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Rethinking Exercise During the Busy Holiday Season

December 19, 2023

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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

This time of year is so incredibly busy that exercise can end up being the last thing you want to do. You might be juggling holiday get-togethers, your kid’s class party or holiday concert, family gatherings, and all sorts of extra things that get added to our schedules this time of year. And I don’t know about you, but I find it hard enough to fit workouts into my schedule on a normal day, let alone this time of year. 

In this episode I am going to help us (myself included) rethink our approach to exercise during this busy season. My goal is that we can get creative and have fun with it, so that it doesn’t end up just feeling like another chore on your endless to-do list. 

Holding Space for Two Truths at Once

Let’s begin by holding 2 truths: 

  1. It’s ok if you are less active than usual AND 
  2. It’s ok to still prioritize exercise and to squeeze it in where you can.

The other day I was looking at my calendar for the week and realized that I didn’t have my normal pockets of time to work out. And I thought to myself that I can either just let it go and not worry about it, or I can get creative and carve out some time to move my body. 

This is a good example of finding the middle ground where I was flexible enough to be ok with the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to do my preferred types and amount of movement, but I didn’t just throw in the towel. I found some ways to still squeeze in some movement because it’s important to me and it makes me feel good. So I wasn’t forcing myself to do it as a form of self-punishment or anything like that. I was doing it as an act of self-care and kindness towards my body.

Shifting Your Language With Exercise

The next thing I would suggest for rethinking exercise during the holidays is to shift your language to calling it “movement” instead of “exercise.” There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. Our brains tend to associate “exercise” with a formal type of workout such as going to the gym, or taking a yoga class, or going on a walk or run. And we assume that we have to work hard and get sweaty for it to “count” (which actually isn’t true – studies show that we get plenty of benefits from movement even if we don’t get sweaty and out of breath).
  2. Referring to it as movement helps us explore our relationship to exercise and to expand our horizons with it. If you’ve read the book Intuitive Eating, you know that there are 10 principles of IE, and principle #9 is called “Movement: Feel the Difference.” They talk about letting go of our militant associations with exercise, and focusing instead on how we FEEL when we move our bodies.

Having Fun With Holiday Movement

During the holidays we have plenty of seasonal options for movement. Let me give you some examples:

  • Shopping – get some extra steps in
  • Walk around and look at xmas lights
  • Play in the snow with your kids
  • Dance to holiday music
  • Cut down your own Christmas tree
  • Volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen

I know that not all of these will apply to everyone’s lives, but hopefully this gives you some fun and creative ideas for how you can incorporate movement while also participating in the holiday festivities. In fact, if you do one of these things take a selfie and tag me in it on social media! I would love to share examples of holiday movement and challenge our culture’s narrative about what exercise “should” look like. 

Happy holidays! If you need some more inspiration during this holiday season, click here to download my holiday intuitive eating guide.

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