Willpower: How to Stay on Track This Festive Season


Written by Leanne Blackman

December 1, 2018

The holidays are fast approaching, and what does that mean for most of us? Food, food and more food! What we eat and drink traditionally plays a big part in the festive season.

Fruit mince pies, spiced mulled wine, pavlova, yummy cheese and crackers, honey glazed ham, grandma’s stuffing, buttered mash potatoes…this type of food generally evokes a positive sensory memory, giving us those warm fuzzy feelings of contentment, but at what price? Those same foods may also play havoc with your body.

This is the time of year where many of us struggle with temptation and new found habits begin to weaken. And, for those of you that have found yourself halfway through Phase 2, it can be especially tough. But it isn’t impossible to stay on track. Here are a few tips to help you survive this period:

Plan Ahead and Get Organised!

This can be a very stressful time of year – end of year work deadlines, Christmas shopping, unexpected visitors, endless social gatherings, late nights…they all take a toll. By the time Christmas has come about we may have spent all our self-control handling these stresses, meaning we have little left at the end of the day for sticking to our healthy eating resolutions. Having a plan to get through this time will go a long way in helping us to make good choices when it comes to the food we eat, even when we might be feeling drained or vulnerable.

One area where we might all benefit from a little planning is with food for the big day itself. If you are the host, menu planning is essential – look for wholesome, real ingredients and create a menu that highlights steamed, baked, or sautéed vegetables with fresh herbs and roasted grass-fed proteins. When it comes to sweet treats, decrease the amount of added sugars by focusing on those sweet summer fruits. Don’t forget about all those glorious good fats – they keep us fuller for longer and add sensational flavours to all our meals.

The web is filled with wonderful recipes with some great real food substitutions for Christmas Day classics. These recipes will help you keep motivated to stay on track and not be tempted with foods that you know will not leave you feeling the best.

Here are some quick and easy recipe ideas:

If you are looking for recipe books I am loving these for under the Xmas tree:

If you are a guest, speak to your host early and discuss your food requirements and maybe even offer to bring a healthy platter for everyone to share. Remember that it is okay to eat differently to others. Take pride in your choices and celebrate when you conquer your social insecurities and are able to be open and enthusiastic about your individual food choices. Your body is yours to nourish as you see fit.

Keep it Simple

With so much going on at this time, it is so easy to feel overwhelmed. We rush about and fall in the trap of fast, mindless eating and poor decision making. The simple act of slowing down, taking the time to make considered food and drink choices and  mindfully eating and drinking will help build willpower.

We want to empower ourselves and focus on the choices we can make to help us reach our health goals. This positive mindset will increase our desire to make the right decisions. We don’t want to fear this holiday period – we want to have the courage to make the right decisions, be clear of what we really want and identify how best to get it.

We often see two very different scenarios during holiday time – those that are able to commit 100% to making good food choices and those of us that have thrown our hands up in the air in total defeat, eating everything and anything in sight,  gorging to capacity and beyond. The latter can carry this food binge for weeks, struggling with feelings of guilt and shame. But, if you’re stuck between restriction and bingeing, you are not alone either.

So, let’s give up on the idea of perfection and make wise choices for our own individual body. A good way to practice this is to avoid getting too caught up with heavy food restrictions during this time. Maybe try focusing on three things that you want to accomplish during this period, for example: sleep 8 hours a day, stay away from known inflammatory food like highly processed foods, wheat and dairy, and remain active every day. Focus on these three goals and feel good about yourself for sticking with them. We often restrict ourselves way too much and then chastise ourselves when we fail. Remember, keep your attention on what you want to do – whatever your goals, focus on the positive actions you need to take to get there.

At the end of the day, you know YOU the best! Stop buying the food that you know you can’t resist and don’t cook so much – having days and days of leftovers can leave us feeling burdened with consuming all leftovers in sight. If you struggle with your food impulses, learn to control and change your own environment. This is the time to actively take steps to change your behavioural patterns rather than repeating past patterns and expecting a different result.

It is also a perfect time to work on our self-awareness. Try creating a positive foundation with meditation, or by beginning a gratitude diary, goal setting, relaxing with essential oils or tapping – reducing our stress will ensure we feel more in control during this time.

Remember the ‘Why’

And most importantly, remember *why* you are wanting to make these changes, which should be oh so simple! We want to feel good and be the best possible version of ourselves. It may be hard to stop eating our favourite, comforting foods and to give up those rewarding treats, but we have a long life – why live it unhealthy? If you put this hard work in now, your body will respond beautifully.

We can choose to feel deprived, or we can view this time as an opportunity – a time to focus on nourishing our body, try new recipes and be diligent with our choices. Think of how you feel after making wise decisions and eating foods that make you feel WELL.

You may find it helpful to try and shift your mindset and focus on the true joy of Christmas – precious time celebrating with friends and family – without losing sight of our end goals. It’s time to let go of past feelings of deprivation and focus on this amazing opportunity to take control of our own health. Always remember that your health is up to you!

Happy holidays! Here’s to a happy and healthy 2019!

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