Your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal may contain more calories than the average American needs in an entire day (for many, it’s almost double the amount they need in a day), and can contain the amount of fat grams required for an entire week (source: The American Council on Exercise: 229 grams of fat). The average American gains 7-10 pounds over the entire holiday season (source: CNN). Don’t be a statistic this year! Here are some tips to help you plan ahead and keep on your fitness track this holiday season:
1) If you will be helping to prepare the food, chew gum or have a bowl of grapes or orange slices handy. This will help you avoid nibbling on other items, which could contain enough calories as in an entire a meal, while you cook. If you are worried about how something tastes, have someone else (preferably the thinnest family member!) sample it.
2) Remember, it takes the stomach about 15-20 minutes to signal the brain that it is full. By then, we’ve usually overeaten- especially during the holidays.
3) Yes, you can gorge yourself until you are too full to move, but you don’t want to! You have the right to eat to your heart’s content- and then some. You can pile your plate as high as your chin and dig in! You CAN eat until you make yourself sick. BUT, you don’t WANT to. Remind yourself of this continuously. You have the power to choose what- and how much- you eat.
4) Want to taste it all? Then do just that- taste it. Just because you want to enjoy all of the foods served during your family’s dinner, doesn’t mean you need a full serving of each dish. Take enough to allow yourself one or two bites of each item. Serve yourself slightly larger portions of low fat items (especially the turkey, as long as it’s not deep fried!) Eat slowly, savoring every bite. Tell yourself that if you are still hungry 15-20 minutes after you finish what is on your plate, you can have more- again, in moderation.
5) Be thankful for every bite. No matter what the season or holiday, giving thanks for every meal, every bite you eat, will put things in perspective. There is no need to overdo it on consumption. You have been provided with what you need.
6) Don’t skip dessert. If you deprive yourself, you may be setting yourself up for greater temptation. Have dessert, but have a small portion. Again, savor every bite. When you are done, say “That was delicious!” instead of “I wish I could have more.”
7) Don’t hang out by the food. If you park yourself in front of the hors d'oeuvres, you just may graze yourself an extra 300- 1000 calories before you even sit down to dinner. If you must eat before the meal, pick a few low-cal items, put them on your plate, and move far, far away from the food.
8) Limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol provides “empty calories;” they offer no nutritional value. Additionally, alcohol may impair your judgment- and thwart your plans for healthy eating. Think of it in these terms: every drink should equal a serving of carbohydrates. If you must drink in order to handle your family, or they must drink in order to handle you, well, that’s a different article.
9) Know this: one day’s worth of indulgence – especially during the holidays- has the potential to balance out one to two week’s worth of workouts. (Think about it: 3,500 calories per pound.) Remember all of that sweat? Make sure it was for a good reason. Think of all of your progress and hard work while you are serving out your portion sizes onto your plate. What you put into your body during Thanksgiving just may make the difference of what dress size you will wear for that Christmas party.
10) Get a grip on holiday stress. Plan ahead: make to do lists, take alternate routes to avoid busy holiday traffic, don’t wait to the last minute to do holiday shopping, delegate cooking and baking chores when possible. The less stress, the more you can enjoy the holiday and the less likely you will be to engage in stress eating,
11) Draw your strength and enjoyment from the true meaning of the season.
12) Volunteer at a shelter or donate toys during a children’s gift drive. Stepping outside of your self can help put things in perspective.
13) Think it through. Before you sit down to that holiday party buffet or Christmas dinner, visualize yourself taking small portions, turning down second helpings, and taking only a sliver of pie. Imagine how strong and determined you will be as you handle those fattening temptations. Psych yourself out for success.
14) Wear snug fitting clothes so you will feel uncomfortable if you eat too much. Unbuttoning your pants to let your gut hang out is never attractive.
15) “Smaller size me.” When you eat on a smaller plate, you create the visual effect of more food. You will eat enough to satisfy your hunger without over-indulging. If eating on a different plate is not an option, space your servings out so that the plate is covered with smaller portions of food.
16) Remember: Nothing tastes as good as being fit feels. Yes, food tastes good. But, keep in mind that you will get to eat every day of your life- for the rest of your life. Save some for later.
17) Think ahead. The holidays only last for so long, but there’s no need to keep a souvenir of extra weight gain. Imagine that traditional post-feasting hop on the scale and looking at that number How will you respond to an increase? To a decrease? To no change? You determine your future and it starts now.
18) Separate food from emotion. Understand that food is a substance and love is an emotion- they are not the same thing. The holidays are a wonderful time to reunite with family and friends and celebrate special traditions, but be aware of the food-emotion connection that is especially dominant during this special season. If all of your family traditions revolve around food, you may need to make a few new traditions so the focus is on relationships and sentiment, rather than only on food. Enjoy the company- take the focus of the food. Celebrate relationships, take pleasure in the conversations, get caught up, play games, start a new tradition….
19) Practice your refusal skills. What will you say to turn Aunt Edna’s gravy soaked butter biscuits down? What will you say when you are subject to ‘peer pressure’ to eat? How will you handle comments like “I made this just for you!” and “Is that all you’re going to eat?!” Practice your responses. If you don’t feel comfortable telling people that you are trying to trim up, maybe a health-related excuse will be more comfortable. Someone may argue with “I want to look better,” but who’s going to argue with “My doctor says I have to reduce my cholesterol so I don’t have a heart attack”?
20) Drink water. Make sure you always have a glass of water in your hand. Your hands and mouth will be occupied and it will help to fill up your stomach a bit so you don’t overeat.
21) Eat healthy snacks and mini-meals throughout the day. This will help you avoid the dreaded starvation binge.
22) Print the flyer (free download above) to post on your fridge or at work. Getting other people in on the fit festivities will help everyone succeed.
23) Have fun! Allow yourself to relax in your confidence and your ability to make the right decisions.
This information should not be a substitute for medical or psychological care. Please consult your physician or mental health care provider if you need help with an eating disorder or have another other concern,
FCCS is directed by Melinda Haynes, MA, California LMFT 102308. Oklahoma LMFT 1153. North Carolina LMFT 2143.