You really can enjoy the holiday season without gaining tons of weight and ruining the progress you’ve made in your healthy lifestyle this year. All you need is a little common sense and these strategies to help keep you on track.
Bring your own food or choose healthier versions of traditional holiday foods when possible
Search for recipes online and in cookbooks that are healthy versions or substitutes for holiday favorites. Check back here throughout the holidays for some great ideas and recipes if you don’t feel like tracking them down yourself. The key is being prepared by looking up the recipes, buying your foods and cooking them before you end up at an office party with nothing but doughnuts and potato chips to choose from.
If you can’t resist a favorite food, remember to watch your portions
Check out our blog post on portion control if you want some more information, or try searching online for one of the many free calorie and nutrition calculators that estimates how much food you need each day. Controlling your portions is the only way you can have your dessert and still eat healthy. Make absolutely sure you’re not eating past the point where you feel full. Stuffing yourself will make you feel bloated and awful now, then gain weight later. Not good.
Be a food snob and only eat what you really enjoy
Think about the calories you spend on food as an investment in your future. Just like the dollars in your wallet or the minutes in your day, there are only so many calories you can spend without running into trouble, so you have to make them count by balancing pleasure and nutrition. Aunt Susan’s chocolate cake is OK occasionally and in moderation if it is so much your favorite holiday dessert that you’ll feel deprived if you miss out on it. Look at it as an investment in your happiness. On the other hand, if her cake is less than stellar, and your sister brought some sliced fresh fruit that looks pretty good, it’s a whole lot smarter to choose the fruit and spend your calories on your health.
Burn off stress and extra calories with exercise
There are tons of fun, relaxing ways for your friends and family to stay active with you this season. Taking long walks while having long conversations with friends and family, playing sports and fitness games on the Wii or X-box together, family football or baseball games, or even ice skating if you’re lucky enough to have that kind of ice, instead of the slippery slush we get in the South when it freezes. If you prefer to workout alone or the weather is too intense for you outside, a treadmill and some cool music or audio books are favorites with us.
Avoid overindulgence by keeping a healthy perspective of your goals and emotions
Try to remember that the holidays are not about the food. Really, they aren’t. Think about it. The food is only special because of the special people you share it with, so concentrate on making good memories and catching up with loved ones instead of seeing how much you can get away with eating. If you find yourself eating until you feel like you’re going to bust on a regular basis, you may want to address whatever the real emotional reason is that you’re overeating. There’s no shame in asking for help if you need it.
Finally, be kind to yourself and to others. We all need forgiveness and love.