Coach’s Corner

Planning for the Holidays on a Health Journey

Why I’m Keeping Coconut Milk in My Fridge

Posted in

Jeni O'Neill

November 14, 2023

Holiday Feast
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    With a little thought, planning, and intention, you can savor the holidays (indulgences included) without compromising your health progress. It’s possible to relish the season, enjoy delicious foods, AND feel great on January 2nd.

    Coffee with whipped cream and christmas lights

    How do you want to feel on January 2nd?

    I relish a Christmas morning tradition: freshly whipped cream in my coffee.. While I may claim that I make it for the kids to put on their fruit, it’s really for me. I look forward to sipping it by the tree during this special time with my family. With every creamy, sweet sip, it says, “Today is a Celebration.”

    However, this year, I’ve committed to going dairy-free. What?!?!

    Yes, even on Christmas, I plan to be dairy-free. I’ve learned lately that dairy is not serving me. Since I’m on a gut-healing protocol, I’ve been advised to avoid it for a few months. What’s a girl to do?

    Do the holidays tempt you to abandon your health goals?

    You’re not alone! I hear this from clients all the time. And yes, health coaches are people too; we also struggle when faced with the combination of health challenges, food-centric celebrations, hectic schedules, and expectations. Thankfully I have a supportive coach myself who helps me to process what to release, what to maintain, and what is non-negotiable during this hectic time of year. That’s what I hope to help you do today!

    Let’s delve into how you can strike a balance between celebrating, indulging, and maintaining your well-being this holiday season.

    1. Get clear about what brings you joy during the holidays

    Coffee beside christmas tree

    Take a few minutes to write down at least 5 moments that you love about the holidays.

    What do you look forward to? What is special to you about this time of year? Some broad areas might include attending religious services, enjoying the holiday lights and decorations, or spending time with relatives that you don’t often see. For this exercise, you’ll want to define a specific point in time, e.g. seeing your spouse cook something you enjoy, watching your kids come down the stairs, seeing Christmas lights in a certain place, or a specific part of an activity or event that you enjoy.

    Some personal examples for me are: hugging my kids when they arrive home from college; early morning coffee and advent reading by the Christmas tree, spending time with relatives that I don’t see often, singing Silent Night by candlelight at church, and whipped cream in my coffee on Christmas morning.

    These don’t have to be mountaintop experiences, just the moments that you enjoy most during the holidays. What do you look forward to?

    Make a real list and have a little fun with it!

    Pick a spot to keep your list – either paper or digital – preferably near your other holiday plans. You could even dictate it into your notes app on your phone. I like Evernote. Use what works for you!

    This exercise is quick and you won’t regret it!! It just takes a few minutes of digging deep about what specific moments YOU love about the holidays.

    Look through your list and see what you notice.

    Do more of your moments happen alone or with others? If they involve food, what is it about that particular food or tradition that makes it special?

    There may be 1-2 treats that you enjoy only this time of year, but I’ll bet that most of your list involves spending time with friends and family, attending religious services, taking in the splendor of lights and decorations, and enjoying holiday traditions.

    Notice what’s NOT on your list.

    Champagne Holiday FeastYour list may help you to see that some traditions are not that important to you. Or you may notice that you really don’t need to do or eat what you’ve always done or eaten in order to get full enjoyment of the moment.

    For example, one client realized that while she really looked forward to having a drink with relatives over the holidays, it wasn’t the alcohol that was important; the ritual of making a drink and spending time with family were the important pieces of the tradition. She found that creating a fun mocktail was just as satisfying. She also noticed that the awareness of the moment as something special made it all the more enjoyable.

    Your favorite holiday moments can be your guide as you seek to enjoy the holidays and avoid the excess that can wear you down.

    2. Know Which Health Goals You Want to Maintain During the Holidays

    Make a list of which of your health goals are non-negotiable for you, even during the holidays.

    These are just some ideas. Again, it’s important to decide what is important to YOU. My clients often want to:

    • Stick with their exercise routine
    • Limit alcohol during the holidays
    • Avoid foods that are triggering for them
    • Continue to eat 6-9 servings of vegetables per day
    • Eat 80% real food

    Think about which goals are a must for you and which ones are you willing to bend or break.

    We may think that it’s realistic to set a certain goal, but sometimes writing it down helps us to see that we need to allow for some exceptions this time of year. Or, if our goals are very important to us, we might decide that it’s worth it to continue with a goal even through the holidays.

    Actually write them down!

    Writing down your intentions is a very important step. We are more likely to achieve a goal if we write it. Telling others about our intentions is also a great way to increase our motivation to stick with it.

    Once you have your intentions in hand, you can…

    3. Identify Your Obstacles

    Woman Writing A list

    What challenges might you experience in working toward the goals that you’ve written?

    Write these down too! Perhaps busy weekends might derail your meal-planning habits. Or holiday parties could tempt you to drink more alcohol than you’re comfortable with. Maybe it’s your to-do list that could encroach on your workout time. It’s important to be honest with yourself about what might keep you from doing what you really want to do.

