. To truly enjoy the holiday goodies on offer, treat party season like an athletic event: consider making an extra effort to eat plant-centred meals outside of social events. Eating nutrient-dense foods will give you the party fuel you need to keep going all month long.

  1. Fuel before the party.

The worst thing you can do before a party? Pre-guilt yourself into starving during the day so you can ‘indulge’ at night. Instead, eat a healthy snack before your event. Choose snacks with fibre and protein to keep your blood sugar levels stabilized, so that your brain doesn’t melt down when it sees the canapés. My go-to pre-party snacks are chopped veggies and hummus, a kale salad sprinkled with hemp seeds or apples and peanut butter.

  1. Make a beeline for the vegetables.

I freaking love buffets. My favourite treat? A good dip…which I dig into with piles of veggies. I really love feeling full and I find that some of my holiday faves – dips, cheese and shortbread – aren’t actually that filling so I end up unsatisfied.

My strategy? I always make my first plate veggies so that I am full and rational when I decide what comes next. Another great way to fill up and be satisfied is to make half your plate veggies every time to go back for another round.

  1. Focus on what matters.

A couple of years ago, I had an epiphany: as much as I love food, I can get a bit tired of the nonstop eating by mid-December. Which is kind of a tragedy in my book: get tired…of food?? So, as a ‘food love’ preservation tactic, I started making a few holiday plans that didn’t revolve around food. Why not invite friends and family to go ice skating, lights viewing or snowshoeing? The holidays are supposed to be about togetherness first and foremost. And when we take a break from feasting, the next feast tastes even better 🙂

  1. Warm-up with tea.

I really hate being cold. To the point where the only time I want to drink cold water in winter is if I am curled up in my fuzzy robe in front of a space heater. But dehydration isn’t just a summer issue, my friends. And dehydration will tank your energy – in a month where you simply can’t afford to be without it. If you’re like me, opt for warm, herbal tea like rooibos or weakly-brewed green tea. Serve it in large mugs and sip all day long.

  1. Stay active.

Probably my number one tip for a joyful, energized holiday season? Don’t let the cold stop you from moving! If you stay active, you will naturally make more mindful food choices and can enjoy holiday treats as you wish without feeling like human sludge in a month. It has nothing to do with weight loss, because it’s pretty hard to run off the calories associated a 31 day feast. It’s all about feeling really good and taking time to destress in what can be a super stressful month.

Go snowshoeing, ice skating, run, join a yoga class, find at-home workouts, or sign up for a gym membership…you will never have to wait for a machine or class this month. Score!

  1. Expand your holiday baking horizons.

Ditching the all-or-nothing approach means enjoying healthy food and stuff that’s not so healthy, zero guilt. If you are a big baker, make your favourites and find some new favourites that boost nutrition deliciously. These peppermint black bean brownies fit the bill.

  1. Share the (food) love.

One of the ways I keep treats a treat is by not buying them for everyday. I buy goodies when I am entertaining and then we eat them up! However, there is the matter of gifts. Are you constantly showered with boxes of cookies and chocolates as gifts (lucky you!)? This is one place where re-gifting is always welcome. Bring some to work and share them with colleagues or friends so the responsibility for eating them isn’t all on you (unless you want it to be!)

  1. Treat yo self.

With the abundance surrounding us during the holidays, it can be easy to turn to food as a coping strategy for stress. Which is not it’s job. Food’s job is to be delicious and nourishing and fun at a party.

Instead, when your knee jerk reaction is to eat your feelings, think about what would truly provide solace. Do you need to call a friend, take a bath, put on a funny movie? And, be sure to schedule time NOW to have decompress sessions throughout the month where you can wind down and have a candle-lit bath, meditate, or kick back with tea and a favourite novel.

  1. Be mindful.

It has taken me a long, long time to get to the point where what I truly crave is healthy, well made food. But even I can get to the point over the holidays where I eat ‘just because it’s there’. Pay extra special attention to your hunger and satiety cues. When you are hungry, eat. When you are full, stop. When someone offers you something you really love, enjoy it. If you actually don’t like fruitcake, don’t eat it! Notice the discomfort associated with making those decisions. And let it go. There is always more food and more fun around the next corner.

Make the most of this wonderful season. Gather with family and friends, enjoy home cooked meals and be sure to sparkle!

xo, d