Here’s A Holiday Survival Tip: Lower Your Standards


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This may be the least motivating post I’ve ever written in the history of this site, but you guys: IT NEEDS TO BE SAID. I am really getting sick of reading the same old magazine articles with recycled tips and tricks about how to stay healthy during the holidays. That is not to say that I am above ever needing a good tip, or to say that some of them are not quite useful tips, but more that I am bored of hearing someone tell me that if I would just drink a big glass of water or eat a high fiber snack before my favorite annual Christmas party that I will magically forget how good deep fried mini-crab cakes and pumpkin cheesecake taste.

I’m sorry Fitness Magazine, but I have the memory of an elephant whether I am properly hydrated or not.  And food memories are powerful things.

When I was 21 and living in Los Angeles with my cousin Kelly and my gay husband Fredo, I had what I consider a moment I will never forget with a pumpkin cheesecake and indulge me while I tell about it. You see I was managing a coffee shop by day and by night I was participating in extracurricular activities that involved imbibing and inhaling and surely some other verbs that begin with the letter ‘i’ that I can’t quite remember right this second.  One night Kelly — who conveniently worked at the Costco right behind our apartment — brought home one of those ENORMOUS pumpkin cheesecakes that only Costco can sell while keeping a straight face.

We unwrapped it like it was a gift from the Baby Jesus himself and ate it straight out of the cardboard box that had originally contained it with no regard for manners whatsoever. Emily Post would have been horrified at the sight of us and probably even more so when we had had enough and we put away what was left of the cheesecake carcass (half eaten it still took up the whole top shelf of the refrigerator.) And because we were resourceful young whippersnappers, most concerned with kitchen efficiency, WE LEFT OUR FORKS IN THE CHEESECAKE.  And then we spend the rest of the week doing individual cheesecake drive-bys until the entire thing was gone.

I mean, it just made so much blissful sense at the time.

These days I’d never even bring one of those cheesecakes into my house, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a nostalgic little chuckle every single time I pass them in the refrigerator case during my weekly Costco run almost TEN YEARS LATER. Sometimes I consider snagging one for old times sake. I’ve certainly enjoyed a slice or two over the last decade at holiday parties and such (but with much less abandon, I promise.) And the thing about each time I off-road and enjoy that holiday treat, is that what warms my belly most is the memory of that time and place in my life when everything was so full of…well, LIVING!  No it was not the nutritional highlight of my life, but it was a highlight. And those are important too! And this is why I am growing so exhausted lately when I hear people groaning about trying to “be good” or worrying about how to make up for “being bad” with their food intake this time of year.

The holidays are a tough time to be healthy even for the most disciplined. And while I’m not advocating for everyone to just go off the rails for the next month and a half, I will tell you that as a fairly disciplined person myself I understand the struggle.  But I also don’t think every interaction with food during the weekends of November and December needs to have a strategy.

Everyday I try to eat a good breakfast. I prep myself healthy snacks and I enjoy them. I plan my meals with good intentions. When I have the opportunity to eat something green, I chow down! I drink a glass of water for every glass of wine, and while the wine opportunities are much more often during these months, I generally feel comforted by the fact that I try to do my best. I try to do my best everyday, not just during the holidays. So I am 100% ok with the fact that My Best during November and December looks a little different than My Best during the month of January.  And knowing that is a treat in itself. Everything is heightened this time of year and I don’t feel the least bit bad about lowering my standards.  If you are freaked out in the moment about lowering your standards, and have a hard time letting yourself off the hook, here are some things to think about:

*Pat yourself on that back for how far you’ve come, mentally and physically
*Get excited about where you are going, this year and next year.
*See the big picture.
*High five yourself for being willing to think big and work hard and don’t spend a minute beating yourself up for an indulgence here and there.
*Remember that this is real life and a night filled with min-crab cakes is not going to unravel everything

Then choose your indulgences wisely and then don’t give it another thought!

Clink a glass of your choice to your families and friendships. Toast to happiness and especially to the health that you work so hard for every single day of the year. Those pumpkin cheesecake filled moments with the ones you love are priceless and they won’t be around forever. Things change, lives change and who wants to be hand wringing over a glass of champagne or a bite of cheesecake when they can be laughing just a little bit too loud with an old pal. Sometimes we do ourselves a favor by lowering our standards.

This season, I hope you enjoy yourselves and your families.  Do your best to make good decisions — and that will look different for everyone. It has looked different for me every year since I went Paleo.  Trust your body to let you know if it needs a little detox or if it needs another bag of chips. And then tomorrow, get right back to it like you always do.

Worst advice ever? Who knows. But it’s how I’m being nice to myself this season. Have you thought about how you are going to be nice to YOU?

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