Tis the season to be jolly, rushed, over-fed, under-rested… did I hit them all? If you are anything like me, you are likely to approach this holiday season with both excitement and a touch of fear. Excitement to see and spend time with those you love and fear that those very same people will be bearing not just tidings of comfort and joy but also a tidal wave of calories.
The average American’s weight begins to rise around Halloween and peaks about 10 days after Christmas. Any guesses to just how much? If you heard 7-10 lbs, that’s just fake news. In reality, the true average is about 1-2 lbs. But before you sigh a great sigh of relief, I have to tell you something that is sure to put me on your naughty list – most people don’t lose this weight once they’ve gained it. Add that up and it’s about 15 lbs a decade! Add 15 pounds in your 40’s, another 15 pounds in your 50’s and all of sudden – well you know where I am heading. And that’s just the winter holidays!
Now before you start to call me a Grinch, I have 12 ways to painlessly prevent this slow creep:
First: watch out for sneaky calories. The neighborhood cookie exchange and office gathering are obvious high calorie events, what’s not so obvious are those that sneak in in the form of “tiny tastes.” When you bake cookies and eat the broken cookie (30 calories)… when you take a few candies from a co-worker’s candy bowl (80 calories), have a cup of egg nog (400 calories), eat the last bite from a pan as you are cleaning up (60 calories), lick the dessert spoon (40 calories)… and so on… and so on.
Second: When you attend holiday events, plan your conscious indulgences. Your family get together with Grandma’s famous cheesecake? Plan an indulgence of a small slice. This will take out all the stress of “should I or shouldn’t I?” and the guilty feelings that often follows.
Third: Before heading to the party, snack on low calorie veggies or have a small balanced meal. This will help to ensure you’ll be less likely to overindulge and stick with that “small slice.”
Four: Be THAT person. Bring a veggie tray or salad to your gatherings. This is especially important if you know the host is not particularly keen on healthy choices.
Five: You come to a party to see the people, so be with the people! Make it a priority to enjoy the party first then your favorite holiday foods. Plus you will find out if Aunt Martha’s spinach dip is still gross and not worth your calories!
Six: Find and use the smallest plate. We are visual eaters and feel done when the plate is empty. Smaller plate = less food!
Seven: Survey the entire table before you take any food. Identify the healthier choices and try to follow MyPlate Standards – mostly vegetables and lean protein – an take smaller portions of the decadent offerings. And remember to eat slowly, and savor the taste.
Eight: Don’t feel obliged to clear your plate. We all have eyes bigger than our stomach this time of year. When you feel full, stop eating.
Nine: Just Say NO! Don’t feel as though you have to say yes to everyone that offers you food and drink. Do not let yourself be bullied into eating something that you really don’t want. Ahem, Aunt Martha.
Ten: Watch holiday drinks as they offer those sneaky calories! (And I don’t have to tell you how alcoholic beverages can lead to bad choices.) Alternate high calorie drinks with low calorie or no calories beverages like water or seltzer.
Eleven: Be a thoughtful host. Don’t feel like you have to make all the traditional foods with original recipes. Strive to offer more vegetables and fruits, healthier versions of the classics and fun, and plenty of low/no calorie beverages.
Twelve: Be realistic about what the season will bring to your eating and focus on weight maintenance vs. weight loss. And don’t think about dieting after the New Year. Anticipation of food restriction sets you up for binge-type eating over the holidays.
So there you have it – twelve ways to stay on track this holiday season. We at Nourish encourage you to enjoy your holiDAYS. There are just a handful of days we celebrate and so many more that are just regular old days. And, regular old days call for balanced eating and exercise. So, if you over-indulge at a holiDAY meal, put it behind you and move on. Overeating one day won’t make or break your eating plan as it takes days of overeating to gain weight.
Happy HoliDAYS from the Nourish family!