Everyone wants to have a healthier holiday season with lots of fun and quality time with friends and family. We are close to Thanksgiving and really kicking off the holiday season now that Halloween is over. And with Halloween and the upcoming events, you are likely seeing plenty of candy coming into your house as well as treats at work and other places you go to. This is supposed to be a time where we focus on having fun and enjoying the company of our family and friends. Unfortunately, this can also be a time of stress for many of my clients and others who come to me asking for strategies on how to maintain their healthy habits during this time.
Healthier Holiday Season: The Statistics
Did you know that the average American gains 10 pounds during the holiday season? That is a scary statistic and certainly not one that anybody wants. But with parties, potlucks, and other social gatherings, it is easy for food to become the focus of the event rather than the true objective to socialize.
It is important to start with remembering at all times what your goal is for the holidays. Do you plan to lose weight or be able to maintain the weight that you are at? Understanding your intrinsic motivation is a story for another post, but I recommend you dig deep and make sure you understand what your goal is as well as why you want that goal for yourself. Consider writing it down and keeping it in your purse or wallet. Look at it before you eat! There is a lot of power in writing and looking at those words. Verbalize your goals and your reason for those goals to a close friend or spouse. This ties in an accountability element when you verbalize it. Again, this is a subject in and of itself, so I will save the rest for another time!
The focus of this post is about how to manage the holiday gatherings you are attending. I have broken my tips for you down into five ways to enjoy your holiday events and feel like a winner.
1 – Bring a dish.
You can bring your own dish for a healthier holiday season. No matter what, I will bring a plate to any gathering that I attend. This way, I know there is at least one plate that I have in my control. My favorite dish to bring to an event is a salad. It is easy to be creative with your salads. Make sure that your salad includes a lean protein for some staying power. You can even make your own dressing to bring. Check out my salads and bread page for some recipes. Another option is a vegetable tray. You can make your own dip using plain Greek yogurt with some herbs to spice it up. This is a much better option than the prepackaged dips in the store. Another good dip is hummus, which you can make or purchase. As you make your own dishes, consider healthier substitutions.
2 – Don’t starve yourself.
It is important to eat regularly to keep your metabolism boosted. Unfortunately, some people feel like because they are going to a party, that they won’t eat all day because they will eat all of their calories there. Bad idea! Your body needs fuel and it needs it on a regular basis. Putting your body in a starvation mode like this will just cause you to hang on to body fat because your body does not know when that next meal is coming.
And then you will introduce a bunch of food at one time and your body will hang on to it! Do not skip meals or arrive starving at a party. You will likely overeat and it will have a negative impact on your metabolism. Eat something beforehand and make sure what you eat includes a lean protein so that you are fuller longer. Don’t starve yourself for a healthier holiday season.
3 – Practice portion control.
For a healthier holiday season, portion control is very important. There are two ways to do this. In either case, you have to be honest with yourself. Method 1 is to count your bites. On average, those dishes will cost you about 60 calories per bite. I am not a big fan of calorie counting, but this is an easy way to manage how much you eat if you count your bites in this manner. Another technique is to use a small plate. By small I mean about a 9-inch diameter. Do not grab those big plates, or else you will fill it up – and that will be too much food. But you can fill a 9-inch plate one time, take your time eating it, and then commit to being done at that point.
4 – Forgive yourself.
This is hugely important to do. One high-calorie setback will not destroy your entire season. Focus on progress and not perfection is something I stress with my clients. The key here is: do not give up. Just because you had a slice of Aunt Millie’s famous apple pie does not mean that you should give up, throw in the towel, and continue by diving into the french vanilla ice cream and the snickerdoodles. I was guilty of doing this all the time in the past. I would continue binging after that first treatment. It made me understand that I already blew it, so why stop. Bad idea! Try to walk in with a different mindset. Maybe Aunt Millie only makes that apple pie once a year for Thanksgiving. A healthy mindset will definitely lead to a healthier holiday season.
If it is special and you want it, walk-in with the mentality that you will have that pie and you will balance out your day with healthy choices so that your day is 80% healthy. That is a great strategy and one that I used recently on my birthday when I knew my mom was bringing over a European torte from the same baker that made my wedding cake. Heck yes, I will have a slice of that cake. But my dinner was salmon and salad to balance it out. I felt good about my choices and one of those choices was to not feel guilty for having that cake but to enjoy that slice. Use empowering language. Think of things to say “yes” to rather than something like “I am on a diet”. Positive self-talk is going to help you reinforce those healthy behaviors.
5 – Keep temptation out.
Don’t leave a candy dish on your desk at work. Having it in your face like that makes it hard to say no. If you want to offer goodies, either move them to a central location away from your desk or offer something else like gum. If you are hosting an event, make sure you pack up food as people leave so they get a share of the goodies. Otherwise, you are left with a lot of food and may feel indebted to eat them all.
I hope that you find these tips helpful. Do you have any other healthy tips to share for the holidays?