It’s no secret that people gain weight over the holidays. In fact, it’s considered the norm– and most of us chuckle about it. But maybe it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are my best tips for eating, enjoying, and still fitting in your clothes this holiday season.
- Make your meal plan the rule, not the exception: Sure, some days you will have special things going on– a family dinner, an office party, a church or civic social, but there will also be many days that it’s a regular day, and even more days when 2/3 of the meals are normal. Follow your meal plan, without question. You are not going to feel any sort of good if you eat foods your body isn’t used to in quantities it really can’t handle. Annnnd, if your body isn’t getting what it needs, it will pitch a temper tantrum that will make a cranky three year old look like a cherub.
- Follow the 6-P rule: This is a corollary to the above, but it still needs to be said. Plan your meals, and plan your gatherings. My (sometimes crass) trainer has a saying that he calls the 6-P rule: Proper Planning Prevents P!$$ Poor Performance. Sit down with a calendar every week if you need to. Prep your meals because if you don’t have anything ready, and you know, life, you will make poor choices.
- Focus on how you feel, not the number on the scale: Most people have a desire to “lose 20lbs”, but don’t really have a strong desire to see that through. But that’s an especially dangerous mindset at the holidays as there is so much tempting food, so many gatherings, and life gets super busy. Most people will try a few days to stick to their diet, but then give up all together and resolve to “really get rolling at the New Year.” By focusing on how you feel and your health, you’re less likely to sabotage yourself.
- Don’t Graze: This is closely related to Tip #1, but it’s an easy pattern to slide into without even realizing you’re doing it. Don’t leave holiday treats in eyesight. Don’t stand next to the food table (even if you’re an introvert and this is the way you try to avoid talking to people you don’t know. Uh. You know. I’ve seen people do this!) Only pasture animals should graze… and you are definitely not one of those! You’re a fox, and a catch!
- Focus on your “why”: If you don’t have a rock solid reason why you want to become healthier, you won’t do it, even under normal circumstances, and definitely not at this time of year. At 30 and 250lbs, I was completely exhausted. My body hurt, including my knees and back. I couldn’t walk a whole block without having to stop and rest. Truth: I could not change a shower curtain without having to rest at least 3 times. I couldn’t really fit into an airplane seat. So when I got good and tired of that life, I had a really big “Why”. And 98% of the time, it was enough to keep me on track. If you don’t know your why, give yourself (and those that love you and want you around– and healthy enough to enjoy life with them) that gift this season.
- Think “Holiday” not holi-daze: We tend to think of the time from late November to January 2 as “ThanksMasYear”, as if it’s just one big long holiday. But that wreaks havoc on any waistline. Celebrate a holiDAY as one day, and make it a feast day. But don’t feast nonstop for the next 7 weeks! Get back on track the very next day.
- Don’t Eat your Feelings…or your memories: I think every person and group who talks about weight loss says this one, but it’s completely true. So much of what we eat isn’t about fueling our body. It’s about soothing our spirit. Get stressed? There’s an ice cream for that. Feel sad? Have a cookie. Broke? Enjoy this decadent dinner. But this time of year, most of us tend to compound that by eating our memories. We remember Thanksgivings with our loved ones, and try to recreate those same feelings with the food we eat. Or maybe Christmases weren’t so good, so we try to eat until we don’t remember. When you sit down to a meal that’s emotionally charged for you, whether good or bad, ask yourself why you’re eating what you’re eating.
- Don’t Eat Just Because Everyone Else Is…or because you’re “expected” to: Go ahead and own it. You know you do it. I sure did! When I started this lifestyle change, I was a pastor, and there was a lot of pressure to eat. (Please, please don’t do this to your pastor– even if you know for certain you make the best _______________ in three counties!) Some of this pressure was real, and some of it was just in my head. But once I started bringing people into my decision to take control of my health, many (though not all) people were much more understanding. I learned to enjoy the company and fellowship, but either ate just what I needed or would eat later. Truth: some people didn’t like it. But I had to learn the hard way that you only get one body. What someone else thinks of you isn’t worth sacrificing your health.
- Don’t Stuff Yourself Silly: You know that “stuffed to the gills” feeling that leaves you in a food coma for a day? Yeah, that’s your body’s way of saying “WTHeeeeeeck did you do to me? I can’t handle all that food.” Even if you eat a lot of not so healthy foods, you can still make healthier choices by eating reasonable portions.
And my number one tip for eating well and still having fun this Holiday season is….
- Only Cheat with Foods you LOVE: If Pumpkin Pie isn’t your fav, why would you spend your calories on it? Surely, not just because it’s there? Or because it “wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it?” You’ll wind up feeling gorged and guilty, but if you only splurge on things that you “capital L” LOVE, then you will feel you had a celebration. But you will still also feel energetic, healthy, and proud of the decisions you made.
“You only get one body! Celebrate the season well and healthily!”