Holidays are near and there is an abundance of calorie dense foods and treats being served. Even if you are still quarantined from Covid-19, holiday goodies are among us every where you turn it seems! How is one able to enjoy the food at family get-togethers and holiday parties without gaining weight over the holiday? My holiday tips below should help you moderate your intake while still getting to enjoy all the delicious food found at holiday parties from Thanksgiving and through December. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, or Festivus, when we get together, we eat!
Tips to follow to lose or maintain weight during the holiday season
- Be mindful
Listen to your body and your hungry and satiety signals. Are you more than 80% full? To lose weight you don’t want to be completely full. To maintain, you can eat to 100% full. Eating to 120% (where you are uncomfortably full) will cause you to gain weight. However, a couple holiday parties of eating this much isn’t going to kill your weight loss. It’s about how your lifestyle is overall that counts.
An important note: it takes about 20 minutes for your mind to realize you are full. So take your time eating! Try to sit down and focus on eating only. Put your fork down between bites to slow yourself down.
Be aware of what you are eating and how fast you are eating it. Choose to alternate healthy snacks like fruits and veggies with heavy holiday treats. Avoid “mindlessly” snacking and grazing. Really enjoy every bite of your food (which leads into my next tip)…
- Savor every bite
This is a tip I implement not only at parties, but as often as I can while eating each meal. I bet you love food as much as I do! The way I extend my experience of eating something high calorie such as cheese or chocolate is to savor every bite as much as possible like you do when sipping a fine wine.
It helps to portion out only what you will allow yourself to eat, avoiding reaching for a second portion. Being able to see what is left will help you slow down as well.
Not only can you savor each bite, but you can also enjoy the whole experience by tuning into all of your senses. How does the food smell? How does it feel in your mouth as you chew it? What does it look like?
- Don’t go hungry
Have you have gone to the grocery store before on an empty stomach? Being hungry enhances the chance that you will make poor eating choices. I know when I’m starving, I gravitate to high calorie foods. That cheese platter looks and tastes like absolute heaven. I’m sure you can tell how much I love cheese! 🧀
Before you go to any holiday parties, or out to eat for that matter, “preload” (eating or drinking something before a meal) with a glass of water (or two), something high in fiber, and a little bit of protein.
Foods high in fiber that are great for preloading are apples, pears, and salads without cheese or croutons and something light to dress it such as balsamic vinegar. The protein can be as simple as a low fat mozzarella stick, non-fat Greek yogurt, a boiled egg, or some leftover chicken. About a palm’s worth of protein is ideal. If you can’t get both on your way out the door, one or the other is also effective. I personally find simply an apple as filling enough to avoid going nuts at a party. 🥜
- Bring a vegetable tray
I know you want to bring brownies to the party, and that’s fine. However, you should also bring a vegetable tray with something healthy like hummus or peanut butter. You never know if the hostess is going to have fruits and veggies out for grazing on, and eating vegetables between treats will help with moderation. The fiber will also help make you feel less full, thus less chances for second helpings with holiday treats.
Note: try not to keep any leftovers of those brownies at home!
- Estimate portions with your hand and/or use a small plate
In my weight loss program, we use our hand to estimate portions. This is highly effective because your hand goes everywhere with you! Also, often we really just need a gauge to be cognizant of the amount we are consuming.
Another helpful method you can use instead or in tandem is to use a small plate. When you use a large plate, your eyes are often bigger than your stomach. We need to switch out our bowls here at my house… the kids keep pouring themselves four times a serving of cereal and we’ve got four kids. Boxes of cereal is disappear fast!
Likewise, if you use a large plate you are more likely to put more food on it. When there is a lot of room left on the plate, an actual serving of each food item looks like a lot less than it is. Use a small plate and you will feel like you are eating more, thus helping you moderate intake.
- Don’t bring any food back home with you!
This may be the most effective of all of these tips. Parties often have leftovers and you are either bringing home your own dish and/or someone else’s leftovers. I tend to try justifying keeping leftovers for my kids, but I always end up eating a good portion of it!
If you really want to bring holiday party food back home, consider freezing it so it’s not very accessible when you walk by the kitchen. This is what we ended up doing with Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. I had made 3x the amount of food than we actually needed to serve guests. Freezing it let me take advantage of many quick and easy meals, but also spaced out how often I was consuming that dense loaded potato casserole!
- If you give in, don’t give up!
As humans, we have a tendency to justify giving in completely when we give in a bit. Thoughts like, “well I had a piece of that pie, so maybe I’ll just have two more slices and get back on that horse next week” aren’t great because you forfeit all motivation to moderate your intake. It’s also quite likely that you won’t hold to changing your behavior much next week.
Hello… this sounds like the whole month of December leading into our New Years resolutions. How many people binge in December promising themselves to lose weight in the new year? Lots. How many stay motivated past January to lose weight? Not many.
I’ve certainly been guilty of trying to justify eating more holiday treats with the thought, “well if I eat all of them, they will no longer be around for me to crave them”. That pecan pie has the same amount of calories and sugar whether I consume it now or later!
P.S. If you do have a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, I coach an excellent weight loss program that is structured to help you instill healthy habits that will last. When you change your lifestyle, you lose weight sustainably and maintain your weight. Not to mention your overall health will improve immensely. It’s also likely that subsequently, the health of your family will improve as well. If you cook for them, that is.
Well I hope these seven tips are enough to help you moderate your intake when you are at holiday parties this season. Practicing these tips in challenging settings will only help you grow more into a long term healthy lifestyle!
Even more important though, is to remember to treat yourself with compassion. We are only human. If a food is in your environment, you will likely eat it. Everyone does and this is normal. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up. However, if you implement these tips you can set a reasonable goal for yourself that you are able to meet. You will also be able to indulge in some delicious holiday treats. I hope you enjoy a little hot cocoa with a candy cane, and you have an excellent holiday! 🎄🎅
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