Overindulgence during the holiday season is pretty typical for most people. All the Christmas dinners, holiday work parties and family gatherings mean lots of delicious treats and plenty of booze. It can be difficult to navigate your way through the countless temptations without sacrificing your health goals. The bottom line is that we need to find a balance- don't restrict yourself from enjoying your favourite holiday foods, but indulge in moderation and do so mindfully. Here are some tips to help you stay healthy through the holidays:
Keep a Realistic Frame of Mind
Whatever your goals are, do not change them or become more stringent about your eating habits during the holidays. It can be frustrating to try losing weight or cut out certain foods during this time of year. If you restrict too much you may throw in the towel and just binge. Instead of trying to make a strict change, just try to maintain.
Eat Until You Are Satisfied, Not Stuffed
Portion control is key when it comes to holiday meals. Gorging on calories, while fun in the moment, often makes you feel sick and bloated afterwards. Eating smaller portions means you'll still be able to taste all the delicious dishes while avoiding that stomach ache and sluggishness.
Don't Skip Meals
If you're planning to attend a party and know that there will be lots of treats there, have a healthy snack or a small meal before you go. You can still sample some of the items at the party, but you won't be as likely to go overboard. If you try to "save" up your calories, you will be more likely to eat more than if you had stuck to your normal meals.
Eat What You Love, Leave What You Like
Instead of piling your plate a mile high with everything from the buffet, choose only your favourite foods. Load up on vegetables and protein first to keep your plate balanced, and if something doesn't make you swoon, leave it on the sidelines.
Take Control of the Situation
If you are attending a potluck at work or going to someone's house, offer to bring your own healthy dish. Practice preparing healthier versions of your favourite holiday foods to bring to gatherings that you can then share with loved ones.
Enjoy Your Food Slowly
Sit down, get comfortable, savor your favorite holiday treats and enjoy. It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to communicate with the brain that you've had enough to eat, so to take your time.
Drink plenty of water, as staying hydrated controls the appetite. It is not uncommon to confuse thirst cues for hunger, so before reaching for another holiday treat, try a glass of water first.
Go Easy on Alcohol
Drinking too much may not just mean a terrible hangover. Alcohol is calorie dense, and it's effects can lead to lowered inhibitions and increased food intake. Alcohol can cause spikes and crashes in your blood sugar that leave you feeling ravenous afterwards.
If you can't make it to your regular workouts, try to stay active in other ways. Speed walking with shopping bags counts, and so does cleaning. Even if it's just a walk in the evening after a meal- it's better than nothing. Most importantly, get back into your regular exercise routine once the holidays end.
Nix The Guilt
Don't obsess and berate yourself over every unhealthy bite. The goal is to prevent yourself from completely letting go of good habits. Research shows that people who had an attitude of forgiveness and self-compassion after one high-calorie setback were less likely to give up and keep bingeing. So abandon those negative thoughts and give yourself permission to enjoy the indulgence free of guilt.