Cookies and chocolate and pie – oh my! Eggnog, champagne and wine – divine! The holiday season is officially here! There is excitement, stress, and for most of us, lots and lots of eating. Many of you are traveling, or have at least departed from any sense of normal. As the majority of us know only too well, any attempt at healthy eating goes sailing out of the window during the holiday season. We tend to conveniently forget about our health and diet, and instead, take the opportunity to over-indulge in every way possible.
According to a recent Weight Watchers report, the average American gains around 7-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. This is through pure over-indulgence and gluttony. Lack of time to exercise probably doesn’t help either. Moreover, much of this weight is maintained from thereon despite our promises to go on a diet as soon as we ring in the New Year (as we shovel another brownie in our mouths).
It is not hard to understand why people fall into such bad habits during the holiday season. Everywhere you go there is somebody waiting to thrust a glass of wine or a box of chocolates in front of you. Surely it would be rude to refuse. Trips to the supermarket also turn into a tantalizing adventure of temptation as you find yourself in a maze of aisles displaying a range of colorful, tempting goodies that are excitingly packaged and screaming at you to buy them and eat them. All this, coupled with the huge dinners, parties, and festivities that make maintaining control a huge challenge. For the better part of the year, many of us make healthy eating a habit. Yet, as soon as Thanksgiving rears its over-indulgent head, the obsession swings the other way as we indulge in eating as much unhealthy, rich food as possible.
Despite all this, with a little good planning, it is possible to avoid being part of that swelling statistic and maybe even still fit into that little black dress you were hoping to wear to the holiday parties.
Don’t try to diet during the holidays. Just maintaining your weight during this time of year can go a long way.
Limit the liquid calories:
Soda, eggnog and cocktails can pack amazing quantities of calories, most of them devoid of nutrition. If you limit the holiday treat to foods, you will easily cut down on sugar and calories. Meanwhile, load up on water, tea, and other calorie-free drinks to keep well hydrated and feel fuller.
This is an obvious one, I know, but it is also obviously simple to blow off during holiday season. It comes down to being committed. You have to commit in your mind that exercise will be a priority. Plan it and put it in the schedule. You might not always be able to do your normal workout routine, but if you at least walk or do some strength moves at home daily, take stairs rather than elevators, dance to holiday music, play outside with the kids, it will help release stress, improve immunity, minimize and maybe even eliminate weight gain.
Tame your appetite before the party:
One of the worst things you can do is to starve yourself the day of a party to bank calories. Not eating can severely mess with your metabolism (as in, slow it down) and your hunger will likely send you straight to the buffet line to overindulge. Instead, eat a high protein snack like a handful of nuts, a few rolls of turkey, a spoonful of tuna or some low fat cheese. You should also drink a full glass of water before every meal to stay hydrated. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger and can cause snack attacks. At the party, load up on veggies and high protein dishes. Limit the carbs and greasy fare to a minimum.
Use healthy substitutes for holiday fare. Instead of whole milk products, use low fat or non-fat variations. For example, use plain nonfat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to make your favorite holiday dips and consider other healthy dips like salsa and hummus.
Limit holiday splurges:
Write all the holiday parties and gatherings in your calendar and then commit to limiting splurges to those special events. Your greatest source of extra calories is probably from the daily intake of cookies and other goodies that seem to pop up everywhere this time of year. If we give ourselves license to go off program the entire month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the results could take months to undo. It takes far more effort to lose a pound than it does to gain one. Unfortunately, it only takes one big meal to send the scale soaring for most of us. In between holiday splurges, fill in all the other days with regular healthy meals and careful planning.
Dining in a group causes the average person to eat almost double than he or she normally would eating alone. Keep a mental checklist of how much you’re consuming and if you feel yourself accepting every passed appetizer, it’s your eyes telling you that you need more food, not your brain. Take a second to look at every bite before you eat it — maybe even take a deep breath to slow yourself down at the buffet table.
Food and festivity will always be a major part of the holiday season – and there is certainly nothing wrong in that. However, the holiday season is also a stressful time for many of us, and we need plenty of energy and stamina to cope with it. It is therefore essential that we eat the right type of food with the necessary nutrients to give us energy and reduce stress levels. This is not to say that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to indulge a little, enjoy a healthy glass of red wine, but we should eat in moderation and maintain a varied diet. Imagine starting the new year feeling your best and getting back on the path to a healthier you rather than having to begin the race again ten pounds behind the start line.