For many of us, the holidays bring another kind of emotion along with all that good cheer – anxiety about staying on track with our health and nutrition goals. The holiday season is studded with this or that holiday party, those Christmas cookies in the break room, and Aunt Helen’s special egg nog on Christmas Eve. But, I’m here to tell you that you can have your Christmas cookie and eat it too. Here are my top tips for enjoying the holidays, while also seeing your goals through to the New Year.
Part of the reason we often overeat at parties is that we are multitasking. If you are having a conversation right next to the chip bowl, you’re much more likely to keep reaching for a bite even if you’re not really hungry. Keep your conversations away from the spread. If you feel you need to keep your hands busy, hold a drink and sip slowly (My favorite low sugar options are: Vodka soda with a splash of real cranberry juice, a dry red wine, or for a non-alcoholic option try soda water with some fresh lemons and limes).
Takeaway: Move away from the buffet while you’re chatting.
It’s totally appropriate to call your host and ask what’s being served at a party or a dinner. You won’t be surprised or caught off guard, and you can also offer to bring something that suits your needs and will satisfy you. This is really helpful, especially if you are following a gluten free, dairy free or a paleo lifestyle. You’re not high maintenance, you’re standing up for what’s best for your body, and ultimately, your health. You don’t need to tell every guest about your dietary needs, but plan ahead for yourself.
Takeaway: Plan ahead for your dietary needs, and ask your host if you can bring a dish that meets them.
Allow Treats in Moderation
You needn’t feel that you are doomed to munching on celery from now until January. Denying yourself a special treat will only make you feel deprived and may lead to overeating episodes later. Before you indulge, ask yourself where your craving is coming from and check in mentally. Taking the time to identify your craving and its source will stop you from acting on an impulse. When you do allow a treat, make sure you really take the time to savor each bite. If you wolf that brownie down in two bites, you’re more likely to reach for another because your brain didn’t get the message that you ate something sweet.
Takeaway: Enjoy one treat per holiday party or gathering. Take your time and enjoy every bite!
Share Your Goals and Keep the Finish Line in Sight
It’s a well known fact that when we share our goals or are held accountable to someone, we are more likely to stick to our guns. Confide in a friend or significant other prior to the event or get together, and ask them to help keep you accountable. If you find that you’re struggling with temptations, let them know. It’s also helpful to remind yourself of your long term goals at these moments. How will you feel 5 minutes after that second cookie? How will this second cookie help you reach your end goal?
Takeaway: Share your goals to help keep you on track and keep your end goal in mind.
Scope Out Safe Foods
Find the foods at the party that are your “green foods”, meaning you can eat as much as you want. Think fresh or cooked vegetables, salsa, guacamole or fresh berries or grapes. “Yellow foods” may be meats and cheeses and “red foods” may be candy, cakes, cookies, brownies, heavy sauces or dips, crackers, potatoes or bread based products.
Takeaway: Stick to “green foods” or “yellow foods” for most of the night, and allow yourself one to two servings of “red foods”.
The holidays are a time for giving thanks and counting our blessings, spending time with loved ones and friends. The most important part of surviving the holidays is to remember to practice self love. If you slip into old habits, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, remind yourself of your humanity, find three things that you love about yourself, and start fresh. Use your small setback to remind yourself of why you’re pursuing your goals and move forward as soon as possible.
Takeaway: Remember that you’re human. Practice self love and don’t dwell on small setbacks.