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Holiday Eating Strategies
Q. What are some strategies I can use to avoid gaining extra holiday weight?
A: Try a few of these top ten tips! And always remember that it is particularly important to stick to some sort of exercise regimen to help relieve the stresses of the season.
1) Ditch the Halloween candy
If you have any leftover Halloween candy lying around and are afraid you might eat the whole thing in a moment of weakness, either a) throw the candy away; b) take it to the office and leave it there for others; c) ration out the sweets to yourself (perhaps one a day) so that you don't completely destroy your eating program; d) freeze the remainder for next year (would that really work??); e) have a creative contest among friends to see who can think of the best way to use Halloween candy without ingesting it yourself; f) give it to your trainer for disposal! I'm serious!
2) Stay well hydrated
Drink plenty of water (6-8 8 oz. glasses of water a day, more if you are very active), both to stay well-hydrated and to help you feel more satisfied with a little less food. Keep in mind that alcoholic beverages and drinks with caffeine will actually contribute to dehydration. Also remember that while 1 gram of carbohydrate and 1 gram of protein each supplies 4 calories, 1 gram of alcohol supplies 7 calories and 1 gram of fat, 9 calories. Bypass the egg nog and mixed drinks and, instead, opt for sparkling water, fruit juices, or even hot mulled cider that hasn't been spiked. An occasional glass of wine or mixed drink won't be your downfall, but most people forget about the calories that are hidden in beverages -- and in the case of alcoholic beverages, they tend to be empty calories. They all add up!
3) Eat slowly
This one is particularly difficult if you starve yourself for any extended period of time. If you get to a meal and you are famished, try your best to eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly so you allow your body time to feel full and so that you can really taste and savor your food. Remember that it takes your body about 15 minutes to feel the effect of food. If you gobble up too much in ten minutes, you'll likely regret the quantity and further berate yourself for lacking self-control. Slow down!
4) Eat before gatherings that involve food
If you have holiday parties to attend, whatever you do, do NOT starve yourself for the rest of the day in preparation for it in order to "save up calories" -- the "stuff and starve" cycle is the worst thing you can do for your body's metabolism. Instead, have a light meal 1-2 hours before you head out for the holiday gathering so you'll be less likely to binge on fattening or sweet foods that might have little nutritional value. If you do arrive at a holiday party for a meal, take one small plate and refuse to go back for seconds. In most cases, a small plate will be adequate for a single meal -- it's the multiple trips back to the buffet that do most people in.
5) Office party solutions
At work meetings when people bring in tempting holiday goodies, come well prepared with your own tasty and healthy snacks that you enjoy and that fit nicely into your eating plan: fresh fruits, energy bars, string cheese, turkey sandwiches, yogurt, apricots or other dried fruit, homemade trail mix, and the like can all be good substitutions for the sweets that can leave you feeling treated, satisfied, and more energized than much of the traditional holiday fare.
6) Healthy recipes for baked goods
Search for healthy recipes for your favorite cookies, breads, pies or cakes so that you don't completely deprive yourself of flavor. If the rest of your eating strategy for a day is healthy and nutritious, a few low-fat, high-fiber homemade oatmeal date cookies or a slice of cocoa zucchini bread at the end of the day will help complement your diet, not detract from it.
7) Total elimination of a food usually backfires
Remember that if you try to totally eliminate a favorite (but unhealthy) food from your diet, you're more likely to crave and go overboard on that very food than if you plan small portions of it into your weekly diet. If you love chips and salsa, figure out how much a "portion" actually is for that 150 calories (usually anywhere between 9-15 chips, depending on the brand) and include some low-fat cheese, chicken chunks, or salsa and make a single serving mini-meal of healthful nachos instead of eating straight from the bag.
8) No-guilt day
Have one day a week where you can have whatever you want without a guilt trip. The secret to being on any sort of eating plan is getting right back to it if you happen to slip a little bit. You are only human, and there is not a single perfect human on this planet. In the words of those in New York City, "fugget about it!!" Don't berate yourself and say it's no use. You CAN stick with a plan, and we at Body Results can help you do so.
9) Enlist help
Get your friends, co-workers, and family members involved. Let them know about your intentions and how they can help support you in your endeavors. Perhaps you and some friends can get together for a theme dinner that revolves around a seasonal food -- squash, for example -- pumpkin soup, spaghetti squash with marinara sauce, nut-stuffed acorn squash, and maybe a small sliver of pumpkin pie that's had part of the calories slashed! Be creative. Look for alternatives and new holiday traditions.
10) Be conscious
As you are trying to install healthy eating habits, be very aware of your trouble spots. If you find that you are starving when you get home from work and go right for a box of crackers, the cookie jar, or a bag of chips, add a snack about 4 p.m. so you won't be ravenous and destroy your dinner. If social situations make you eat "because it's there," be aware that you'll need to bring something healthy with you, allow yourself only 1/2 of the muffin or pastry and throw the rest away, or simply avoid the situation entirely, Strive above all else to be aware of what you are doing while you are eating. If you eat while driving, or watching tv, or reading the evening newspaper, try for a few days eating without distraction.