Metabolic health and the holidays
Last week we met for our support group and talked about how to approach the holidays when there can be a lot of temptations around food to break from healthy habits. Here are my top 8 strategies I take as I approach the holidays and look toward the next year.
- Remember your greater vision, and embrace what it looks like when (not if) you honor that vision. Identity is powerful. As James Clear discusses in his book, Atomic Habits, developing an identity around our goals helps us visualize and make sure we’re choosing a path that gets us closer, rather than farther away, from those goals. One example he give is two people who are working to quit smoking. When one person is asked if they would like a cigarette, they say “No thank you, I’m trying to quit.” When another is offered, they say “No thank you. I don’t smoke.” They may have both had their last cigarette 3 days ago, but the second person’s conviction is firm. The first person may not succeed in trying. As Yoda said in Empire Strikes Back, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
- Share your goals with family and friends with whom you are gathering over the holidays. If you’re working on making significant changes with a goal of improving your health, consider letting your people into your crew van. Talk to them about why this is important, so that if you avoid certain foods while enjoying others at the Thanksgiving table, they will not take offense. If you had food allergies, you would definitely avoid certain foods and it is perfectly acceptable. In this day and age with issues like allergies and intolerances and ways of eating, it is more acceptable to stay on your path even at a dinner with all the high carbohydrate/high glycemic temptations.
- Bring a side dish to share with others (and to enjoy yourself)! If you’re looking for some great keto-friendly options, I definitely recommend checking out Anna Vocino’s website or cookbooks (Eat Happy and Eat Happy Too). She has a sub stack, and you can follow her on Instagram too. Really good, healthy low-carbfood.
- Some people are into intermittent fasting as a method to support a lifestyle that helps metabolic health. Consider extending your fast on Thanksgiving. If you already eat low carb or keto, it will be easier to do this without overcompensating and overeating at and after the big meal. For more on an approach to intermittent fasting around the holidays, check out Jason Fung’s blog post on his website The Fasting Method, here.
- Be cautious with drinking alcohol. If you can avoid it, that is best for your metabolic health. If you are going to have a beverage, work to choose something that is lower in carbohydrate (a dry red wine or bourbon/whiskey, for example), and pay attention to the mixers if someone is making a mixed drink. In general, however, in addition to all the other things that alcohol does with our liver biology, it also lessens our inhibitions, so your vision may become blurred — not just in the moment, but in terms of your bigger goals and where you want to be with your health and life.
- Use your crew van and make sure you have people on board to help you (and keep you accountable). As an ultra-cyclist I use the concept of working with your crew a lot. These are the people that help the athlete race their bike across the desert or across the United States, they help keep you safe and get you to your goal. We can use these crew vans in our lives, the ultimate ultra event. Strategize with your physician, coach, best friend, family member. Anticipate what may arise in terms of challenges so that you’re ready come the big gathering. Lean on your support system. Be accountable.
- When you have a really big goal, make sure you also visualize the intermediate goals and measures of success. For example, someone training to run a marathon at a 9:30 per mile pace, who currently runs a 10:45 per mile pace will have a first success with shaving off the first 15 seconds. What does that look or feel like? For someone who wants to lose 50 lbs in the next year, what would losing 10 lbs feel like? Lose clothes? Less aches and pains in the knees and back? More energy? Embrace the intermediate milestones and markers of success. And celebrate them with your crew (see #6)!
- If you fall off the proverbial wagon, just get back on! Do not beat yourself up. Most importantly, do not use it as a reason to turn your back on healthy living and choices entirely. Just get. back. on. As podcaster/ author/ producer/ trainer/ entrepreneur Vinnie Tortorich used to say on his podcast: “It’s not about what you do between Christmas and New Year’s… it’s about what you do between New Year’s and Christmas that really matters.”