Photo and cupcake decorating author: Make.Bake.Celebrate
How to Nutritionally Survive the Holidays
This year can be different.
The week of Thanksgiving: joyous anticipation fills the air as we all stand on the starting line of another holiday season. All the posts and chatter right now reflects this holiday honeymoon phase. Our giggles have not yet turned to tears as we read and share all those jokes about how much weight we will inevitably gain over this dietary equivalent to a marathon – six weeks of navigating parties, comments from relatives, influences from co-workers, and a constant supply of left-overs.
But behind our giggles and as soon as we leave the parties, our enthusiasm gets ruffled as we reluctantly extend our hand out to welcome back our old, familiar friend– Holiday Diet Blues. Starting the Monday right after Thanksgiving, you wake up every morning committed to finding balance this year and vow to not go completely over the edge until January.
And you stay strong to your renewed commitment… until noon. Then, like an addict, your spirit sinks as you remember that one cookie is too many and a half dozen isn’t enough. The good news? This year can be different.
My top 6 tips for how to finish this holiday marathon successfully:
- Don’t skip breakfast the night after over indulgence (this works against your body – not with it). Too often we think we can save calories by skipping breakfast trying to make up for indulgences the night before. This is a mistake. By skipping breakfast, you set yourself up for what is called ‘compensatory eating’. This means you eat more later in the day because you are making up for lost (needed) calories earlier in the day.
- You can control breakfast so make it really count – make it fiber rich, balanced with protein and healthy fats, and lots of produce; get fruits and vegetables in early since you probably won’t get enough later in the day; have a breakfast blend made with kefir or Greek yogurt + flax or chia seeds + frozen berries or peaches + fresh baby kale, spinach, and mint leaves.
- Breathe and know that you can reset behaviors during the day (you can be in control of your choices all throughout the day). How? Set a timer. If you had cookies with your lunch, set a timer for at least 4 hours. Don’t eat anything again until that timer goes off; this will strengthen your digestion and can save hundreds to thousands of calories a day by not constantly eating.
- When your alarm goes off and you’re excited to eat again – eat this before anything else: 1) one serving of fruit or vegetable, AND 2) one additional fiber source (flax crackers, hummus or other bean dip, etc) PLUS a glass of water. Fiber and water both reduce the rate sugar is absorbed in our bodies. This won’t negate everything, but it will help you feel full faster and give you some strength to decline that third (or fourth) cookie; and by adding just one serving of produce each time you eat – you’ll automatically ensure a minimum of 4 servings (8 if you started with the breakfast blend!) each day even through the holidays; this becomes significant in helping support your immune system while all that sugar is suppressing it. (and I’ll whisper this part.. this effort to eat produce, fiber and stay hydrated will also help keep you regular and avoid holiday constipation. You know how important this is and how fast regularity leaves you the minute you eat more cheese and cookies!)
- Give yourself permission to enjoy your traditional family recipes on the actual day of the holiday (remember Thanksgiving is only one day long). I don’t even talk with clients about balancing these traditional recipes or trying to convert them to low-fat versions. You should eat stuffing (or dressing for my northern friends) the way your grandma made it– just make them with as high of quality ingredients as you can (organic, pastured animal products and no packaged foods with added chemicals and colorings); it’s what/how much we eat the 360 non-holiday days each year that matter way more. And on actual holidays, still follow these tips!
- Get up and MOVE! Just 20 minutes of light activity like walking or playing catch outside right after a meal helps push the sugar from the meal into working muscle bringing insulin levels down. It’s this same insulin that makes you feel so sluggish after you eat a heavy meal.
So even though moving the last thing you feel like doing, it’s the best thing you can do to help you feel like doing anything else for the rest of the day (like playing games, digging through old pictures, and making new family memories- yea, all those things the holiday’s are really about).
As for those constant supply of left-overs; just don’t make as much. Allow each family member to pick their ‘must-have’ at the table and limit other dishes (less work for you!). And buy smaller amounts of the items you do have. Engage your family and talk with them about why you don’t need more and use it as an opportunity to make a donation to a food bank or shelter (maybe for each item you don’t make – or make less of – you, as a family, agree you will donate $5).
So this year, focus on what to do rather than what not to do. Learning just a few key things to help you navigate these challenges will leave you empowered, confident, and energetic during this wonderful time of year. This year you can avoid those Holiday Blues progressing to Holiday Regret!