Stress, Sugar, and the Holidays...Help Me!
Whether you love the holidays or dread them, stress and sugar are seemingly everywhere this time of year…an unavoidable fact of life.
I hear some variation on "Oh my God, the holidays stress me out" and "I can't seem to moderate myself around all the FOOD" every day.
It's a combination (the stress! the sugar!) that can put us into a cycle of highs and lows and takes a lot of the joy out of the season.
A lot of us push ourselves extra hard during the holidays, here are some of the common additional “shoulds” and “to-dos” that we tend to take on (a.k.a. the Holiday S*$t List):
Holiday volunteer work
The extra demands on our time and emotional energy can make us pretty stressed out. When we’re stressed out, we are particularly vulnerable to craving sweet stuff and comfort foods. AND since we are surrounded by these comforting, sugar-y treats, it’s ridiculously easy to get caught up in the stress-sugar cycle.
Have you been there?
Blood sugar rising and crashing, energy levels rising and crashing, and a mood that is all over the place…it isn’t pretty.
There’s got to be a better way, right?
There is a better way and it involves less stress and less sugar--but you've got to be willing to set some limits.
"I'm so stressed out during the holidays."
Think about all the ways in which you typically over-extend yourself this time of year.
How can you dial that back?
Do you need to do all the parties, the shopping, the baking, the hosting, the decorating, and the volunteer work that you have done in the past?
This is your life. You get to decide (at least to a large degree) how you want to spend your time.
It’s okay to keep things simple.
Keep the things that really matter to you and let some of the rest go.
Make a list for yourself of things that you will say no to this year. Say no kindly, firmly, and absolutely unapologetically. Let others know that you are keeping things simple this year.
"BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FOOD…IT’S EVERYWHERE!"
Deep breath. I get it. It is everywhere and it can be hard to resist.
Know that you don’t have to resist all of it—no way!—but placing limits on yourself is ultimately going to feel much better.
What are the foods you absolutely must have in order to feel that you fully enjoyed the holidays? Is it pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, your Mom’s sugar cookies, and eggnog and rum at the neighborhood party? Awesome. Know that these are your non-negotiables and savor them without guilt.
Anything and everything else though is negotiable!
You will want to manage the rest of your holiday indulgences thoughtfully. A few of my favorite tricks are:
Focus on adding protein. Try having a high protein snack prior to an event and/or focusing more on the protein options at the event. Protein has actually been shown to reduce sugar cravings so use that to your advantage.
Go for the real foods—the veggie platter, high quality cheese, nuts, and fruits.
Be aware of the less obvious hidden sugars in sauces, processed foods, etc. A lot of foods that we don’t think of us as sugary are full of sugar—non-fat yogurts, dried fruits, juice, condiments, bread, and other processed grains.
Make sure you are hydrated. Drink more water than normal and drink water between alcoholic beverages.
If you’re baking, experiment with some low sugar options (like these 4-ingredient brownies). Bake with purpose—know what you will be serving/bringing to an event and what you will be giving away—don’t leave much to keep around the house if it’s a struggle for you not to overeat.
Give yourself either/or options--"Which do I want more--the fudge or the cheesecake?" and hold yourself to one over the other.
A series of small changes in the way that you do things around the holidays can make a big difference in your ability to make decent food choices and minimize the stress level.
And remember that when you reduce your stress level, you will most likely reduce your cravings and VICE VERSA. Yep, it goes both ways and it’s all good…less stress, less sugar, and more joy.
What do you think? Have you tried any of these ideas in the past or are you willing to try them this year? What are some other tricks and tips that have been helpful for you?
Want some extra support during the holidays? I’m now offering email coaching! It’s a great option for someone who doesn’t want to spend the time (or the financial resources) on traditional scheduled coaching.