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making it through the holidays unscathed

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I didn’t do so hot during the holidays last year.

I took on too much. I forced myself to be too much to too many different people. I had unrealistic expectations for myself, my weight loss and my fitness goals. My family was kinda in shambles (read more about that here). I was stressed about traveling. I made the really unintelligent decision to handmake all of our Christmas gifts at the last-minute. And it all ended in a whole bucketload of end-of-year emotional failure. There was a hefty dose of binge eating (and drinking) and there were more than a few nights that ended in tears. It was not the most joyous time of year. Even though I so desperately wanted it to be.

What did all of this mean? Well it meant that I regressed. I’m no longer the person that needs to eat three dozen sugar cookies, a small truckload of Swedish meatballs and drink a vat and a half of spiked drinks to feel better about themselves. But when the world started closing in, old Cass popped right back up and said, “I’m here! Let’s do this party right. Gimme a drink.” I think I polished off half of a pumpkin pie and a whole bottle of wine on my own on Thanksgiving evening after going to dinner with my grandmother (who died in June) and my parents.

I should have known it was going to be the start of a rough holiday season.

But instead of recognizing what was happening and stopping it, I let it be the start of six weeks of sad, out-of-control, overwhelmed me.

I still remember the day that it “clicked” that I had fallen back into my old ways. We stayed with Babyface’s parents a few days post-Christmas and I remember waking up one morning and feeling like hell. I’d gotten a little too merry with the eggnog the night before. I suddenly had a horrible cold. I felt depressed. I had no energy. And finally something registered with me. For the past 6+ weeks I’d been on a downward spiral. Driven by pressure (self-imposed and outward), I’d latched onto one of the few things I could control: eating and drinking.

My thought process was that because I was working hard/making everyone happy, I deserved this extra serving of mashed potatoes, right? I had control over that reward system and that felt good. I didn’t have control over the fact that my parents were miserable being caretakers for my grandmother. I didn’t have control over the fact that I had to go back to work in three days. I didn’t have control over the fact that so-and-so didn’t like their gift. I didn’t have control over the fact that the winter light was making my photography look like ass. But food! Now that was something I could control. Control it all the way from the dessert table into my tummy.

But on that morning, when I woke up feeling terrible, I realized I could control it the other way, too. I could control my food in a way that made me feel better and happier and more alive. And having that kind of control was more liberating and exciting. So I sprung out of bed and declared that we were going to the grocery store because this was not acceptable. And right then, the cookies stopped and the green monsters started.

I refuse. REE-FUSE to let Thanksgiving and Christmas get the best of me this year.

Thanksgiving is in 19 days. And I’m starting to plan now. I want to enjoy my holiday season. I want to lay on the couch with Babyface, listen to Straight No Chaser, look at the twinkling lights and tear up because I am so in love with my life, my husband and this season (this has happened before).

I’ve shared a few of my tips for staying on track during the holidays over on Anytime Health, but this is much bigger than conquering the too many cookies/not enough time to get to the gym issues. Sure, that is part of it, but also part of it is about being me and taking care of me. Sure, I can take care of other people by buying them the perfect gift or hand-frosting cookies, but what does that matter if I’m an emotional and physical mess at the same time?

The road to health is an interesting path. All the commercials, ads, and reality TV shows make you think it’s a straight line, bee-lining for this absolute point on the horizon named “health.” But the truth is, health is this constantly moving and changing point in your world that you can never actually land on. Sure you can get close, but health is less about getting to a specific black and white place and more about figuring out how you have to change and adjust and observe and reflect.

I will never be able to say, “I am healthy.” But I hope I’ll always be able to say, “Today was healthier than yesterday.” And I certainly hope that I’ll be able to say that this holiday season was more physically—and emotionally—healthier than the last.

To a guilt-free, happy, healthful and love-filled holiday season!

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

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8 Responses
  1. Jocelyne

    You, know I am an alcoholic in recovery (3.5 years!) and it’s interesting to me how you used food to deal with emotions the same way I used alcohol. (Although after the drinking stopped on came the food an 90 lbs because I had yet to find a way to deal with being myself…)
    There’s a huge amount of liberation in just saying “No” to taking on too much, to setting boundaries, to trying above all to maintain a balance in live/work/love. I learned early on in recovery that I had to start being a little selfish and take care of myself first, and that was really weird and scary for a codependent person such as myself.
    This post resonates with me because it makes me think and feel a little bit proud of myself for realizing that I have, for the most part, let go of that agony of trying to be everything to everybody while slowly killing myself.
    Here’s to taking care of yourself this holiday season!

  2. I’m doing a Holiday Health Challenge from this Sunday until Christmas to keep my healthy habits in check over the holidays.

    This is a terrible time of year for me and I always tend to over-indulge thinking “it’s just once a year” but really it’s practically 2 months a year, every year. And it kills me every time.

    No wonder we have to make resolutions for ourselves on January 1st! We practically make ourselves sick with over indulgence. I don’t want that to happen. I want to be healthier come January 1st!

    Anyway, feel free to join in the Holiday Health Challenge!

  3. Yeah. I kinda had a meltdown the week before Christmas last year. I vowed not to do that again this year. I’m convinced that better planning can curb that. Good luck, my friend!

  4. My husband and I both live far away (other side of the country) from our families and I see this as both a positive and a negative. Negative for the obvious reasons of not being able to celebrate with family during the holidays but a positive because we don’t have to deal with the stress that usually comes with the holidays. I love that if I don’t feel like cooking or attending a big dinner(s) I don’t have to. We have our own little traditions and enjoy our time together.

    I think you have a great plan for this year!

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