Did you catch the recent holiday addition of the IDEA Food and Nutrition Tips Magazine? What an information packed issue, brilliantly put together with great tips to share with clients and students. I know I have been using many of them throughout the month, including in my holiday eating tips blog post. Thanks IDEA! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Holiday news flash! The National Institutes of Health estimates that the average American will gain between 0.8 and 1.4 pounds in the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. That may not sound alarming to you--unless you’re still working off the extra pounds from last year’s holiday feeding frenzy!
I’m just like many of you, though. I hate to put eating restrictions on myself at this time of year. Honestly, I’ve tried to be the conscientious wellness coach, leading by example by switching up low-fat alternatives for some of my favorite holiday foods. Last year I even went to a “Raw Thanksgiving” cooking class where we learned how to substitute dehydrated sage infused nut patties for roast turkey, and cauliflower whizzed on high in a Vitamix, for my favorite side dish, mashed potatoes. Sorry to say, Raw Food enthusiasts--definitely not worth the possibility of a few extra years on the planet in my book.
For most of us, there are far too many heart warming foods that come around only once a year to surround them with painful judgement and negativity. And for the mere mortal, obsessing about strategies to avoid them usually leads to just the opposite--unhealthy overindulgence followed by stressful shame and guilt. Who wants to face the holiday shouldering that kind of burden? So, let me help you out this year. Here are my top 5 tips for heading holiday weight gain off at the pass, while still enjoying your favorite gatherings with friends and family.
Tip #1: Eat Food!
I actually stole this one from author, Michael Pollan, who cautions us to stay away from “edible food like substances,” in his book, “Food Rules.” Why waste your precious holiday calorie allotment munching mindlessly on white chocolate peppermint Pringles out of a can? Instead, pass on the junk food from the grocery store, and savor real food your great-grandmother would have cooked, like homemade pumpkin pie, warm cornbread stuffing, or even mashed potatoes and gravy--all in moderation, of course.
Tip #2: The old smaller plate trick.
Okay, not too original. But what could be more simple? Studies suggest that, because we eat with our eyes instead of our stomachs, we tend to serve ourselves more food when we are shoveling it onto a bigger plate. Stack salad plates on the buffet instead of dinner plates. (Your whole family could benefit from this strategy) And don’t give me that, “But I’ll just go back for seconds!” line. You know you’ll go back for seconds regardless of plate size.
Tip #3: ADD to your diet.
This may sound a bit crazy, but research shows that people are more successful losing weight and keeping it off when they begin by ADDING healthy foods into their diet instead of taking food items away. Make your plate look as colorful as the lights on your Christmas tree: red (peppers), green (dark leafy greens), orange (sweet potatoes), and purple (red cabbage). You get the idea. Once you have those on board, use the leftover space for the higher calorie comfort foods.
Tip #4: Start an exercise program.
What? Are you kidding? I know, this may seem like the worst time of year to do something drastic like starting an exercise program. But keeping holiday calories in check comes down to simple math--calories in vs. calories out. If you manage a walk or workout earlier in the day, you’re banking calories for a relaxed and festive evening later on with friends. You’ll also be gifted with the positive side-effects of exercise: improved mood, increased energy, and the ability to handle busy highways and long checkout lines with a smile! Well, that last one might be a bit of a stretch.
Tip #5: Watch your alcohol intake carefully.
Alcohol and the holidays can be a particularly perilous combination. Not only are holiday spirits high in calories, one drink can melt your “all things in moderation” approach to the buffet table, like a blow torch aimed directly at an ice sculpture. A couple of drinking tips to help you avoid the holiday alcohol trap: don’t arrive at a party on an empty stomach, sip a sparkling water through the cocktail hour, and if you want the egg nog or hot buttered rum, swap it out for the dessert.
Okay. So, what’s a couple of extra holiday pounds over the next few weeks? After all, January 1st is just around the corner, and a perfect time to make a clean break from old habits and a fresh start with the new healthier you. If you ask me though, I say, “What are you waiting for?” Practicing moderation, and allowing yourself the freedom to enjoy family, friends, and long standing traditions, sets you up for a happier and more sustainable wellness path in the New Year.
Do you have any inspired strategies for avoiding holiday weight gain? How do you manage your wellness, from eating, to fitness, to stress reduction, during the busy season? I'm always looking for great ideas to share with clients and students, so please share!