How can we navigate the delicious holiday goodies without tanking our diet? While the holidays are notorious for rich, indulgent dishes, it’s easier than you think to eat a balanced diet from Thanksgiving to New Years.
There always seems to be a heavy overlay of guilt and shame that happens when the holidays roll around each year. Thanksgiving, a holiday solely dedicated to eating food, all of the holiday parties, and the overall Christmas season…many people seem to think there are only two options—ignore all the delicious food and try to eat healthily, or forget eating healthy and throw in the towel, “it’s once a year”. The truth is, It is possible to enjoy all the holiday season has to offer and stay healthy through the process. It’s all about setting healthy eating habits during the holidays that will leave you feeling satisfied instead of overindulging with sugar crashes. I do love the big holiday meals with family and friends. I just don’t always like how I feel after. It’s fun to indulge in dishes that we may not eat any other time of year. Yet, I want to feel good all season and I know too much of anything leaves me exhausted and unwell with weight gain that isn’t good for our body or brain.
So, first, here are some unique mind-body approaches to eat well, feel good, and enjoy all the traditions of the season.
Talk back to temptation. Temptation can take over when we are surrounded by delicious foods that are often high in fat, sugar, and calories that can add to weight gain and tank our moods. Tell yourself, “Lisa, you don’t want more because then you’ll too full.” Or, “Hey, you, put down the fork, you’re good.”
Create physical distance. Distanced self-talk helps us create mental space to avoid temptation, but we can also move our bodies away from the buffet to shift focus and avoid over-eating. If you are surrounded by tempting appetizers or treats, self-control can become depleted. Put a smaller portion on your plate and then move away from the table.
Become present. Pay attention to what you are putting on your plate and in your mouth. Don’t judge. Eat what you like, but if you pay attention to how your body feels, how the food looks and feels and tastes, not only will you enjoy it more, but you’ll be dialed in to your body’s signals when you’ve had enough. Mindless eating—tossing a handful of nuts in your mouth, or another cookie without thinking—contributes to weight gain. When we are deliberate and mindful about what we are putting in our mouths, we eat less and enjoy the food a lot more.
Nourish your body with the foods and thoughts that support both your physical and emotional health and not only will you enjoy the festive treats more, but you’ll feel less anxious and more energized all season long.\
Now on to some tips for the food! You may not be able to control what food you’re served, but you can have a plan:
When you face a spread of delicious holiday food, make healthy choices easier. Have a small plate of the foods you like best and then move away from the buffet table. Start with vegetables to take the edge off your appetite. Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full. Limit alcohol. Holiday drinks are loaded with sugar and empty calories.
No food is on the naughty list. Choose the dishes you really love and can’t get any other time of year, like Aunt Edna’s pumpkin pie. Slow down and savor a small serving. No regrets.
Stay active. It can help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during this most stressful time of year. Get moving with friends and family, such as taking a walk after a holiday meal.
Get your sleep. Going out more and staying out later often means cutting back on sleep. Sleep loss can make it harder to manage your blood sugar, and when you’re sleep deprived you’ll tend to eat more and prefer high-fat, high-sugar food. Aim for 7 to 8 hours per night to guard against mindless eating.
Most of all, remember what the season is about—-connecting with the people you care about most. When you focus more on the fun, it’s easier to focus less on the food.