In the days leading up to the holidays, Google searches skyrocket with advice on how not to overeat. But how can we resist the spell of carby, salty, sugary foods being passed around at work parties, family gatherings and mixing with old friends?
The answer begins by recognizing that the holidays have always orbited around sharing food with friends and family. There are only a few times a year where we fill up a little extra on food, and that's OK. Instead of letting that guilt creep in, think about how grateful you are to indulge and enjoy extra food with friends and family.
That said, experiencing food guilt is hard to suppress this time of year, especially for those who pay close attention to their health and fitness. I get it, you want to be your best, but if you have a healthy relationship with food and follow the 80/20 principle the rest of the year, there's no reason why you cannot double down on a second serving at Christmas dinner.
The below outlines a few strategies that may help you get the most out of the holiday season while feeling good and proud of your decision-making.
1. Remind yourself that one or two days of poor eating isn't going to make you gain weight. It's is a two-way street, so in turn, one or two days of on-point eating isn't going to make you lose weight either. Sure, you may feel uncomfortably full after a big holiday dinner, but that's short-term, and you need to think long-term. Your overall eating pattern (your diet over weeks or months) is what counts with regards to long-term success, happiness and health. The habits you have most days are what matter.
2. Be proactive, not reactive, regarding food choices. Big holiday dinners shouldn't come as a surprise. Instead, they're planned and scheduled, so be smart about your breakfast and lunch on that day. You'll want to eat a protein-heavy breakfast and lunch the day of, ideally with a big salad to ensure you are getting your greens in. Protein requires a lot of time and energy to digest, which keeps you feeling full for longer, curbing your appetite, and will put you in a position to be more selective and mindful with what you want next. Sometimes, the best offence is a great defence.
3. When indulging, do so mindfully. I promise you will enjoy your food more and stop well before you're stuffed. Mindful eating encourages us to slow down, sit down, and enjoy our food by paying attention to all the senses that make up our experience. This approach will help to increase your awareness and sensitivity to hunger cues so you'll feel more satisfied and still have room left for dessert 🍰.
4. Avoid the "all or nothing" mindset. Often over the holidays, we tell ourselves that having an entire "cheat" day means we should get in as much food as possible because tomorrow will be a different ball game. This way of thinking will only lead you to feel sluggish and bloated but will likely cause you to feel restricted the next day, eventually cave into your cravings and then end up having multiple days where you overeat and feel unwell.
Instead, use the mindful eating approach listed above to enjoy a few treats and sweets you love and then tell yourself that if you want more tomorrow, you can have more tomorrow! It's better to eat a few treats each day over the holidays, then go nuts on one day and attempt to restrict yourself the next. The idea of restriction the next day will only make you crave it more.
The key is: don't try to do "damage control" the next day. So you ate more yesterday and overindulged? Big woop! Like I mentioned above, one day or even a few days won't change your body. Consistency is what matters. You do not need to restrict calories or skip meals the next day, and you don't need to double up on workouts or work out for longer. If you feel full, sluggish and blah, remind yourself it is temporary and continue to think BIG PICTURE!
Be strong and be well,