Whole30 Food Freedom and the Holidays!

There’s no way around this – December is a tough month to be practicing Food Freedom. Treats are everywhere at work, it suddenly seems like a good idea to crack a bottle of wine on a Tuesday night, and holiday parties and cookie swaps are filling up the weekends. Many of us give ourselves “permission” to indulge now because we know we’ll “pay” later with a January Whole30.

While it is certainly OK to enjoy the holiday season – and all the special foods that it brings – it doesn’t have to become a food free-for-all. You can still employ strategies to decide which foods are “worth it” in your Food Freedom and which foods don’t really matter after all.

Fellow Whole30 Certified Coach Courtney Coyle recently did a Facebook LIVE with my November Coaching group to discuss Food Freedom. She shared some her favorite tips for navigating the holidays in your Food Freedom. With her permission, I’m sharing them here along with this handy image you can keep on your phone!

We hope this helps you feel strong and confident around holiday food – and empowers you to make decisions you are proud of, whatever they are! You can do this! You are worth it!

Happy Holidays!


1. Breakfast of Champions – Regardless of the holiday festivities in your day, make sure you kick it off with a good-sized Whole30 breakfast. Load up on protein, vegetables, and healthy fat so you are starting the day satisfied and full of nutrient-rich food. With a solid foundation in the morning, you’ll set yourself up to make better choices for the rest of the day. The Whole30 food will also help keep your sugar dragon at bay when faced with goodies at a holiday event.

2. Routine Matters – Your holiday schedule may be crazy and filled with lots of parties, dinners, and social engagements. Despite the chaos, do the best you can to stick with your regular routine. Have your coffee and quiet time in the morning before the day begins. Get your workout in as you usually do – and maybe even take a family member with you! If you stick with the things you know your body needs and craves, you will be more likely to be grounded and present during holiday events – and in turn, better able to decide if certain foods are worth it. If you are out of sorts with your routine, you can expect your eating to be out of sorts as well!

3. Have your “worth it” questions handy – As outlined in Food Freedom Forever, there are several questions you can ask yourself before you decide to consume “a potentially less-healthy food or beverage.” Among them are: “Is it worth it?” “How will consuming this impact me physically, mentally, and emotionally?” “Do I really want it?” “Do I need to consume anything here to enjoy the experience?” You can use any of these questions – or some of your own – to help you decide if something is truly worth it. Keep these questions handy on your phone, on a notecard, or on your fridge. Make it a habit to run through them when you are faced with something you know has the potential to “mess you up.” As Melissa says in Food Freedom Forever, “it’s important to honor your truth in that moment by asking yourself if you even want it in the first place, and declining if you realize you just don’t. Nothing derails food freedom faster than eating something you knew you didn’t really want, leaving you feeling out of control and disappointed in yourself.”

4. Be honest with yourself and others – If you shove leftover candy in your face at midnight when no one is watching, then it doesn’t count, right? Many of us are familiar with holiday (or non-holiday) secret binges. It’s a terrible feeling to sneak food, obsess over it, and then feel guilty after it’s eaten. Be honest with yourself – and with others. If there are foods that are making you feel uncomfortable in your Food Freedom, acknowledge that. You can move them elsewhere or maybe ask relatives to not to bring them. Know yourself – and understand where you are in your Food Freedom journey. For me, I love holiday cookies and participate in an annual Mom’s Group Cookie Swap. I enjoy cookies at the swap but I know that if I bring them into my house, they will likely get eaten – by me. They make my “worth it” questions get a bit fuzzy. So, I am being truly honest with myself this year. Cookies are hard for me. So after the swap, I am going to give away the leftovers to neighbors and co-workers. I love that I have a plan – I can enjoy them at the swap if I decide they are worth it there but after that, they are going to be re-homed! I can go into the event calm and ready to enjoy!

