I know the struggle... it's the holiday season and you're facing down what could be weeks of indulgent food, sugary gifts, and of course the big holiday meal(s). Even if weight gain doesn't seem totally inevitable, I'm sure the bloating, fatigue, cloudy mind, and frequent sugar crashes are... if you're not careful.
Now let me make one thing very clear before we go any further. I am NOT talking about giving up all of your favorite holiday goodies, being the oddball at the party drinking water and eating carrots, or trying to convince your entire family to rethink the menu of a major holiday dinner. I'm going to share smart steps you can take to help enjoy the holidays while still keeping your health and body in balance.
These tips are in no particular order...
Decide now what foods are your "must haves". Go ahead, think about your absolute favorite holiday treat. Got a favorite cheesy side dish? That perfect pumpkin pie only your cousin can produce? Mom's baklava (seriously, I wouldn't miss this for the world!)? If you think about it now and decide which are really important to you, you can plan to have them and know that your endeavor to stay healthy will not hold you back from your favorite things. Plus, have you ever wanted that piece of cheesecake and decided it was too rich and calorie dense, so you just have a cookie instead? You know, which then becomes 5 cookies and eventually the cheesecake you wanted anyway? Having your favorite food means you won't accidentally overeat on something else trying to satisfy the craving.
Follow the "One Plate Rule" at parties. Sure, you want to enjoy in the festivities at the company party, go all out at Friendsgiving, and enjoy the impromptu cupcake party that just happened in the office. You don't have to miss out, but you should monitor your portions. Take one plate, select the items you want, and THAT'S IT! It can be so easy to go back for seconds, thirds, and fourths without even realizing it, and it adds up quickly.
*Bonus tip- when at a gathering, try to (1) eat slowly and savor your food and (2) chat with someone so you don't just wolf down everything on your plate
Bring something you LIKE not something you LOVE. Going to a friend's house for a get together and want to bring something with you? Great. Bring that bottle of wine you know is good, but not your favorite. Bake cookies you enjoy, when you're in the mood. Make that side dish your friends and family rave about, but honestly you think it's just so-so. There will likely be things there you want to indulge in, don't make it harder on yourself by providing yourself with your biggest weakness
Eat veggies and drink water before you get there. Wherever it is, even if the event is at your house, eat a salad and drink some water before anything starts. Supplying your body with nutrients first will satisfy that desire for food (which is really the body asking for nutrient) and you won't accidentally mistake thirst for hunger. You'll naturally eat less if you're full on the good stuff.
Beware the alcohol. If you don't know me that well yet, you don't know just how much I love red wine (heck, even if you've known me for years you might not know this, it's a new but very strong love). So I get it. And there are so many fun holiday drinks! Just be careful. Alcohol dehydrates, encourages eating, and lowers inhibition (i.e. you won't have the will power to say no to a second slice of pie). I suggest having the drink(s) later in the event or after the meal so they don't drive increased eating, or commit to holding that wine glass instead of a plate of goodies.
Exercise! Seriously. If you want your body to be an efficient calorie-burning machine, you need to workout. Preferably using high intensity interval training and/or strength training. Stick to a regular routine and follow a program so you keep it up during this time of year. You'll be less tempted by sweets because your body will be feeling good and looking for the healthy stuff and you'll become a bit more resistant to potential weight gain (PLEASE do not read this as "Amanda K said I can eat whatever I want because I'm working out and I won't gain weight"! It's not true. But exercise will help along with these others tips.)
Be extra conscientious of what you're eating at the meals you can control. Load up on veggies, keep your portions small (there's a great resource here for what appropriate portions are), and try to keep a balance of fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains, healthy fats, and oils. I know this can be a particularly tough one, so if you need help, let me know! (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Pick one ultimate cheat day. There will be lots of days in which you can indulge, but pick ONE that you look forward to and prioritize. Make that the day you have WHATEVER you want. It can serve as motivation to hold back a bit at other events, because you know you want to enjoy that one day totally guilt free.
I hope you find these tips useful! If you are going to try and implement some of these this year, will you share them with a friend who could use them to? And if you have other suggestions, please share them in the comments so everyone can benefit from them!
I'm Amanda K; lover of fitness, sweets, veggies, adventure, travel, and happiness.