Nutrition | POSTED December 24, 2022

Have You Been Naughty or Nice this Silly Season?

The silly season is about good food, family and fun. As wonderful as a time it is, it can inspire dread for those looking to maintain their hard-earned progress throughout the year. Well, don’t despair! Before we dive into today’ article, I’d just like to make three brief points.

  • Firstly, allowing yourself some leniency and resilience is important to the process of achieving your goals. You don’t always have to be moving in a forward direction and operating in perfect circumstances.
  • Secondly, consider that not every season is the time to push. The silly season can be stressful enough and we genuinely hope for people to simply enjoy it. Acute fluctuations in dietary intake and activity do not have to indicate future progress. 
  • Third and last, we would also like to mention that we can utilise the concept of temporal landmarks (or special times) to leverage motivation for change. New Year is one such landmark. A great read if you’d like to know more is this article linked below. The following quote summarises the author’s thoughts well:

“When temporal landmarks psychologically disconnect us from our inferior, past self and make us feel superior, we will be motivated to behave better than we have in the past and strive with enhanced fervor to achieve our aspirations [1].”

The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior

Suffice to say, we encourage people to relax a little these holidays and get excited to hit the new year with some fresh zeal for change! Today we will explore today four simple strategies with a quick view to the future (like next year) which will hopefully encourage you to have an enjoyable and less stressful holiday period.

These four simple strategies include:

  1. Staying active,
  2. Be satisfied but not silly,
  3. Setting boundaries, and
  4. Indulge in social interactions.

Staying active this season

We are big believers in regular physical activity, however our schedules can drastically change during the silly season. We would encourage people to think flexibly about their activity and consider either home workouts, exercise “bites” or other strategies. You might find the holiday period is the perfect time to dig into some more intensive house or garden work or might find a range of activities while on a holiday away from home!

Some simple ways to increase your activity outside of exercise and housework can include:

  • Daily walks with your family.
  • Travelling to somewhere nice to have a more scenic walk, maybe even ending with a picnic? Bondi to Bronte or the Blue Mountains come to mind here.
  • Buying a toy, ball or game that encourages physical activity where everyone can participate.
  • Trying out a new activity like kayaking.

There’s plenty of opportunities and no, you aren’t weird if you like to exercise in your time off. No one bats an eye if you brush your teeth or shower – exercise can be viewed as health maintenance. I often follow simpler and shorter “time-crunch” programs during the silly season as I still love to train, but I need the flexibility to accommodate for a more intense social schedule.

We have another article on home workouts if you need inspiration.

Be satisfied, not silly, this season

We will cover more about how to approach social settings involving nutritional decision making in our setting boundaries section however there are some immediate nutrition considerations we can make. The following points can act as guideposts for nutritional decision making.

  • Firstly, as much as possible, fill up on lean sources of protein and sources of fibre such as complex carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables. These should be your priority on every plate.
  • Secondly, try and keep to drinks that are low-calorie. Of course, we want you to sit back and enjoy a drink or two (if that’s what you do!) but as much as possible, juices and sweetened beverages can ideally be replaced with zero or low-sugar alternatives and water.
  • Lastly, consider your total daily intake, or better yet, intake over the context of a few days and what large events and meals you will be participating in. For instance, if I know I’m going out for a Christmas lunch, I will most likely not indulge in a particularly large breakfast or snack in between. That night, I might simply a small serve of lean protein and some vegetables if I’m still feeling peckish.

I might follow this pattern for a few days, limiting snacking and saving most of my meal-derived calories to allocate them to large meals at gatherings.

Setting boundaries

Boundaries are important and they help define simply put, what is okay by you. It’s common to feel pressured in social settings to engage in certain behaviours others are displaying. We can’t speak to cultural sensitivities or the nuances of things like hospitality and how that reflects another individual’s desire to give. That being said, fundamentally you are allowed to set your own boundaries about how much food you’ll put on your plate, alcohol you’ll drink and what level of activity you can practically participate in. 

You may also put boundaries on monitoring behaviour if that can be a pain point. For instance, you can choose during the silly season to forgo tracking your diet when outside of your usual environment. You may also simply choose to put a limit on how many times a week and how long you train at the gym (but still try to be active daily). This alludes back to our earlier point about simply maintaining this time of year. Being realistic about what you can actually do can help you stay positive, rather than feel unncessary guilty.

These boundaries help give you a sense of agency and control over your decisions. It’s also important to be clear about these boundaries to others when it comes time to explain why you may make certain decisions with your food, activity and other health promoting behaviours. As Brene Brown says: “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” There’s no need to feel guilty for setting boundaries. What you can practically say “yes” and what you say “no” to, helps shape your reality.

Indulge in social interactions this season

Social interactions are critical to everyone’s health. So much so that “We now have substantial evidence that social connection has a protective effect on health and longevity and, conversely, that lacking connection is linked to risk [2].”

One reason we get so excited about the silly season at Ivy Training is that we understand for many it’s a time to slow down and spend time fostering those rich and meaningful connections people have with one another. These connections really do seem to have a tangible impact on one’s health. For instance, a 2018 piece from the Annual Review of Psychology states that “Social neuroscience may provide a critical platform for further understanding the complex relationships between the brain and both physical and mental health” Additionally, “Over time, chronic experiences of social disconnection or connection may change the body — by upregulating or downregulating inflammatory dynamics [3].”

For myself personally, I love to train, but I understand that’s an incomplete picture of health if I focus on that alone. I make sure by allocating my time wisely, to engage in those rich social connections over the holiday period and for many such as myself, that includes having some great food, drink and conversations, guilt free! So, be active, eat well, but our challenge to you is to nurture those social connections. As cliche as it sounds, we believe balance is essential.

Come back stronger than ever

We want you to enjoy a rich and meaningful time away and that you hopefully come back refreshed and ready. There’s nothing wrong with kicking back and relaxing but hopefully you find these tips helpful as you move through the silly season. It doesn’t have to be a stressful time, but instead can be a time of renewal and refocusing. Come back in 2023 motivated to be stronger than ever before and if you think you’ll need a helping hand, you can contact us here.

References

  1. The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior (upenn.edu)
  2. Social ties and health: a social neuroscience perspective – PubMed (nih.gov)
  3. Why Social Relationships Are Important for Physical Health: A Systems Approach to Understanding and Modifying Risk and Protection – PubMed (nih.gov)