Tempting foods, family obligations, tiring parties, too much stress, endless shopping lists, overworked credit cards, cold and gloomy weather, oh, and don’t forget the weight gain.
Sound like your unwanted expectations for this holiday season?
While you can’t make the tempting foods disappear, or the family obligations for that matter, you can control how much weight you gain, or lose, over the holiday season. Follow these simple tips for avoiding weight gain and the holidays will feel like holidays again - minus the extra pounds.
1. Think 90/10
Completely depriving yourself of treats – especially during the holidays – is a recipe for weight-control disaster. Would you sit a child in front of a huge pile of candy only to tell her she couldn’t have any of it, not a single piece, and expect her to respond positively? Being around delicious foods and denying yourself any indulgence is not just unrealistic, it’s agonizing.
During the holiday season, aim to eat healthy food and stay within your calorie and fat goals approximately 80-90 percent of the time. The rest of the time, don't worry about what you should or should not eat. Enjoy a treat or two!
2. Don't go hungry
It’s lunchtime. Louise has just finished a delicious grilled vegetable sandwich, a bottle of sparkling mineral water and apricot yogurt with fresh fruit. She also had eggs on whole-grain toast for breakfast. Thelma had a cup of black coffee for breakfast, and an apple for lunch. Which one is more likely to snack on holiday treats this afternoon?
Hunger makes you weak, in more ways than one. If you’re hungry, you lose your ability to make good choices. Your body and mind are on a mission to eat whatever is available, and with all those holiday treats around, resisting is just that much harder. And weight gain is that much easier.
“Don't go hungry” means eat regular meals and two planned snacks each day so that you don't get hungry. In order to reduce cravings, binges, and general overeating throughout the holidays, eat enough so that you don't get hungry.
3. It's okay to be hungry
Um… didn’t we just say “don’t go hungry”?
The fact is, there are two kinds of hunger. Physiological hunger (above) is the need to eat to stay alive and well. This time though, we’re talking about hunger that you feel because you’re bored, or stressed, or depressed, or simply see some food you want. Responding to this kind of hunger easily leads to extra weight gain.
“It's okay to be hungry” means it's okay to feel a sensation that you believe is hunger, without acting on it. These holidays, give yourself time to think before the impulse to eat takes over. When you feel "hungry" give yourself 30 seconds to "check" your hunger - is it true hunger or has something prompted you to want to eat?
4. Don't use food to medicate yourself
'Tis the season to... overuse food to avoid emotional discomfort?
No matter how stressed or blue you're feeling, or how much better you think you’re going to feel if you eat, don't fall into the trap of emotional eating at holiday time – in the end, your emotional health will be worse for the wear, not better. And, of course, you’ll have the pounds to show for it.
If you have an emotional need (and many people do around holiday time), try to work through it. Talk to someone about what’s going on, write it all down, be kind to yourself, distract yourself if you have to.
During the holidays, remember: Eat for health, eat for enjoyment, eat foods you like, but don't use food as a drug to kill pain or stress.
5. Keep active
During the holidays it's easy to find exercise-avoiding excuses: "I have to do that extra grocery shopping,” "I need to decorate the tree,” " I have to buy and wrap all the gifts.” This inevitably leads to small doses of unwanted weight gain.
Simple advice: Ignore these excuses and exercise anyway. True, you are busier – but get creative. Park the car far away from the entrance to the grocery store so you have to walk farther, for example. Going mall-walking with your holiday visitors instead of sitting down to cake and hot chocolate, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator when doing your Christmas shopping, are other examples of easy ways to keep active even when you're busy.
6. Give your body a holiday
Did you ever think about treating your body to a blissful holiday break? Not on a beach somewhere (though that’s good too), but from the excess sugar, fat, alcohol, caffeine, stress, and exhaustion that can come with the season..
Valuing your body means treating it well with foods and exercise that are good for it. Treating your body means you’re less likely to gain weight. This season try giving your body a gift of good health. You might even let it outside in the fresh (though sometimes freezing) air for a walk!
7. Avoid portion distortion
Watching portion size is always a must for weight control. But during the holidays it's especially easy to eat bigger portions and more of everything. This is a major contributor to holiday weight gain.
Think about how big a turkey is, for starters, or the massive spread of food on Christmas day, or the mountains of hors d'oeuvres piled up on party tables, or the heaps of homemade cookies and cakes. Be aware that the large amount of food around you may prompt you to want to eat bigger portions than you normally would eat. Make a conscious decision to eat certain portion sizes and stick to it. Don’t be fooled by the overabundance of food around you.
8. To keep on track, keep track
Although the festive season may not be the most conducive to keeping track of your eating and exercise habits by recording them in your Food and Exercise Diary, it is critical for keeping off holiday weight gain.
Make a commitment to yourself to continue tracking food and exercise habits throughout the holidays – it should only take a few minutes each day. Even if you feel there is not enough time, do it anyway. No excuses! It takes less than ten minutes a day to record your food and exercise.
9. Remember that tomorrow never comes
Holiday time is prime time for putting important things off until the next day, and the next, and the next; important things such as controlling what you eat and how much you exercise.
CalorieKing.com member, Amanda, suggests a way for dealing with this problem. “If you feel like you've strayed from your weight-control plan in the holidays,” she says, “don't think ‘I'll start again tomorrow.’ Start again immediately. If you say you'll start again tomorrow, why not say the same the next day? If you keep waiting until 'tomorrow,' you might never make the changes you need to make.”
Take Amanda’s advice these holidays, and remember that tomorrow never comes – don’t put weight-control plans off until the next day or they may never happen.
On the other hand, the fact that tomorrow never comes makes it all the more important to enjoy the festivities and the company of family and friends while the season is here. But that can be hard to do if you spend 100 percent of your time and energy worrying and fussing about food. Keep things in perspective, make healthy choices, and have a small slice of pumpkin pie while you’re at it. After all, it’s the holidays. Enjoy!