10 Tools to Take You Through the Holidays

Hope Stanger - Founder and Therapist, Therapy Beyond Walls

10 Tools to Take You Through the Holidays

I am sharing the "quick guide" to a talk I started to give fifteen years ago around this time of year. I still pass these tools on to clients each year. Wherever you are for Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas and New Year's (and any other holidays you might celebrate), use these as a way to help you stay balanced, calm, centered, nourished and loving yourself through the holidays.

10 Tools to Take You Through the Holidays

1. Take a Breath; Pause between bites:

Notice how much more important the food has become than your desire to connect with others in conversation.

Know you can have more to eat - Pause and Take a Breath. Now go over and talk to someone.

Go say hello to someone you haven't seen in awhile or someone you want to get to know. Yes, try it - we often turn to food to fill our own lack of confidence, and that's why it becomes a "secret" experience. The more we let ourselves reach out to others and believe we have something to say, the more we can fill ourselves with the joy of relationships and let go of mindless eating. Remember, everyone is really looking for the same thing - to connect and be connected.

If you are by yourself, take 5 minutes to do some deep inhales and exhales before going back for more food. Think of something or someone that fills you up inside (besides food) and makes you smile. OK, now Really think about that something or someone and let yourself feel that good feeling. Now you can go back for more food, if you're still hungry. You will find that you'll be able to appreciate what you are eating and be able take your time enjoying it. No need to rush or feel guilty - you are allowed you enjoy your food!

2. Drink water each day. Increase it during this time of year. It will both help satiate your hunger and move your digestive system through all the holiday foods.

Notice the difference it makes in your energy level. Even one glass can shift fatigue into vitality.

Notice any other changes, such as positive mood changes, a desire to eat less and feeling full more quickly.

The optimal water to drink daily to is half your body weight. For example, if you weight 150 pounds, half your weight would be 75, so you want to drink 75 ounces, or a little over 2 quarts a day (8 oz. per cup, so 8 cups is the goal). Even starting with 1 quart will help you feel so much better. Drink between meals, not with, as water with food slows down digestion.

3. Balance your holiday meals with your normal way of eating.

Have at least one meal a day that supports your body with balancing and energizing foods. Have this meal be a meal like the one you would normally eat the other 364 days of the year. If possible, sit quietly by yourself when eating this meal, and really tap into yourself while you eat. If you are with others, chew your food slowly and engage in an “active meditation.” Simply slow down your eating and see if you can taste, smell and experience yourself eating. No one has to know you're doing this, and being present with our food really helps us not to overeat. I have recommended this to so many clients, colleagues and friends with great results. See Step 4 for how to bring in your normal foods.

4. Surround and honor yourself with some of your typical foods. If you

are going away, pack a cooler with a few of your Core Foods. Yes, this Really works! My clients are so happy coming back from holiday vacations because they feel balanced. They were able to eat the special foods of the season with their families and friends and not feel bad at all, becuase they had some of their typical foods to keep them thriving. It's how we get our bodies to honor us; by honoring ourselves. When the body recognizes (on a cellular level) that you are still treating it with love and nourishment, it gives that right back to you!

If you normally eat steel cut oats for breakfast, bring a bag with you. Go to the market the first day you are there, and pick up a few foods that support your normal way of eating. If you are used to making smoothies, bring the Nutribullet with you as a portable blender. Make it super easy for yourself to do this. Whatever is typical for You is what you want to remember to bring in each day. If you have cereal in the morning at home, and it really works for you, and now you're having pancakes every day, have cereal one day to remember. If you love vegetables but your family doesn't, pick some up and make a salad.

This does not set you apart from others; in fact, by taking really good care of yourself, it allows for you to truly appreciate the holiday foods that you eat and know they are cooked with love, and you become more present with and connected to the people in your life because there is no negative self-talk going on. I have heard stories of family members wanting to have some of what the person brought with them! If a family member wants to try your food, let them into your world, too, but don’t have expectations. This is about taking good care of You. When you let your body 'recognize' some of what you typically eat, it stays in that zone and honors all your choices. So, the holiday foods that you do choose you can really enjoy.

5. Never skip a meal.

This is my number 1 recommendation for anytime we think we overeat or eat richer or more "fattening" foods.

Meals are usually skipped because we are “punishing” ourselves for being “bad” with food; now we must deprive ourselves to pay the piper.

Deprivation promotes unhealthy eating, and ultimately, weight gain and mood imbalance. We want to stay consistent in our eating during this time of year; Consistency creates Balance. Let go of the quick-fix diet mentality and go with the slow and steady nourishing food plan. We are allowed to be human and have some food adventures, and sometimes, that might include eating more than we thought we would. It's OK, and our bodies adjust to honor us if we don't overreact and stay calm. Love your body and she or he will love you back.

We are never “bad.” I've taken that word out of the food vocabulary, along with the word, "good." We just make choices each day. Honor that whatever food choice you make is the right choice and enjoy your next meal without guilt.

