Finding Balance During the Holiday Season
It’s so easy to overindulge during the holiday’s that most people just expect to break diets, eat until they fall into a nap on the couch, or assume that they’ll gain 10lbs without batting an eye. The onslaught of events and dinners makes it difficult to stick to your workout routines and especially hard to stick to your diet. But you can beat the holiday bulge and keep feeling great with these simple tips:
- Never show up hungry or dehydrated
Stick to your daily routine of eating smaller meals throughout the day rather than saving up for that one big meal where you allow yourself to indulge and eat more than you normally would have. As much as it feels like you’re never ever going to have turkey again, you will. Probably in sandwiches, soups, and left-overs for the next 2 weeks so don’t go overboard and overdo it at your first dinner.
- Plan a workout for the day
Schedule in a workout the day of festivities. Our metabolism is heightened post workout so you are able to burn those little treats a bit more effectively. Choose foods that replenish your glycogen levels and the protein from the holiday turkey meal to repair your muscles. Now, don’t get me wrong here, this is not something that should be used as an excuse to overeat but should be a conscientious choice of food with moderation.
- Keep a Food Journal
While some may view keeping a food journal as extra work, this really can help put things into perspective when you start to record what you have ate. There are a lot of great apps available (I like MyFitnessPal) that not only let you keep track of what you’re eating but also show you a breakdown of calories and nutritional composition of your diet. They allow you to see the food for what it really is and what potential harm it is causing to the waistline.
- Eat mindfully
Learn to eat without the guilt. Truly allow yourself permission to enjoy this time of year and not feel as though you should deprive yourself or go all out. Learn moderation, enjoy the time you are with family and friends and remove the guilt mentality. This is the hardest thing for many people to master.
- Eat in Moderation
With the endless amount of functions and events you will be attending this year, know that alcohol and desserts should be both be treated as a treat. Maybe choose either to have an alcoholic drink or to have a dessert and limit the serving sizes.
- Be In the Moment
Take the focus off the food. Make conversation everywhere you go, it’s totally fine to politely refuse seconds or another drink. Holidays are about being together, allow food to come secondary. Stand away from the buffet table and engage in conversations that are meaningful and enjoy what the holiday season is truly about.
Food Swaps for the Holidays
The holiday edition of “Eat This, Not That”! When faced with a good spread of all your favorite holiday treats it can be tempting to eat them ALL but I’m a mind-body nutrition and fitness coach so you already know that this article isn’t going to be about who can eat the most Christmas cookies.
Instead, avoid the worst and eat the best! There are many great holiday foods that are really great for you in addition to the ones that are not nutritionally sound choices no matter what month you eat them.
Here are a few of my top food swaps to try at your next holiday gathering:
- Eat your protein:
Aim for the white meat and serve yourself turkey breast or any other white meat without the skin. Avoid the dark meats and turkey skin. The skin is loaded with saturated fat that can potentially raise cholesterol.
- Go skinny on the stuffing:
Stuffing, the most savored part of the holiday dinner but typically loaded with butter and high fat meats such as sausage. Either avoid this all together or if you have the option to cook it this year, try using low sodium broths and replace your high fat sausage with a healthier alternative.
- Mashed potatoes
Mashed potatoes, something I am sure we all have grown up with, typically loaded with milk or cream and a graciously heaping spoonful of butter. Try low fat milk or low sodium soup stalk as an option for a more calorie wise side dish.
- Skip the casserole:
Casseroles, the typical dish you will see at everyone’s house this holiday season. Whether it be a green bean or a sweet potato casserole, they sound healthy but typically are loaded with creams, butter and even sugar. Leaving the casseroles to the side and opt for the veggies cooked without butter, sugar, and cream or better yet, choose the leafy salad.
- Cakes, pies and cookies
This one is a little tricky. Do we want to get into a cookie rating system? A cake off? No we don’t, it’s just not fair to the others. Pick your absolute fave holiday dessert and enjoy in moderation. Skip the rest and you won’t feel guilty for what you didn’t over-indulge in.
- Skip the appies
Appetizers and finger foods, one of the easiest ways for calories to add up before you even sit down at the dinner table. They may be tiny but these foods are typically packed with fat, sodium and often deep fried. Go for fresh foods that have not been cooked or deep fried, such as veggies, fruits, or shrimp cocktail.
- Skinny sips
Most people don’t even realize how many calories they are drinking in a single night. Taking in drinks like eggnog or pumpkin spice lattes that contain creams and sugar is a sure way to expand that waist line without even getting into the food. Alcohol is another hidden high calorie item that people tend to ‘forget’ to keep track of when they’re counting their holiday calories. Aim for lighter drinks such as wine spritzers or adding soda water to your drink of choice. Better yet, avoid the alcohol and eggnog all together and put soda water in a glass with a wedge of lime. Year head will thank you for it the next day.
Maintaining your goals over the holidays isn’t hard if you do it mindfully and without the guilt. Eat what you want to eat but do it in moderation and skip the stuff that you’re eating just because it’s the holidays.
All I Want for Christmas is to Eat Without the Guilt – Emotional Eating at Christmas
Although the holidays are supposed to be a happy time of year, there are many people that struggle with the Christmas Blues. Whether it be stress, sadness, depression or anxiety, it’s easy to reach for high calorie foods to comfort these emotions and momentarily feel better. It’s proven that high fat foods can release dopamine which makes us feel great but people with regular high fat diets tend to see their dopamine receptors ‘dulled’ which can actually make it harder for you to get the benefits of dopamine which is the hormone that helps you feel happy.
If you’re eating to feel better and not because you are hungry, it’s a sign that something is missing in your life. This is called “emotional hunger” and it’s actually really common. Now if you’re paying attention you might have put it together that eating to fill an emotional hunger can lead to dopamine blockage which can result in you actually feeling more miserable. Add in the guilt about eating too much or too poorly, and that’s a really bad loop to get stuck in.
If you are feeling these blues right now, click here, reach out and let me help you
Preventing Emotional Eating
In order to prevent emotional eating, you need to address the actual issue at hand. This is especially important, and difficult, during high times such as the midst of the holiday season. Look for other ways to deal with the emotions rather than filling the void with food.
- Get a Hobby – something engaging that keeps you busy and gives you something to take your mind off other life troubles
- Work Out – exercise releases dopamine and it will make you feel loads better, for much longer, than a high fat snack
- Talk to Someone – call a friend, visit a family member, or just getting out and helping a neighbor can give you a pick-me-up
- Talk to a Professional – send me a message and let me help you to identify the root cause of your emotional hunger. Addressing that can improve your overall health.
Emotional eating is a vicious cycle but it is one that you can break out of. Identifying when your hunger is emotional, or when you’re eating for comfort and not for fuel can go a long way to break the cycle.