    For each of your goals above, write down the obstacles you think are likely to get in the way.

    4. Brainstorm Your Solutions

    What ideas do you have for how you might work around the obstacles above?

    Planning is the key to success when navigating obstacles that may derail our goals. It’s time to turn on your problem-solving skills. I find that my clients, given an opportunity to really process and talk through an obstacle, come up with their own best solutions. We know ourselves best! Here are a few to start you thinking…

    Example 1: Your goal is to not drink alcohol during the week, but you’re invited to a work event on a Tuesday. You know you’ll be tempted to have a glass of wine (or 3) unless you have a solid plan. You might think about…

    • Treating yourself to some Apothekary herbal elixirs that can ease you into the evening, reduce stress, and still help you to be fresh for those Wednesday morning meetings
    • Looking online for a fun mocktail recipe to bring
    • Pairing up with a friend who also wants to go alcohol-free that night and brainstorm together on how you might make it fun sans-alcohol
    • Decide to stick with seltzer and lime
    • Checking out a local alcohol-free beverage shop. We have one – Point 5 – in the Richmond area now. I can’t wait to check it out!

    Woman holding coffee with whipped cream
    Example 2: Your goal is to stay gluten and dairy-free during the holidays because you know (or are trying to figure out if) they are triggering for you. You’re invited to a local Italian restaurant for a party. You might think about….

    • Checking out the menu ahead of time to see what options will be available
    • Calling the restaurant to ask if they might be willing to prepare something you enjoy that fits into your plan
    • Eating before you go and enjoying a lighter meal that serves you with less temptation
    • Bringing a square or two of dark chocolate (or gf/df treat) to enjoy when the desserts come around
    • Bring some veggies in a small container to pop on your plate next to the protein you order

    Sometimes we do have to challenge our own expectations and the expectations of others when we are caring for ourselves, holidays or not. Restaurants are especially accommodating these days and are used to working with customers around their dietary restrictions. With a few minutes of research or a phone call, you might be surprised to find a delightfully tasty meal that fits into your plan.

    Example 3: You have a workout routine that is working for you, but you see the upcoming weeks look hectic and threaten to derail your usual workouts. You might consider how you could still get in your workouts, while not missing out on the holiday fun by….

    • Swapping in a 12-minute sprint workout in place of your usual hour at the gym. These can be done anywhere!
    • Asking for walking meetings instead of Zoom calls where appropriate
    • Looking up an online class that you could fit into your day. FitOn (link) is a free app that has a huge library of workouts for any level, preference, AND time constraints.
    • Plan ahead to participate in a local Turkey Trot or other active holiday event with family or friends
    • Scheduling your workouts on your calendar and keeping them as an appointment with yourself – just like you would with someone else!

    Example 4: Your meal prep time on the weekends has been helping with enjoying healthy, fresh meals during the week, but you see holiday weekends on the calendar are filling up! You might think about…

    • Trying out a meal kit service like Green Chef (link) for a week (or 3) to get you through this busy season AND get healthy meals on the table
    • Brainstorming 10 easy meals that will keep you on plan. On index cards, write the recipe on one side and the ingredients on the back.
    • Shuffle these each week as your go-to meals, ordering groceries online and picking them up every Monday night after work. Make sure this is on your calendar so you’ll remember!
    • Blocking off one night during the week to grocery shop and do some meal prep
    • Trying a meal planning service like PrepDish to eliminate decision fatigue and give you some structure around meal planning and prep.
    • If you need more ideas in this area, check out this article on meal planning.

    So, what about the whipped cream?

    Health coaches are not immune to health derailment during the holidays!

    So, back to my dairy dilemma…

    Finding substitutes is KEY when making dietary changes. Since I’ll be avoiding dairy this Christmas, I’m on a quest to find a suitable alternative.

    It’s time to roll up my sleeves and embark on a whipped coconut cream experiment. Apparently, this involves keeping the coconut milk (or coconut cream) in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before whipping. I’ve tried this before without much success, but have found a few new recipes to try. Stay tuned and I’ll share what I find out!

    I’m looking forward to finding a way to enjoy an indulgence in my coffee that won’t derail my goals. That’s a big win!

    In addition to finding a whipped cream substitute, I’m committing to getting back onto the meal planning wagon and am hunting for some treats to enjoy during celebrations that will help me stay on track.

    These truffles are one of my favorite treats to take to a party, because they’re super easy and delicious.

    This recipe for Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake from the Paleo Running Mama looks amazing and I’m planning to take it to (at least one) holiday gathering.

    I hope that these ideas have given you some inspiration to make time to include some health planning in your holiday festivities.

    How will you plan to enjoy the holidays while taking care of yourself this holiday season? Reach out on Instagram or Facebook to let us know – and be sure to share your favorite healthy recipes with the community!


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