Holiday eating can be dangerous to your waistline and your health. Shortbread cookies, chocolates, eggnog, and alcoholic beverages tempt you at every turn. You eat (and drink!) more than you want or need. What’s the solution? With research to back me up, I recommend doing these five things to make your holidays healthier:
1. Get Clear On “Why”
Make a list of “why” you want to eat healthier over the holidays. This forms the backbone of staying on track. Your list might include the following: to feel better, look better, have more energy, protect my health and maintain my weight. I don’t recommend trying to lose weight over the holidays. Maintaining your weight is a much more reasonable goal (and more fun too!). State your reasons in the positive – what you gain by eating healthy, not what happens if you don’t. Positive goals are more motivating. Finally, keep your “whys” top of mind, especially right before a big party or meal. It all begins with “why”.
2. Imagine It
To reinforce your goal, get a picture in your mind of what achieving your goal would look and feel like. For example, see yourself at a party making good food choices. Notice how that looks and feels. Then see yourself making unwise choices and observe the difference. Do the same for the end of the holiday season. See yourself looking happy, healthy, full of energy, and with clothes that still fit! Then observe the opposite. This is called mental contrasting. Research shows it works. When you see both options clearly, resisting temptations becomes easier to do.
3. Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Your environment matters – a lot! Food that’s insight and in reach is consumed at twice the rate of food that’s out of reach and out of sight. Your job, therefore, is to keep your environment clean. Place tempting goodies out of view and as far from your body as possible, both at home and at work. This applies to chocolates, candies, cookies and all other holiday foods that beg for your attention. When at a party don’t position yourself next to the snack bowls, appetizer trays or buffet table. Bottom line, foods you can’t see, you’re much less likely to eat!
4. Eat Light, But Don’t Skip Meals (And Don’t Forget The Apple!)
Skipping meals in order to save up calories for the big holiday feast may seem like a good strategy, but it’s not. The more famished you are when you arrive at a party or feast, the more food you’re likely to eat. A better strategy is to eat light during the day and eat one whole apple (with the skin on) just before the main meal or party. Apples are all-stars for filling you up and taking the edge off your appetite. Eating just one can significantly decrease the amount of calories you consume later on.
5. When This Happens… Do This!
Implementation intentions make it easier to eat healthy. What’s an implementation intention? It’s an “if – then plan”. It means anticipating situations in which you might eat or drink more than you want and deciding ahead of time how you’re going to handle the situation. Here are some great examples:
• To make sure I stay active over the holidays, I’ll exercise first thing in the morning before I do anything else. If my friends ask to get together socially, I’ll recommend we do something active, like skating, sledding or going for a walk.
• If there are appetizers at the party, I’ll choose cut-up veggies, fresh fruit, or shrimp cocktail. I’ll avoid (or limit) less healthy options like cheese, pates, potato chips, and pastry-wrapped or breaded hors d’oeuvres.
• When offered an alcoholic beverage, I’ll choose a glass of wine, a wine spritzer, or a light beer. I’ll limit myself to two alcoholic drinks for the night and enjoy calorie-free beverages, like sparkling water, as I please.
• When meal time arrives, I’ll keep portion sizes small, choose healthier options, and eat slowly. I won’t go back for seconds. I’ll focus on having meaningful conversations at the table instead.
• When it’s time for dessert, I’ll have a sliver instead of a slab and limit myself to no more than two selections.
• If someone offers me more than I want to eat or drink at any time, I’ll feel comfortable saying “no thank you”. I get to decide what I eat and drink over the holiday season!
Lessons Learned: Be clear on why you want to eat healthy over the holidays. Imagine it happening. Keep tempting holiday goodies out of sight and reach. Eat light before big meals. Take the edge of your appetite with an apple. Anticipate situations that could throw you off course and plan for them accordingly. Last, but not least… enjoy yourself! The holidays are meant to be fun!
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