The holidays are upon us and they seem to last longer every year. Halloween brings sugar overload in the form of candy, and less than a month later we’re sitting at the Thanksgiving table. Sometimes family obligations mean multiple Thanksgiving dinners-and Friendsgiving is a fun trend that includes another holiday feast! Then there are Christmas parties galore, New Year’s celebrations…you know how it goes. When it’s all said and done, on January 1st many people are looking back regretfully at two months of overindulgence.
Holiday weight gain is real. On average, Americans gain 7-10 pounds during the holidays-sometimes even more! Part of this gain stays on, with additional weight accumulation through the years. With a few healthy, mindful eating tips, you can avoid the increase entirely!
1. Do not skip meals throughout the day leading up to a holiday celebration. Showing up “hangry” to a party almost guarantees that you will overeat. Include lots of fiber in the earlier meals of the day. Fresh vegetables, apples and pears, and chia seeds are just a few options that are high-volume and low-calorie. Pair these with clean protein to stabilize your blood sugar.
2. Use a smaller plate. If you or your hostess have appetizer or salad plates, use those for your meal, and fill with mostly vegetables before going for main dishes or desserts. A full, small plate will encourage normal portion sizes.
3. Eat slowly and savor every bite. My recommendation is to try to chew every bite of food 20 times. Not only will this slow your eating, giving your body time to recognize that you’re full, but your digestion will improve, as will your satisfaction with the meal. Focus more on your company and the conversation than on the food.
4. Bring your own food. It’s hard to imagine a hostess who would say no to help with a menu. By bringing your own, healthy food, you ensure there is something you can indulge in, guilt-free.
5. Use the “worth it vs. not worth it” principle. Maybe you’ve discovered that you should avoid gluten due to your thyroid problems, or corn because of a food sensitivity or allergy. That means that probably the corn chips, fried in canola oil and laden with salt, are not worth how poorly you’ll feel after consuming their empty calories. The store-bought cookies also fall in the “not worth it” category. Your great-grandmother’s cornbread dressing that you have once a year might fall into the “worth it” category, but still plan to eat appropriate portions!
6. Don’t eat something just because it’s holiday food. Let’s talk about eggnog, or fruitcake. Do you *really* enjoy those, or are you eating them because that’s what we do this time of year? It’s relatively easy to eliminate calories from things you don’t even like very much.
7. Plan on trying to get some physical activity in after your holiday meal. You do not have to hop on the treadmill, but play football with your family, take a walk while you catch up with each other, play Twister, dance, just MOVE! It can even help your digestion.
8. Stay hydrated. Your brain can confuse thirst with hunger, and our general guideline is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day, plus eight ounces for every half hour of physical activity.
9. Rest. There is no doubt that holidays are hectic. Along with celebration, they can also bring high levels of stress, and stress can lead to overeating, particularly high-carbohydrate, high-sugar foods. Do your best to take breaks when necessary, say “no” when you need to, and get plenty of sleep.
10. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. If you have a meal where you over-consume, don’t beat yourself up, but get right back on track. Love the meal, love the company, then love your body by giving it the fuel it needs to function its best.
Many of these tips are applicable year-round but are especially important to remember when the weather cools down and celebrations abound. For a more in-depth and personal look at nutrition and weight loss, contact our office for a nutrition consultation!
This post was brought to you by Emily Burger, Integrative Nutritionist for Well Life Family Medicine.