It’s that time of year again when dieters around the world tremble in fear: that’s right, it’s holiday time! Even though I’m not into diets, I do get that the holidays are a time when we are bombarded with parties and social gatherings and food and drink flow abundantly. I believe this food and drink should be enjoyed, but I get that no one wants to sideline their nutrition and health in the process. So below is a blog I wrote awhile on back on Navigating the Holidays.
You’ve heard the shocking statistics: the average American gains 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s! (Or something equally shocking). Do I buy it? Not exactly, as a person would have to eat an extra 500 calories every day to gain that much weight in that time frame. I do believe, however, that the holiday season sets us up for possible weight gain. Not only do the holidays tend to revolve around big family meals, but there’s also usually lots of goodies lurking in the break room at work. Holiday parties and travel make it hard to stick to a regular workout routine and eating schedule as well. Alcohol flows like water. It’s a set up, I get it, but if you have a plan you can navigate the holidays without weight gain and still enjoy yourself! Here’s how:
- Scan the buffet. Check out the options before you start filling your plate and prioritize what you really want to try as opposed to going through the line and taking some of everything. Make sure there are some veggies on your plate too.
- 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.
- Keep a glass of water in hand. If your hand is busy, you’ll be less likely to mindlessly reach for food when you aren’t even hungry. If you plan to drink alcohol, try to drink a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage to slow yourself down and stay hydrated.
- Choose your beverage wisely. Eggnog is awesome but it’s a calorie bomb too. Limit your intake of high calorie beverages such as eggnog (or anything with cream), margaritas, and white Russians. Your best bet? A heart-healthy glass of red wine.
- Dance. If there’s a dance floor at the party hit it up. Not only does dancing count as exercise, but it’s pretty hard to mindlessly eat while getting your boogey on!
- At work:
- Don’t eat just to be nice. That’s so great that your coworker was kind enough to bring in that pie, cake, cookie, or whatever other sugar laden goodie that is calling your name, but you don’t have to eat it just because it’s there. If you are getting pressured to try some and really don’t want to, you can always be polite and say “no thanks, I had some cookies earlier”. One little white lie won’t guarantee you get coal in your stocking.
- Enlist the support of a coworker with similar goals. A like-minded friend can help keep you in check when tempted to over-do it. Also, just telling someone your plan, say to only have 1 cookie, will help you stick to it.
- Remove yourself from the situation. Out of sight out of mind, right? If you know the staff lounge is full of treats don’t spend too much time there drooling over them.
- At family gatherings:
- Set boundaries and know when to say no. Have a plan to set boundaries if you know you may encounter pushy family members. Sometimes people will react better if you emphasize health and not weight, such as by saying “No thank you, I am watching my cholesterol” instead of saying that you are watching your weight. Your crazy aunt may think you are perfect and don’t need to diet and get pushy about trying her dessert, but she likely won’t want to raise your cholesterol
- Bring a nutritious dish of your own such as a veggie tray or vegetable based side dish like roasted Brussels sprouts. Then make sure it fills up a good portion of your plate (at least ¼ of your plate should be veggies)
- 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”)
- If you’ll be traveling for the holidays bring plenty of your own healthy snacks (nuts anyone?) to stave off hunger and avoid potential cookie binges.At family gatherings:
- In general:
- Don’t feel that you have to attend every engagement you are invited to. Prioritize the parties you really want to or feel you should attend, and let the others pass by with a polite “Sorry, I already have plans”. It’s okay if your “plans” include staying home and hitting the hay early.
- 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 when you finally do give in). Enjoy the foods you really want, but do so in moderation.
- 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.
- Lastly, keep your training schedule, at least as much as possible. Don’t be an all or nothing person; a little exercise is better than none. If you are limited for time focus on short intense workouts, such as 30 minutes of interval training.
- Change your attitude. Sure, it seems like the holidays are all about food, but really they should be about giving thanks and celebrating life with the people you care about. Shift your focus from the food and drinks to the family and friends. Start a non-food related tradition. Sometimes just changing your attitude is helpful with meeting your nutrition goals!