With huge meals full of fat and simple carbohydrates, less time to exercise, and temptation at every corner (i.e. tins of cookies brought to you by friends/neighbors, holiday parties, etc), it’s easy to see why most people gain weight each year during the months of November and December. And in most cases, those same people will recover from their New Year’s Eve festivities and make resolutions in January to lose weight and get healthy. So, instead of falling into the same old pattern again this year, let’s try and make this a “No Gain” Holiday season. I truly believe it IS possible to have fun over the holidays and not start January with 5-10 extra pounds. Staying the same weight during the holidays is a great goal. What if you gain 1-2 pounds? That is completely recoverable. 5-10 pounds? That is a much bigger challenge, and one you would be better off not taking on! So, how do you avoid weight gain over the holidays? Well you need a PLAN. In other words, don’t go into the holidays winging it. Set some exercise goals, think about how you will minimize temptation, and develop strategies for parties and family get-togethers.
Develop a strategy for your holiday meals
Remember that Thanksgiving Day (or Christmas Day) is just that – ONE day! Unfortunately, with tons of leftovers in the house, Thanksgiving Day can turn into Thanksgiving week. Eating lots of rich and decadent foods for one day won’t kill your diet, but eating like that for a whole week sure can.
If you are eating over someone else’s house, be sure to bring a healthy side dish along, like fruit salad or a green salad. At least you will know that there will be ONE side dish you can enjoy guilt-free. When they offer to send you home with leftovers, accept some turkey and/or ham, along with any healthy vegetable or fruit side dishes. Leave the high fat and high carb sides and desserts with them!
If you are hosting the dinner, you could of course try and make some lighter dishes that aren’t so unhealthy. But if you have a family that is really counting on your special potato casserole, mashed potatoes, etc., I would go ahead and make them. Just be sure to send home the extras with your guests. Or, make a smaller amount of these dishes, and there won’t be any leftovers!
Another important thing to remember as you prepare for your special meal, make sure you aren’t starving when you sit down to eat! This can inevitably lead to over-eating and poor decisions that you will most likely regret later. Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast and/or lunch beforehand, with lean protein, fresh fruit, and veggies.
When you are eating your meal, stick to ONE plateful of food. Try to pile on more lean meat and veggies, and less of the high carb, high fat side dishes. However, don’t deprive yourself of your holiday favorites because you’ll feel resentful and make yourself miserable. This in turn will probably lead to a binge later on that day or the next… This is a special meal and you should enjoy the foods that you love most.
Eat your food slowly and enjoy each bite. Make socializing with your family or guests the main goal vs. shoveling in food. One trick to slowing down is to take a bite, and then put your fork down while you are chewing. By slowing down, you will give your body a chance to register that it is FULL. So often, when we eat our food quickly, we don’t realize we are full until we’ve eaten way too much. And I think we can all agree that it’s no fun to feel SICK because you ate too much. So, eat slowly, enjoy your special meal and stop when you are comfortably full.
Don’t waste your calories on things that you don’t really like. If you take a bite of your sister’s green bean casserole and it isn’t so great, don’t feel like you have to eat it. Save your calories for things that are truly worth it. If you are feeling guilty about the casserole, do like my kids do and hide it under a napkin or spread it around the plate…