Pardon the funky color. Dark kitchen, late afternoon. Dear Photo Nerds: 50mm, f1.4, iso 1600.

Don’t you worry, my holiday diet plan consists of plenty of culinary delight! I love fudge. I love butter mints. I love hot chocolate. I LOVE cheesecake. Aaaaaaand I have to have at least one cup of eggnog before the season feel’s complete (even though I’d hardly call myself a fan of the stuff).

You know what I also love? My waistline, AND feeling healthy: mind, body, spirit. I love feeling comfortable and confident, bright and clear minded.

Real confidence and clarity come from truly caring for myself–physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

One of my goals this month is to be moderate. I want to enjoy the holidays, and food is one of my very favorite enjoyments! BUT I don’t want to eat myself sick. I DON’T want to eat myself numb. And I certainly don’t want to eat my way all the way into the month of February!

With SO.MANY.GOODIES lying around this time of year, we’ve got to fight hard to even the scales! Again and again (and again!) I am NOT advocating deprivation. I’m not advocating dieting or calorie counting. Not at this time of year! And I’m certainly NEVER an advocate for guilt! What AM I advocating? MODERATION.

Simple Tips for Holiday Health:

Eat breakfast! Eating breakfast helps you stay full throughout the day, so that when it is time for meals, you’ll make healthier choices. I recommend a breakfast high in protein.

Stock up! Chop fruits and veggies for easy access. You’ve got nearly unlimited access to poor health options this time of year. Give yourself an alternative! A lot of the time, I find I simply eat what’s right in front of me, not necessarily because it’s what I WANT to be eating, but because it’s so accessible! Watch out if all I have easy access to all month is toffee and candy canes. You’ll need a crane to lift me into the new year . . .

Stay hydrated! If you do nothing else for yourself every day, hydrate! It makes a bigger difference in your overall health than you can imagine! Plus, it fills you up and keeps you from eating an entire roll of cookie dough. Stock up on water (or buy a good reusable bottle). If possible, opt for alkaline options, aka artisan water.  Fiji is my fave!

Plan ahead! Know your day is going to be nuts? Prepare meals and snacks the night before! I cannot stress this enough! If you allow yourself to get too hungry, you will be forced to make a nutrition decision from that state of mind/body–it will be  MUCH harder to make a decision that will really serve your overall health. Plus, getting too hungry is bad for your blood sugar and makes you a Moody Mildred.

Exercise! Get a workout buddy or simply find someone you can report to! Even if you only spend 5 minutes dancing to Jingle Bell Rock! You’ve got to get yourself moving, every day!

Eat a cookie–for crying out loud! Want some of Aunt Mildred’s chocolate walnut fudge?? For Heaven’s sake, eat some! Just don’t eat the entire pan. . .  Depriving yourself at this time of year isn’t fun. . . or very realistic. Most of the time, deprivation simply leads to overeating at some point in the future. Have a piece or two of fudge, and then move on to the vegetable tray. Side note: You’ll find that the more you fill yourself with healthy alternatives to sugar, the less you’ll actually crave the stuff.

I truly believe that your body is an outward expression of an inward state of being. That said:

Simple Tips for Emotional Success:

Turn off the boob tube! Commit to cut down on TV time. I think TV is GREAT, but as with anything, excess isn’t a good thing. Find a book, write in your journal, cuddle up and spend some  time with your spouse in front of the fire. Don’t waste this beautiful month of joy and friendship and celebration completely tuned out on life!

Lights out! Set a bedtime, and STICK TO IT! In order to be at our best emotionally, we’ve got to be well rested! Keep in mind that as you become consistent with regular bed/wake times, your body is much more stable and calm overall. Every time you participate in mismanaged sleep, your body basically goes through a process of jetlag. That’s SO HARD on your system. Plus, you won’t have big dark bags under your eyes in all the holiday pics.

Write! If you want to really connect to what’s going on inwardly (in order to change or nourish what’s going on outwardly), you’ve got to connect with yourself. It’s time to stop burying problems in food. . . or successes and joys for that matter! If you feel something, feel it! Start to notice when you’re feeling the urge to eat something unhealthy, see if there is something going on mentally or emotionally that has triggered the urge to eat. There is a VERY good chance you are either trying to celebrate (reward) yourself or avoid something painful/difficult to face. Use your journal as a place to explore what you’re experiencing emotionally. SO many of us walk through this season (and life in general) emotionally numbed by food. . .never allowing ourselves to thrive emotionally (and thus, we don’t thrive physically either).

Say “thanks!” If you don’t want to journal your feelings. . . try writing down a list of gratitude each day. 10 things you’re grateful for (though, chances are, once you get going, you won’t stop at just 10). This is such a healthy exercise for our minds. It helps us retrain our thinking, so we’re more actively engaged in focusing on the positive rather than the negative–what a perfect frame of mind to commit to this time of year!

We can do this! Let’s prove that we CAN care for ourselves in any set of circumstances, and hit the ground running come 2012!