The 12 Days of Holiday Health. Did you know that the 12 Days of Christmas start ON Christmas Day, not after?! Even though the holidays are over, the diet talk about New Year’s Resolutions begins.  At your holiday gatherings, you probably heard “I shouldn’t be eating this!” Or, “I’m being bad today!” Or the ever common, “I’m definitely getting back on track in January.” Even if you’re not “dieting” over the holidays, it can feel almost impossible to get out of that mindset with diet culture everywhere. This year, let’s break the habit.

In that spirit, here are 12 Days of Holiday Health, that have very little to do with food, but everything to do with healthy holiday relationships:  with yourself, family, friends, and food alike.

On the First Day of Holiday Health, set your alarm daily for a 2-minute mindfulness practice.

Headspace and Calm have popular apps, but you don’t really need anything more than a timer and a quiet space for yourself. Spend those 2 minutes focused on listening to your breath. When your mind wanders (as it surely will), bring your attention back to your breath. It’s really that simple. Check off Day 1 by setting the alarm on your phone right now!

On the Second Day of Holiday Health, tell one person, “I’m focusing on taking better care of myself this holiday season.”

Affirm your choice to care for yourself, in addition to caring for others during the holidays. It’s easy to forget the importance of self-care, but speaking it out loud can have a significant impact on your choices daily. And you might even inspire others to do the same, creating a culture of health around you.

On the Third Day of Holiday Health, throw the calorie counting apps out the window.

Delete the app and commit to a focus on your hunger and fullness, rather than the number of calories an app tells you to consume. Instead, notice your hunger before a meal. Are you hungry? Could you rate your hunger level on a 0-5 scale?

On the Fourth Day of Holiday Health, schedule at least 10 minutes of exercise daily.

This can be as simple as a walk around the neighborhood or even a walk indoors if the weather is bad. Commit to taking better care of your physical and mental health daily and notice how you feel after you’re done. Try to find a consistent time to do this every day and put it on your calendar.

On the Fifth Day of Holiday Health, put your utensils down between every bite of food.

This simple task can bring a slowness to your meals that can increase your enjoyment and help you stay in tune with those hunger cues.

On the Sixth Day of Holiday Health, start a gratitude journal.

Put a piece of paper and pen next to your bed. Before going to bed each night, write the date and at least one thing you are grateful for from that day.

On the Seventh Day of Holiday Health, eat all of your meals and snacks seated at a table.

End holiday grazing by simply committing to eating while sitting down.

On the Eighth Day of Holiday Health, eat all of your meals and snacks off of a plate or out of a bowl.

No more mindless eating on the run!

On the Ninth Day of Holiday Health, spend a couple seconds at each holiday gathering noticing the taste of each food item you have selected.

Are the items you chose special to you? What do you like about them? Are they sweet, sour, salty, bitter…? Does the food remind you of certain people?

On the Tenth Day of Holiday Health, increase your daily mindfulness practice to 5 minutes.

Now that you’ve had some time to practice for 2 minutes, can you do more? If 5 minutes seems too long, can you include another 2 minutes practice at another time in your day?

On the Eleventh Day of Holiday Health, commit to zero “diet talk.”

This means, no conversations about foods being “healthy” or “unhealthy.” If people start talking in that manner, politely excuse yourself from the conversation. You don’t have to engage in that kind of negative talk, just because other people around you are.

On the Twelfth Day of Holiday Heath, look around at the holiday party and take special note of who is there.

Look at their faces and try to take a mental picture. Spending time enjoying loved ones is nourishing for the soul and can shift your focus on what is truly important about this time of year – our relationships.

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season and beyond.

Jennifer McDaniel

Jennifer McDaniel is a Registered Dietitian, Media Spokesperson, and co-author of Prevention's Mediterranean Table Cookbook. She and her team of Registered Dietitians aim to help their clients go further, make change last, and unlock their potential. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, and three young sons. If you are interested in working with Jennifer, please visit our contact page.