10 Strategies for Sane Holiday Eating

Well, we’ve survived Thanksgiving.   Now we are looking forward to some very perilous weeks – food everywhere!   At this time of the year, we are literally surrounded by food – magazine covers with beautiful cookies, newspaper articles featuring the latest eggnog recipes, office parties where everyone brings their favorite dessert – food everywhere.

At no other time of the year are we faced with such challenges that can derail us.  According to the Calorie Control Council, we typically gain 1 to 3 pounds during the holiday season (http://www.caloriecontrol.org/articleandvideo/myths-about-holiday-weight-gain), and while that doesn’t seem like much, we also generally don’t take that weight off, so that year after year, it can represent a significant weight gain.

Armed with this reality, we have to plan this next month carefully.   We want to enjoy this magical season and be in a good place in terms of our weight loss goals.   Sounds impossible, but if we thoughtfully plan for the activities ahead, we can arrive at January 1st, happy, healthy and feeling good about what we’ve accomplished.  With that in mind, here are some strategies to help navigate the next few weeks:

  1. Set a goal to maintain your weight.

You want to enjoy your family and friends and not be stressing about losing weight now.  Let’s concentrate on not gaining, rather than losing.   You have to be kind to yourself.

  1. Journal your food

It is so easy to let this go amid the frantic activities of the holidays, but this is so important now. People who journal their food lose twice as much weight as those who don’t. Even if it’s just weekends and nights, journaling helps!

  1. Never go to an event hungry.

Before you go to a dinner or a party, consider having a protein bar or a shake. If you do this before you arrive, you will be less likely to overindulge, especially on the heavy appetizers.

  1. Exercise the morning of an event

If you exercise the morning of an event, you will be mentally setting yourself up for success.  The endorphins will kick in and carry you through the day – knowing that you have worked that hard to maintain your weight and be healthy may help when you stroll past the buffet table.

  1. Bring something healthy to an event that you can eat if the pickings are slim

       If you are going to a party, consider bringing a veggie tray, or if you are low carb, a meat and cheese tray, or shrimp cocktail- something that you can nibble on that you know is on your plan.        This way, you don’t have to feel self-conscious about eating. Even if you are on full meal replacements, raw veggies or simple lean protein are ok to add at parties.

  1. Eat mindfully

Eating mindfully will help you control the amount of food you eat.   Eating mindfully will enable you to enjoy and savor the foods presented.   When we eat quickly, we often don’t even taste the food and just keep eating.   Remember that eating slowly and thoughtfully is a great compliment to the chef.

  1. Remember the 3 bite rule

You can have 3 bites of anything – not, however, 3 bites of everything!   At this time of the year, we see so many high-calorie foods – rich sauces, dips, cookies, pies, – beautifully presented.  You should view this as a game.  Look at the whole meal and be selective.   Choose one appetizer and thoroughly enjoy your 3 bites.  Choose one dessert and slowly savor your 3 bites.

  1. Study what’s on your plate

Before you start to eat your meal, thoughtfully look at your plate.  It should be ½ protein, 2/3 veggies, and 1/3 carbs at best. (Of course, fewer carbs, especially starchy carbs is better). Avoid rich sauces.  If you can’t easily avoid them, remember the 3 bite rule.

  1. Beware of alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic beverages pose a double threat – they are typically high in calories, and if we overindulge it is easy to lose control and overeat.  Limit your consumption of alcoholic beverages to one or two, and then switch to low calorie or no calorie drinks – water, coffee, and tea.  If you are on a low carb plan, remember clear liquor is the best.

  1. Don’t focus on food

Remember that the holidays are so much more than food.  They are wonderful opportunities to be with family and friends.  Consider approaching each event with thoughtful “people” goals – I want to spend time with Aunt Sue to find out how her dog is, I want to be sure to talk to Gary and get caught up.   By diverting our attention away from the food and focusing on the people present, we really will be savoring the best of the holidays.  One of my strategies is to be on the cleanup crew, which keeps you away from the food.

Hopefully, these strategies will carry you through the holiday season and will enable you to have one of your best holiday seasons ever!

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year!

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