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Creating Healthy Boundaries During the Holiday Season

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Katie Leahy

RD, Stronger U Coach

Setting yourself up for success this holiday season means preparing for those potential scenarios that could be a trigger into the all or nothing bottomless pit. What boundaries can you set up for yourself to make sure this holiday season is one of the best ever? (Remember, YOU deserve it). What’s holding you back from living it up this holiday and going all out? 

Before you do anything else you must set up boundaries with yourself. Why do I say it this way? Boundaries are much more effective when you set them with yourself rather than for other people because you can only be accountable for you. Ask what needs to be different and think about what you actually want from the holidays this year.  For me, I need the PEOPLE! I missed my extended family whom I’ve shared the past three plus decades of holidays with, minus the exception of last year. For many of us, this time last year was anything but traditional. If we’ve learned anything over the past six months with increasing normalcy, it’s that it is way too easy to go from 0 to 100 in the form of food, drinks, and obligations.  

 

Routine Boundaries

How can you avoid letting your healthy habits slip during this time? Be confident that you know what behaviors/actions make you the happiest, healthiest and strongest version of yourself and prioritize them daily. After all, thanks to Stronger U, you have been working on habit-building for awhile. 

What can you keep steady during the craziest of weeks? One well-known nonfood stressful holiday scenario: time. Every day is busy, there will be an endless array of pop up events/opportunities, and before we know it this holiday whirlwind will sweep us right into the New Year. 

Consider the non negotiables you will carry over even on the busiest of days: 

  1. Hydration:
    • Fill up on water/fluids throughout the day to keep hunger at bay, energy up, and your foundation solid. When we’re well hydrated, we feel better.
  2. Movement:
    • Even if you can’t make it to the gym or a studio class, getting your steps in is enough to get your blood pumping and those feel good endorphins flowing. Consider making it a goal this season for a daily 10-minute walk, a little goes a long way and a small window of time trumps no time. Remember, a workout doesn’t mean you have to be dripping with sweat or sore for the next 48 hours. 
  3. Sleep/downtime
    • Say yes to the things you want to say yes to. You don’t have to take on every task you are given or accept every invite received. Really you don’t. Leave guilt in the dust as an over packed schedule causes more stress. If saying yes to one person, means you may be saying no to yourself with things important to you like sleep, exercise or sanity, reconsider. With the events that make the cut, set up a start/end time so that you have your own expectations preset to remind you to make the most of your time. This way you’ve already given yourself permission of when to closeout on your own terms so you can fit in all you want and need to. 

Food Boundaries

For me, I immediately think of the prompts, including the dozen of candy dishes sprinkled around my Aunt Ann’s house, Aunt Jane’s heavy pour, Uncle Tracy’s melt in your mouth brisket, and my mom’s abundantly frosted sugar cookies. These are just a few of my own well-known holiday food related opportunities for off-roading. What are yours? Establish first to troubleshoot ahead of time. 

  1. Holiday food edition of FOMO (fear of missing out).
    • Prioritize the foods you truly enjoy and eat them in portions that feel good to you. If you don’t like fruitcake or eggnog then skip it and leave it for those waiting all year for it. Walk away from the dessert table or the bar. I’ve even gone so far as to move my aunts candy dishes from my reach and place out of sight. Expect large volumes of highly palatable food and beverages, be picky about the splurge & indulgences so you enjoy and savor them even more without deprivation or guilt.
  2. For some families, food is love.
    • We know there are often generational and cultural differences at play, however, it’s your responsibility to clearly and kindly communicate what you need, but the way other people react is not your responsibility. And repeat. No thank you means no thank you for more food or options you do not want.
  3. Fill up with the fresh stuff to feel good.
    • Say that 3 times fast. Filling half your plate with veggies at lunch and dinner and eating a couple of pieces of fruit each day might help calm the nerves, keep you full for longer while lifting your holiday spirits.

Another scenario to prep boundaries for is the verbal flurry of conversations, opinions and interpretation on any topic under the sun. Even though my family steers clear of politics at gatherings, this could be a major trigger for some leading to more than one glass of spiked eggnog. Also if you’ve been working on weight loss, muscle build, or nutrition in any form, get ready for the questions from others to flow.  

Non-Food Boundaries 

  1. If someone notices your health and wellness efforts/transformation, immediately respond with a thank you.
    • If you don’t want to go any further explaining it, then choose not. Anticipate that back handed compliment or statement –My favorites from my past are “are you eating enough? You look thin”, “you’re going to eat that? Is that on your diet?”. Even though most don’t mean to be offensive, many individuals comments are actually projecting things that they are insecure about and it can certainly come off a bit bah humbug. At the end of the day, no one needs to know what you’re doing, eating or not eating UNLESS you want to talk about it. In that case, I will be happy to send you some SU business cards for you to pass out or make into name placement cards for the table. Seriously, I will send them to you. 
  2. Stay present.
    • While food is a major part of holidays, it is not the only part. Engage with the people that are with you. Reconnect. Put the phone down. Practice gratitude when eating and stay in tune with how your body is feeling. Notice the smells, flavors, textures, and satisfaction you get from the foods you’ve chosen. Take your time – savor it. Perhaps even create a holiday mantra to place on repeat that reminds you of your why this season- “I am grateful for this moment with my family and friends.” “I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now.” “I have enough, I am enough.” “I am bringing the joy”. 

 

Once you establish your boundaries, the last task is to write them down and perhaps share them with an accountability buddy (such as your SU coach, the SU community, or with a family member/friend). Have the assurance that you will always know what’s best for you and relaying this in a kind and supportive way to those you love will make a world of difference. This holiday season bring your self-confidence and a positive attitude to the table and it will be the best one yet. 

Just remember the best gift you can offer yourself this year is to keep boundaries strong, your routine steady and prioritizing gratitude so that you can continue moving towards that bigger picture while still enjoying this holiday season in the present.

 

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