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Creating Healthy Habits between Thanksgiving and Christmas

We all know that new habits are not formed overnight. In fact, the most recent studies on this debatable topic showed that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit.  So, why not get a head start now?

Thanksgiving and Christmas time are associated with celebration, family, friends…and excessive calories. Now, Canadians have almost 3 months between these two major holidays – giving you plenty of time to build healthy habits, if you so choose. Americans, on the other hand, have a measly 4 weeks between Turkey Dinner #1 and Turkey Dinner #2, which could translate to 4 weeks of stress-induced eating patterns. BUT, it doesn’t have to – the time spent between Thanksgiving and Christmas may just be the perfect time to hone in on your short-term and long-term health goals and begin to tip the scales in your favor.  In my professional experience, having specific dates to work with when reaching your goals can really help give you the motivation you need to change those stubborn habits. Using these two holidays as a starting point and finish line may just be the perfect beginning to a healthier and happier new year.

Revisit your goals the day after Thanksgiving – I could have easily made this the day before Thanksgiving, but if I’ve learned anything in my years as a Dietitian, it’s to be realistic, and to allow people to associate food with positivity and guilt-free thinking. A traditional Thanksgiving meal – Turkey, roasted vegetables, stuffing, and of course the pumpkin pie – can actually be packed with nutritionally dense micro- and macro-nutrients. The challenge during this time of year is portion control. More often than not, we overdo it on at least one of the options at Thanksgiving dinner, especially if we’re celebrating multiple times over the course of the holiday weekend. SO, that’s why it’s important to regroup after the holiday and reset your goals for the upcoming month(s). Make some time after you’ve awoken from your turkey-induced slumber to plan ahead. What were your health goals this year? Did you achieve them? If not, what was your main obstacle? What can you do better this upcoming year? What are the first steps you can take to get you on the right path before January 2018?

Make your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) –  Be as specific as possible, and make your short term and long term goals measurable in ways other than the scale. For example, instead of saying you’d like to lose 5 pounds by December 25th, why not reframe it to make it fitness-focused. I plan to do 45 minutes of moderate intensity jogging, three times a week, for the next 6 weeks. Focus on steps to the goal, rather than just the goal itself.

Document, document, document – The power of the pen is underestimated. Seeing your goals written out can allow you to visualize them daily. Write them on a Post-It and stick them on the bathroom mirror, your computer screen, the refrigerator, your phone – whatever it takes. The more you see your goals, and write your goals, the more they will take front and centre when you’re tempted off the health and fitness path. Writing down your food plans for the day prior to consuming them is one of my favorite documentation tips. You may veer from your plan, but you will be more aware of the decision and hopefully be less likely to repeat the same mistake the next day.

Eliminate the “I’ll start tomorrow” Mentality – We always have the best intentions going into a new day with new goals, and there are definitely days where emotions, work, stress, or family obligations put a wrench in your perfectly laid out plan. Instead of writing off the rest of your day and starting tomorrow, start with your next meal or snack instead. Life happens, every second of every minute of every day, and part of the challenge of building new habits is learning how to overcome the urge to revert to the old ones. Can’t make it to the gym for your cardio session because the kids came home early from school? No problem, try finding a stair-based workout on Youtube you can do at home instead. Had an impromptu lunch at The Mandarin for work when you had packed your salad and protein? Not to worry, have the pre-packed lunch for dinner and drink plenty of water to flush out the extra salty lunch. You can always bounce back – tell yourself that daily.

This is the perfect time for building a healthy base for the upcoming year. Focus on your new goals starting after Thanksgiving, work hard at maintaining them, and by Christmas you will feel like a whole new you – ready to take on 2018 and make it the healthiest year yet!

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