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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Holiday Survival Tips

10 Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season

Food is an important part of many holidays, celebrations, family and cultural traditions. In fact, special occasions often center around the food table. I recently learned that as a result of all these tempting foods, people gain an average of five pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year.

What (or who) is to blame? Perhaps it is all the delicious treats from customers, family, friends, and co-workers that we tend to overindulge in. Maybe it is the increased emotional eating (otherwise known as "the Joys of Holiday Stress") or because you know you are going to start a strict “new diet and exercise plan” on January 1 and you are "going out in style".

Regardless of the reasons, it is not necessary to hide from holiday parties or gatherings in an attempt to maintain your weight. Consider these tips and enjoy the holiday season!
  1. Focus on weight maintenance rather than weight loss during the holidays. If you are currently overweight and want to lose weight, this may not be the time to do it. Maintenance of your present weight is an excellent goal this time of year. Do not set yourself up for failure by making unrealistic goals for yourself.
  2. Plan to NOT diet after the New Year. Knowing you are going to be on a strict "new diet" can set you up for binge eating. Get out of the mindset of “if I am never going let myself eat this again in the new year, I might as well eat as much as I can now”. Simply plan to make a New Year's resolution to make positive and long-term changes (hey - weight loss surgery was a positive and long-term change for me).
  3. Offer to bring a healthy dish. You may not always know what is being served so why not guarantee yourself at least one thing that is healthy. This strategy not only provides you with a good menu option, but your host will appreciate the help.
  4. Do not skip meals. It is not a good idea to arrive at a party famished. Not only are you more likely to overeat, but you will also gravitate toward the heavier foods with higher fat and calories. Do not skip meals in anticipation of “saving room for the party”. Have a healthy snack before you go to take the edge off, such as a handful of nuts, vegetable sticks, small bowl of whole grain cereal, or good protein bar.
  5. Make a plan. If you are concerned about overeating, think about which foods are special to you (those you really want to eat) and those that you could do without. Contemplate your personal triggers to overindulge and how can you minimize them. Once you have thought about all of these things, make a plan of action. It is much easier to deal with a difficult social eating situation if you have already planned for it.
  6. Take steps to minimize social eating. While some foods are more calorie-dense than others are, no food will make you gain weight unless you eat too much of it. At parties and holiday dinners, we tend to eat (or keep eating) beyond our body’s physical hunger simply because food is there and eating is a “social thing.” To avoid social eating, consciously make one plate of the foods you really want and walk away from the food table.
  7. Eat slowly. Take time to enjoy the taste of your meal. Pace yourself and try to be the last person to finish each course. Take small bites (I eat with a cocktail fork) and chew slowly. It usually takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stocmach that you are full. By eating slowly, you might be less likely to raid the dessert table.
  8. Reduce the fat in holiday recipes. There are tons of low fat and low calorie substitutes that taste amazing. Try using applesauce in place of oil in your favorite holiday breads; use egg substitutes in place of whole eggs; try plain nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream. Magazines, websites, and blogs are full of reduced calorie and reduced fat holiday recipes. Check out some of the recipes on Eggface's blog.  She has some fabulous receipes.
  9. Choose your beverages wisely. Alcohol is high in calories. Liquors, sweet wines and sweet mixed drinks contain 150-450 calories per glass. By contrast, water and diet sodas are calorie-free. Limit your intake to one or two alcoholic drinks per event/gathering. Also, be aware of the extra calories in soda, fruit punch, and my favorite holiday beverage...eggnog.
  10. Enjoy good friends and family. Even though food is a big part of the season, it does not have to be the focus. Holidays are a time to reunite with good friends and family, to share laughter and cheer, to celebrate and to give thanks. Focus more on these other holiday pleasures, in addition to the delicious flavors of holiday foods.
The key to any healthy eating plan is to maintain perspective. Overeating one day will not break your scale or ruin your eating plan! If you over-indulge at a holiday meal, put it behind you and return to your usual eating plan the next day without guilt or despair.

As I said in my last post...Bring it on Santa!


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