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How to Get Festive Without Trashing Your Body ( Guest Essay by Lily Calfee )


I love any excuse to make things special, and Christmas has all the perks: special music, fancy food, special clothes, ancient traditions…

I love red and gold bows, cute cards, and yummy-smelling candles. I love (dairy-free) eggnog and christmas cookies. I love singing carols, ice skating, wrapping presents and staying up late by the woodstove. I love tromping through the snow to the neighbor’s house on Christmas eve, and telling stories to their babies after dinner. I love popcorn and cranberries and Christmas brunch and festive cocktails

You know what sucks though? Having a sugar hangover.


Starting out the New Year feeling like someone used me to mop their floors. Feeling grumpy, bloated, and headachey AND having to acknowledge that Christmas is over. Sometimes I feel like January sucks—there’s nothing sparkly left to look forward to and all I have is low blood sugar and credit card debt.

This year, babies, let’s celebrate without trashing ourselves.

I’m all about the word “festive,” it really sums up the experience I’m going for. I find myself snacking on my favorite almond Christmas cookies and sipping hot chocolate because I want to feel MORE FESTIVE.

When I look closely at what counts as festive, food and drink are a part of it but not the whole kit and kaboodle. Sidestep a holiday-hangover by choosing to fill yourself up with all the festivities, so that food and alcohol can play a smaller but still enjoyable role.

Some ideas for a more festive holiday season:

  1. Start now. Don’t wait until Christmas even to get in the mood. Wear red and hum Christmas carols and start celebrating in small ways today.
  2.   Create a festive environment. Play festive music and decorate your home with red and gold sparkly things so that when you walk in at night you say “Oh! It’s so festive in here!” (I’m on a kick with these little red paper birds)
  3.  Get into the spirit outside. Take a hike and look for the perfect pinecone. Take a girlfriend and a thermos of ginger tea and go ice skating. Go for a walk at night in the neighborhood with the best lights. If you’re lucky enough to live where it still snows, go sledding for the rest of us!
  4.  Be generous with your holiday spirit. Volunteer at a women’s shelter. Donate gently used hats and jackets. Smile and make eye contact with the people you pass on the street. Give away lots of love, and be pleasantly surprised to notice that you’ll never run out.
  5. Gift with intention. Talk with your loved ones about sharing holiday experiences and small gifts rather than breaking the bank on big presents. Send handmade cards to close friends and tell them specifically what you love about them. Give “gift certificates” for home-cooked meals, a shoulder rub, or a weekend adventure.
  6. Update festive recipes to be a little easier on you body. A few more greens here and there, and a little less sugar all around. Branch out from cheese and cracker appetizers and snack on olives, pickles and cured meats. Add some kale and zucchini to that frittata. Make your own hot cocoa with unsweetened almond milk, raw cacao and maple syrup or honey.
  7. Celebrate constantly. Take small moments to be grateful, to say “I love you,” and to soak up the magic that is our everyday life. Light your pine-scented candle and thank the Universe for it’s abundance.

I find that when I fill myself up with festivity all day, I’m more satisfied by one cookie instead of seventeen.

Speaking of cookies, get my favorite recipes, tested, adapted, and compiled over years of Christmas-elfing at Paleo, vegan and Mr. Claus approved.

Lily Calfee is a creative health coach in Denver, CO teaching self-love and nutrition to help women overcome self-sabotage. You can find more from her at


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