Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is perhaps the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy and rewarding life.
The holidays can be tricky when it comes to food. For those looking to maintain their natural body weight, or to continue a weight loss journey throughout the holiday season of November through January, it’s absolutely crucial to master a few game-changing strategies when it comes to feasts and celebrations. On average, Americans gain between 5 and 10 pounds – weight that often takes 3-4 months to lose – from Thanksgiving and Christmas eating. Here’s the good news: you don’t have to be “average,” you just need to know (and put into action) the following 7 tips:
Here are the 7 most people gain weight from Thanksgiving and how to avoid falling into that trap … and still indulge in and enjoy your Turkey Day to the fullest!
TIP #1: DON’T LET THE SNACK MONSTER FOOL YOU
On holidays over-snacking is a little monster that creeps up on many people. Finger-foods, appetizers and sweet bowls of candies that are kept out all day while family gatherings occur habituate us to thinking that we should be eating all day long. Just because the snack is there doesn’t mean you need to eat it. Often we overeat because of mindless and bored eating, not from the dinner of Thanksgiving itself. Instead, pre-plan what finger foods and snacks you will eat and stick to those; choose 80% of your selection to be healthy fruits and vegetables and allow yourself to enjoy whatever goodies you want for the other 20% of what you choose. Keep in mind that everything you put into your mouth matters – and snacking too much will take away from your ability to really enjoy the dinner feast itself.
TIP #2: ALWAYS EAT BREAKFAST
One of the main reasons people gain weight in general is from skipping breakfast, which can significantly slow down your metabolism and also incite overeating later in the day. In particular, when preparing for a day of holiday feasting, many people make this classic mistake, in hopes to “save room” for all of the food they are looking forward to throughout the rest of the day. Instead, by eating a regular, protein-rich breakfast you will set yourself up for greater willpower throughout the day and the ability to indulge and enjoy your feast with moderation. By spreading your calories out throughout the day you are not only boosting your metabolic rate but you are also giving your body ample time to properly digest and process your food, enabling you to really use food as fuel.
TIP #3: GO ON A GRATITUDE DIET
Give thanks, not just for your meal, but for each item that you eat. Notice the texture and presentation of the foods you select and slow down your eating to savor it. For 60 seconds before you actually start eating, think about how many hands were involved in the preparing of brining whatever food it is that you are about to eat to your table and give thanks. The more aware you are of your food, the more apt you are to appreciate it. In appreciating our food, we eat more slowly and with more mindfulness and in turn we are significantly more in tune to knowing when we’ve had our fill.
TIP #4: LET THE STUFFING BE THE STUFFING.
Let the stuffing be the stuffing. You don’t have to leave the table stuffed. Remember that you will most likely be surrounded by people making jokes about how stuffed they are and about how they shouldn’t eat any more (and yet they continue to eat); don’t buy into those conversations. Make it your goal to feel as good physically after you feast as you did before and try to always leave a little extra room in your tummy.
TIP #5: STICK WITH SIMPLE DRINKS.
One of the sneakiest culprits of holiday weight gain comes from the often overlooked and calorie-laden holiday drinks. Whether your fancy concoctions have alcohol or not, most holiday associated drinks are cream heavy or fruity disasters: read: swimming in fat and sugar. You can still joyfully indulge in fun holiday drinks, but keep them simple and know what ingredients are in them. When in doubt, stick to red wine, water, or coffee; avoid juices, punches, egg nogs and mixed cocktails.
TIP #6: HAVE A PLAN
The key to real holiday eating success is to have a plan. Know a general idea of what you would like to eat in advance and plan accordingly. Decide what indulgences are important to you and counterbalance them with a selection of healthy and fresh foods and vegetables. In addition to having a plan, part of your plan can include leftovers, that way you don’t have to feel obligated to overeat or to stuff yourself. You can eat in moderation by knowing that you have permission to eat more of what you are enjoying from the meal the following day or later in the week.
TIP #7: JUST SAY NO TO CASSEROLES
Do your best to avoid eating creamy casseroles, in fact, it’s usually best to avoid casseroles all together. Why? Casseroles, unless you made them yourself, are the great-unknown, and typically, the better they taste, the more hidden butter, cheese and oil are hiding in them, making them high calorie disasters. If you must, take a spoonful to savor one of your favorites, but keep it to that.
The bottom line? Food is wonderful, and it is meant to be enjoyed. It’s a beautiful and wonderful way to connect with and share experience with people we love, so let’s make food for us this holiday season instead of working for it afterwards (ie: working it all off and dealing with feeling bad about ourselves in our skin from overeating). You can have a healthy relationship with food this holiday season all the while you actually enjoy what you eat as well. Moderate, savor and celebrate. As Arlen Specter once said, There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset. Protect your health by celebrating and feasting with more awareness this year.
It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.