If you are too full to eat your next meal, take a break or eat a smaller portion.

6. Enagage in one calming, relaxing, balancing practice each day – Yoga,

Meditation, Deep Breathing or even a walk outside or great phone conversation with a friend are a few options. Whatever or whoever brings you back to yourself and reminds you of how magnificent you truly are is a perfect choice. Some of us get there in quiet ways and some like to connect with others to re-center. If one choice is not available, pick another. I always take a morning run the day of Thanksgiving, because it reminds me of who I am and the ability I have to feel good just by appreciating my legs moving and the smell in the air. Later on, when I'm at the Thanksgiving table, that run is still with me. I also have a friend I speak to every Thanksgiving at noon, and we laugh together and remember all the years of this phone call. He reminds me who I am, even when I'm with my family.

Even if you are very busy with holiday shopping, cooking and entertaining, take 5 to 10 minutes early in the morning or at night before bed to just “be” with you, without any noise or distraction. It's a great time to write a few words or sentences in a journal or notebook, stretch out on a mat, take a bath or just read a few pages of a juicy book. "You-time" balances "Other-time," and this is so important in being happy - balancing our inner space with our outer activities. All may be fabulous, but balance is the key to really feeling good.

To do a breathwork/meditation, you can sit, lie down or even stand - whatever is most comfortable for you. Now take some nice, deep inhales and exhales. Get in touch with how your body feels when you allow it to slow down and get “core connected.” When a thought comes in, just notice it and replace it with your breath. Do this for 5 or 10 minutes and you'll see the change in how you feel. I have a meditation available on the home page of this site that is my gift to you to bring in deep relaxation and self-love. Listen to it before bed, early in the morning or when you need to come back to yourself.

You can take this “feeling” and bring it into the rest of your day or night.

The more you give yourself this daily gift, the more you will have the energy and focus for the rest of your day.

7. Exercise for 30 minutes each day.

Our bodies were not designed to be sedentary; this is why we have legs!

Exercise this time of year is even more valuable in its ability to balance our moods, as we get our heart rates up and endorphins are released. It facilitates healthy digestion and elimination. And, it feels good! We are taking care of ourselves and accomplishing something by supporting our bodies in the process.

If you have an exercise you do regularly, continue with it. If you are out of town and not near your gym, see if you can use a family member’s guest pass.

Try some Winter holiday exercises, like ice skating, snow shoeing or taking a run or cross country ski with a friend or family member. Sharing a physical activity is an easy and fun way to spend time with even our more challenging relationships. We get out of ourselves and into the process, and bonding can occur through this experience. If exercise feel like a good way to chill from all the people activity, then solo is the way to go.

When you start to hesitate about getting out for your workout and turn to head for the kitchen, put your fleece and sneakers on and head out the door!

8. Make a list of things you’ve accomplished this year.

As the year closes, we tend to look to resolutions for the new year. These are all about what we feel we haven’t done well and want to alter. I'm not big on resolutions - they're set-ups for feeling bad and "not enough."

Why not stop to see all the wonderful, powerful ways in which we Have made forward movement in our lives.

Run through the past year in your mind; what actions, conversations and decisions brought you even a little bit closer to your goals and dreams? Write them down. No negative thoughts allowed. This is a time for personal acknowledgement.

Where did you make a difference in another person’s life? Even in a small way...you might think something you did or said was nothing but it could really have been a Huge help to another person, so count the littler things as well.

What did you let go of in your life that allowed you to move forward? This can include habits, relationships, a job, self-criticism, negative thoughts...

Where did you walk through your fear and venture ahead?

Write down even the smallest of actions…they count just as much!

Now look at it and Really take it in. Allow youself to receive.

9. Make a Gratitude list.

What are you grateful for this year?

Who are you grateful for this year?

How have those things helped shape your life this past year? What have you noticed about the people or things you are grateful for? Did they make you believe just a little more in yourself? Do you feel good about yourself when you focus on them? Do they shift you into a positive mood?

Sometimes even acknowledging a special sunrise or the trees outside your window can connect you to being grateful, present and in the moment.

What about yourself are you most grateful for?

Can you name another?

And one more??

10. Trust in Who You've Become this year and the choices you have made and make each day. Trust that your body will honor you. Trust that you ARE good enough. Trust that you Are Loveable. Trust all parts of you; the light and the shadow. Just TRUST. Trusting allows you to Believe, and believing allows you to Act, and Actions create new possibilities.

Have The Most Beautiful and Heart-Centered Holiday Season xox

If you are reading this....Thank You for being in my life - You make a difference :)

With Love,


Hope Stanger

Founder and Therapist, Therapy Beyond Walls

A New Model In Therapy

Healing Trauma, Relationships and Eating Disorders


Author, Weigh Your Words and Throw Away Your Scale!; The Jewish Woman's Guide to Losing Weight and Feeling Great


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