5. Give yourself permission to decide in the moment – It may be tempting to try to map out your holiday events in advance and try to plan when you will indulge, and when you won’t. Don’t do that! Go into each event with an open mind, and permission to flex your Food Freedom if you think it’s worth it. By doing this, you are not setting yourself up for binges or cheat days, or feelings of deprivation or sadness. And things change day by day: At one party you may decide a glass of wine is worth it but at another gathering, you may be happy sticking with seltzer. Or at a holiday brunch you may decide that you want to stick with eggs and veggies but at work party, it’s worth it to go for a piece of cake. Rely on the tools you learned in Food Freedom Forever to give yourself the space to make these decisions as you as faced with them.

6. Play the tape through all the way to the end – As you are deciding if something is worth it, fast forward in your head and think about the very end of the situation. Will it truly be worth it in the end? How will the wine/cake/cookies/ chocolate/etc. make you feel in an hour? In two hours? The next day? Will you feel physically sick or emotionally tied to sugar? Will you be able to hit that workout you have planned in the morning? Will you feel your best when you see friends and family tomorrow? Will it all be worth it then? By playing the tape all the way through, you allow yourself the opportunity to think about the final outcome of the eating experience – and then you truly decide if it will be worth it. This is a brilliant strategy and one that I am planning to use throughout the holidays and beyond!

7. Make your plate last if needed – This is great tip from Courtney about going through buffet lines or making a plate during a family-style meal. Let everyone else take first and use the time to run through your “worth it” questions. If you are the last one to take, you won’t feel rushed or stress out about having lots of other eyes on your plate. You can take your time, take deep breaths, and choose wisely. And if you want to go back for more – or something else – make sure it’s really worth it (using many of these strategies listed) and be mindful about what you put on your plate. Go slow (it’s not a race!) and truly enjoy what you are eating and drinking.

8. Show yourself grace – We are all so much kinder to others than we are to ourselves. If you eat something and it turned out to NOT be worth it, don’t beat yourself up. Take it as a learning experience, vow to do something different next time, and move on. Don’t let your days be filled with guilt or shame. Reframe and grow from it. And don’t wait until the next Monday or month or even numbered day to make a change – Start with your next bite. My co-blogger and friend Jenny wrote the following in our last blog newsletter and it’s so true. Speak to yourself as you would to a friend:

‘It’s been a crazy week for me. My father is in the hospital which has, needless to say, being super stressful. I’d love to say that I’ve sailed through the week eating Whole30 foods and staying focused but I haven’t. Given my bad food choices (nothing is appetizing and I’m going for whatever’s quick), I’m feeling much worse and anxious. I’m going to pick myself up and get organized this weekend though and get back on track.

I was hoping to write you this week and talk about managing stress and putting yourself first when you’re having a rough week but I’ll spare you that pep talk until I begin practicing it myself. 😉 Yeah, so planning and prep kind of flies out the door sometimes. I was beating myself up over it earlier this week but realized that I would never be that hard on someone else so I’m giving myself a pass this week on the negative self-talk.’

9. Savor the moments and the food – The holidays can be a loaded, emotional time of the year but at the end of the day, they’re about spending time with family and friends. They are not meant to be a time to beat yourself up or feel guilty or shameful. Embrace the holidays for what they are, take time for yourself in the busy-ness, and remember to savor the people and the experiences (special food included) that come around only once a year. Food is a piece of the holidays but there’s so much more. You can be in control of the food – not the other way around. Sip, savor, and enjoy! And know that anytime you need it, a Whole30 (or a shorter reset) is at your fingertips to help you get back to feeling your best for the new year ahead!

Courtney is a certified alcohol and drug counselor in Chattanooga, Tennessee, working primarily with opioid addiction. Through her own struggles with food and exercise addiction, she has worked towards her own food freedom utilizing her education in psychology, career in addiction treatment and of course, the Whole30. After experiencing her own transformation through her first Whole30 in January of 2016 Courtney became dedicated to sharing her story with as many people as possible to help improve their health habits and relationship with food. For more on Courtney, find her on Instagram at @CoffeeCarrotsandCurls.