Everyone has a time of the year that is most challenging in terms of keeping up with their fitness routine and good nutrition. For me, it is my favorite holiday on the Jewish calendar: Passover! This holiday presents a double-whammy (if not triple-whammy) in this regard. First, out of the 8 days that the holidays is observed, half of them (days 1, 2, 7, and 8) are festival days when certain kinds of activities are prohibited; many people who observe the holiday include exercise in that category. Second, the entire food scheme is turned upside-down; many foods we are used to eating are forbidden for the 8 days, and many that are permitted are heavy in carbohydrates–like Matzoh.
Passover (and Easter, which is also right around the corner) is filled with pitfalls and many months of hard work can be erased in week. How do prevent that from happening? Planning.
For my family this means setting the menu for the entire holiday in advance. By planning out each of the meals, we know that we have balanced, healthy food options for the week. This actually presents a great opportunity since fruits and vegetables are exempted from the Passover prohibitions (consult your rabbi regarding legumes) and can be increased in quantity during the week; this also helps to regulate the digestive system.
The other key is ensuring that on the non-festival days, time is set aside for exercise; set those times in advance and it will be even easier to stay on track. On the festival days, we are permitted to walk. If the weather is nice, use this as an opportunity to get outside and keep moving; along the way, visit friends and family.
This is really not that difficult. The problem is that many of us have convinced ourselves that because the first two nights of Seder feasts are just that–feasts!–the entire holiday is a lost cause in terms of healthy eating. Two “challenging” meals are followed by 6 days during which we can eat more carefully with the intention to keep portions smaller and include fruits and vegetables. We should not beat ourselves up because we “fell off the diet wagon” for two days, but rather we should get right back on the path of good nutrition. This is also true after a day of heavy eating, chocolate eggs, etc., for those who celebrate Easter.
Holidays need not be a reason for anxiety–at least around food. There are times when it is natural to overindulge. The main thing is not to stress over it; accept it, get over it, and move forward.
Wishing everyone who observes a happy and healthy holiday!