Written by: Jacqueline Jacques, ND
Between Halloween and New Years in much of the Western world, there are a host of celebrations that revolve around food. This should not be surprising – food has been a part of celebrations and gatherings as long as people have been meeting together. Even otherwise austere holidays like Ramadan and Yom Kippur conclude with a large feast.
Because most of us have grown up with a number of these celebrations – spiritual, cultural, or secular – as part of our family or community, we often associate certain days or times of the year with foods, smells, and flavors that bring us feelings of warmth and happiness. This is generally very positive and is something that fosters social and family connections and happy lifelong memories.
But if you are trying to manage your weight, then the holiday season can bring with it a number of food-associated challenges. Halloween candy begins appearing in September, and from that point on you can’t step into a store without a dizzying display of delicious holiday treats.
When the candy disappears, the pumpkin and pecan pies quickly replace it, and right around the corner are the eggnog and gingerbread.
All these treats are usually on display at the front of the store or right next to the non-treat foods you’re buying for yourself or your family. They are also everywhere else! The coffee shop, the break room at work, your neighbor’s kitchen – everywhere!
Other things also happen during the holiday season. Your social calendar starts to fill up with open houses and holiday parties. Your friends bring you treats. You spend time away from home with friends or family members who eat differently than you do.
You might live someplace where the weather gets really cold, or wet, or snowy, or icy – and it’s also getting dark earlier – so your activity levels drop because that morning walk or getting up in the dark to go to the gym is really hard.
It’s really no surprise that weight loss is the second most common New Year’s Resolution (right behind saving money).
So here are some strategies for staying the course and not gaining too much weight during the holidays. We think these guidelines are pretty easy to follow.
1. Ditch the candy
If you are reading this and you still have Halloween candy in your house, then toss it! No, really – just do it. Those little tiny candy bars are way too easy to snack on. But at 50-100 calories a pop, that can be 30 minutes on a treadmill for 30 seconds of enjoyment. Let them go. They will be back next year.
2. When you go shopping make a list – and stick to it
Most of the holiday treats in markets are in separate displays that don’t contain the foods you need to make your meals. Having a list helps you stay focused and avoid impulse buys.
3. Remind yourself that holiday treats are best enjoyed during the holidays
Eggnog can be in the dairy case for two months, but it doesn’t need to be in your refrigerator for more than a couple of days over the holidays. Save your treats for the ones that matter, like the amazing cookies your mom makes or the pie you wait for a coworker to bring to the office party each year.
And the delicious fat and carb fest that only happens when you mix yams, buttery mashed potatoes, and stuffing all together and smother them with gravy. If you only do those things once, then you’re okay – but leave the leftovers for someone else and follow your regular diet on the other days.
4. Don’t go hungry
Whether it’s a family gathering, a neighborhood party, or a holiday lunch with friends, don’t go famished. People often think the best strategy is to starve themselves before a special event – but when you do this your blood sugar is too low and your stomach is growling.
You don’t have to stuff yourself – definitely leave room for that piece of your aunt’s pumpkin pie you have been waiting for all year. But having a healthy lunch before the family dinner or a protein shake before the buffet will help you control your portions and choices so you don’t overdo it. Check out a great protein shake here.
5. Try to keep moving
We often break our routines during the holidays due to weather, travel, or just being extra busy. But try to keep those workouts on your calendar if you can. You can also invite a friend or relative to take a walk or join you at a yoga class instead of going to lunch. If you are traveling, then find a local place you can get out and move – a lot of local gyms and studios welcome guests.
6. Manage your stress
Holidays are both wonderful and stressful. Remember to keep breathing and get enough sleep. If you need more ideas for managing stress, you can also use nutrition like extra B vitamins and herbs to give you some extra support.
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