Temptation! This time of year it’s everywhere from the crowded Thanksgiving table and neighborhood cookie swap to eggnog and Christmas dinner. If you want to enjoy the holidays, make peace with food and avoid packing on the pounds over the holidays you need an action plan. Follow these 10 steps and by New Year’s you’ll be a little lighter, happier and on the way to achieving your healthy weight goals in 2020.
- Set an intention.
Before the holidays hit, set an intention to stay healthy and enjoy yourself this season without going overboard.
- Don’t Diet
Dieting is the absolute worst thing you can do for weight loss. Research shows dieting elevates stress and cortisol levels, which increase appetite and weight gain… especially around the middle. Worse, dieting and restricting foods you love makes you crave them even more. Say no to dieting and skipping meals. It doesn’t work.
Don’t let yourself get too hungry. Fasting all day so you can splurge later is the wrong approach. Nothing erodes willpower like hunger. Studies show that self-control is highly susceptible to blood sugar levels. When you don’t eat your blood sugar levels drop making it harder to resist that sugar cookie or peppermint mocha latte. The best defense against temptation is eating three balanced meals per day plus snacks.
To stay satisfied longer, include a serving of protein, a little healthy fat (like nuts or a little olive oil) and a source of complex carbs (such as whole grain bread) with each meal. Add plenty of fiber and fruits and veggies to fill you up without filling you out.
Whether you’re going out to eat or attending a family shindig, decide what you’re going to eat before the event. Don’t wait until the menu arrives or the food is served, making healthy decisions, especially if you’re hungry will be much harder. Going to a buffet? Instead of loading up your plate with some of everything survey the spread, then decide what you really want and enjoy. Which leads us to…
All foods can be part of a healthy eating plan, so don’t deny yourself the special holiday treats you love. Trust me, denial increases the risk of overeating. Your body chemistry drives you to substitute another food to compensate for the deprivation you’re feeling. Want cheesecake for dessert? Go ahead… Just save some room by eating less during the rest of your meal and then savor every bite. No guilt allowed!
If you do go a little overboard, like we all do, forgive yourself. It’s no big deal, and isn’t going to make a difference in the long run. Giving yourself a dose of self-compassion (treating yourself like you would a good friend) can keep you from turning a little too much holiday cheer into a full blown, health damaging binge.
Let go of the shame and guilt and all those judgments you have around food and your body. Instead love and be kind to yourself. It’s a powerful way to move forward in life.
- Watch the alcohol
While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cocktail or glass of wine make sure not to overdo it. Alcohol can lower your blood sugar levels making you hungry and decrease your inhibitions, which can make it easier to overeat. Plus, alcohol has calories. So drink in moderation, stick to lower calorie beverages like spritzers and lite beer and make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Eat mindfully
It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full. So slow down your eating speed and savor every morsel. Put your fork down between bites. Sip some water. Enjoy conversation. Dim the lights and relax. Turn off you the TV and your cell phone. You’ll eat less and enjoy your food more.
- Practice radical self-care
The holidays can trigger stress and all kinds of difficult emotions so it’s extra important to take care of your self. While it’s tempting to skip your daily walk, weekly yoga class or gym time, don’t. Taking a few hours a week for you will help you stay stable so you won’t be as likely to turn to food for comfort.
Make sure to take time out to rest and sleep. Research shows that sleep deprivation can lead to overeating and weight gain. Take breaks through out the day to walk, stretch and just breathe.
If you are an emotional eater, instead of focusing on what you should and shouldn’t eat, figure out what’s eating you. Rather than turning to food to cope with stress ask yourself: What do I really need right now? Then give yourself what you need – that’s the essence of self-compassion. Often what we need the most is saying Yes to ourselves and No to requests that makes us feel stressed and overwhelmed.
- Take it a day and a meal at a time
Add up all the holiday eating – Thanksgiving + Christmas + Hanukah + New Year’s – and you’ll realize there aren’t as many tempting days as you may have thought. Take it a day and meal at a time. You can manage to eat right and enjoy yourself.
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