They combine some of the worst cues and triggers for overeating: family drama, too much food, tradition and ritual, stress eating, and the attitude of “why not – it’s the holidays.”
All too frequently the default then becomes: “I’ll start my diet in the New Year.”
Do you really want to count calories on a holiday?
Holiday food is special and holiday traditions and rituals are hallmarks we count on.
Counting calories often means depriving yourself of the traditional and possibly your favorite foods that you associate with holidays.
When you do deprive yourself of those cherished foods, more often than not you end up finding yourself standing in front of an open fridge rummaging for leftovers because you still feel the sting from the stare down you had with your favorite foods earlier in the day.
Have Your Own Holiday Eating Game Plan
What’s your game plan?
On a holiday you know you’ll eat a bit more – or maybe a bit more than a bit more – than on a typical day.
Balance it out by allowing for a range of calories during the holiday and the days surrounding it.
To maintain your weight, the calories you eat should closely approximate the calories you burn, so compensate by eating a little lighter the days before and after (and maybe adding in some extra activity).
Here Are 15 Practical Tips You Can Use
Choose the ones you think will work best for you and that you can commit to and build them into your game plan.
- Don’t starve yourself the day of a holiday meal or party. If you attempt to save up calories for a splurge, you’ll probably be so hungry by the time dinner is served you’ll end up shoving food into your mouth faster than you can say turkey. Eat lightly beforehand, but don't skip meals or arrive famished.
- Give yourself permission to NOT eat something just because it’s a tradition. Certain foods may taste, look, or smell like Thanksgiving or Christmas – but that doesn’t mean you have to eat them – especially if you don’t like or want them.
- Ask yourself if you’re eating something because it’s tradition or perhaps because you’ve been eating the same holiday food since you were a kid. Maybe you don’t even like the food anymore. Maybe it even disagrees with you. So why are you eating it? Who’s forcing you to? Eat what you want -- not what you think you should.
- Say no to the friends and relatives who push the extra piece of pie, the second helping of stuffing, or who constantly refill your drink. You’re the one stepping on the scale or zipping up your jeans the next day – not them.
- Have your own personal rules for what you will or won’t eat and commit to them ahead of time. Your rules are an integral part of your game plan. Examples might be: I really want pecan pie for dessert so I’ll only have one biscuit without butter with my meal. Or, I’ll only take two hors d’oeuvres from the passed trays at a cocktail party. This will both limit how much you eat – and will also make you choose what you really like instead of randomly sampling everything.
- Acknowledge your red flags, your trigger foods. Can you be near Christmas cookies without eating a dozen? Do you overeat at family events? There’s no need to psychoanalyze why. Just know the things that serve as your red flags and plan to deal with them.
- Decide what's really worth indulging in. Then fill up on the lighter stuff -- like vegetables -- so you don't have tons of room left for the splurges. If you’re a sucker for desserts, stick with lean protein and veggies for your main course followed by a reasonable slice of cheesecake. Or if the stuffing and au gratin potatoes are calling your name, have them, but skip or skimp on the desserts.
- Make a deal (with yourself) that you can eat what you want during dinner. Put the food on your plate, eat it with a fork, and enjoy every last morsel. Clean your plate if you want to. But – that’s it. No seconds and no double-decking the plate.
- Choose your beverages wisely. Alcohol clocks in at 7 calories a gram. Alcohol with mixers adds even more calories. Plus, alcohol takes the edge off lots of things – including your ability to stick to your plan. Drink water. It fills you up. Have a diet soda if you want. If you’re going to drink alcohol, try limiting the amount – think about alternating with water or seltzer.
- Control your food environment the best you can. Don’t hang around the buffet table or stand next to the platter of delicious whatevers. Why are you tempting yourself? Go into another room or the farthest corner away from serving table. Keep your back to the buffet. For most people, food that is out of sight is out of mind.
- Don’t eat off of someone else’s plate, or finish your kids’ food, or sample your spouse’s pie, or take a taste of this and a taste of that as you walk around the party. One bite here and one bite there doesn’t seem like much, but add them up and you’ll be shocked. Mindless bites average about 25 calories a piece. Four mindless bites a day means around an extra hundred calories. Do this daily and by the end of a month you might have gained close to a pound. Because it’s so easy to overlook those hand to mouth sneaky bites, make a deal with yourself that you’ll only eat food that’s on a plate.
- Have a conversation. It’s hard to shove food in your mouth when you’re talking. Hold a glass in your hand, even if it has water or seltzer in it, and a napkin in the other. It’s hard to nibble and nosh when your hands are full.
- Get rid of leftovers. Leftover stuffing has defeated the best-laid plans.
- Don’t nibble during clean up (or preparation for that matter). Broken cookies, pieces of piecrust, and the last spoonfuls of stuffing haven’t magically lost their calories.
- Don’t multi-task. Try to avoid combining eating with other activities. Distractions are a major contributor to overeating. When you’re with family and friends the last thing on your mind is going to be how many nachos you just inhaled while some annoying in-law was yakking your ear off. TV is another major culprit. When you sit down to catch a game, parade, or other holiday special be sure that there isn’t a big bowl of munchies sitting right next to you waiting to sabotage your waistline.
If you ate everything is sight and your exercise was walking back and forth to the to the buffet table, take heart, It was just one day.
The danger is letting it stretch into days or weeks.
That’s when your waistline starts expanding and the pound you gained this year stays there and gets joined by another the following year.
Remember to enjoy the holidays and the traditions that are important to you. Be thankful and joyous. Isn’t that the point?
|Written on 12/16/12 by Penelope Klatell, PhD, RN. Penny, a wellness and nutrition coach, nurse, educator, and author writes about how to eat out and eat well . . . anytime, anywhere, and at any age on her blog http://EatOutEatWell.com and in her book, The Sensible Holiday Eating Guide: How To Enjoy Your Favorite Foods Without Gaining Weight.|