Here are my tips for successful holiday eating:
• Don’t skip meals to stockpile calories for later. This strategy almost always backfires as you will likely get so hungry that you end up eating more than planned. Eat regular meals as scheduled and have a small healthy snack before the event so that you don’t arrive ravenous.
• Scan the buffet. Check out the options and prioritize what you really want to try as opposed to going through the line and taking some of everything.
• Water frequently, especially if you are drinking. Try to have 1 glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you drink. Even if not imbibing, keeping a glass of water in your hand can prevent mindless munching.
• Enlist a buddy with similar goals. If you struggle with an eating disorder and may be tempted not to eat, bring a supportive friend who will help you stay on track. If you’re trying to lose weight and might be tempted to overeat, an understanding friend can help keep you in check.
• Have a game plan. As with regular meal planning, having a plan is important with holiday eating. The plan can be general if you’re not sure what foods will be available (i.e. “I’ll leave space for one dessert”) or specific if you do know (i.e. “I’ll indulge in one piece of chocolate cake”).
• Set boundaries. Don’t feel that you have to attend every engagement you are invited to. Know when to say no. Also plan to set boundaries if you know you may encounter pushy coworkers or family members. Some people won’t know how to react if you say you are watching your weight or struggling with an eating disorder, so only say as much as you feel comfortable with. Sometimes people will react better if you emphasize health and not diets or weight. Practice setting your boundaries if you need to so you are not peer pressured when put on the spot.
• As always, moderation is key. Don’t deny yourself the treats you really want as this often backfires and makes you want it more (and eat more of it when you finally do give in). Enjoy the foods you really want, but do so in moderation.
• Change your attitude. Sure, it seems like the holidays are about food, but really they should be about giving thanks and celebrating relationships. Shift your focus from the food and drinks to the family and friends. Sometimes just changing your attitude is helpful with meeting your nutrition goals!
• Most importantly, if you do overeat, don’t stress. Shaming yourself will only make you feel worse and may lead to emotional or stress eating. Remember, one meal will not make or break you or your health. Do your best to get back on track and don’t beat yourself up over it.