The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone but, when you’re struggling to eat well or manage your weight, you might feel like the world is out to get you.
There is less time than ever as we try to pencil in parades and parties, while the opportunities to eat high-calorie foods pop up around every corner. At home, at work, and social events —everyone wants to show their love and generosity by feeding you.
The problem, though, is that we approach the holidays all wrong. Some feel determined to just will themselves through it. They are either “in control” or “out of control” but never “in charge” when it comes to eating.
They swing from one extreme to the other — planning to have none of the treats and then wanting all of the treats — but never finding a middle ground where things are balanced and centred. Others don’t want to even try. They write off the holiday season before it even starts, vowing to “get back on track” in January.
Tis the season for kindness and compassion, though, so let’s show ourselves a little. Use these holiday survival tips to feel in charge of your choices and take a more flexible approach to the season.
No more all-or-none. Instead of promising yourself you won’t have a single treat or permitting yourself to have as many treats as you want until January, recognize that there is a lot of space between these two extremes for moderation. Pursue progress instead of perfection. We don’t need to do it “right” or perfectly, we just need to do it better than before. If at the last party you snacked until you felt sick, you might feel tempted not to snack at all at the next one. That’s all or none. Instead, set a goal to assess your fullness each time you eat something so that you can stop at satisfied instead of stuffed. That’s taking charge.
Beware of the beverages. Sometimes it might feel like if you don’t have to chew it then it doesn’t count, but that’s just not so-ho-ho. Those mochas, lattes and hot chocolates can add up fast. While you may need that cup of coffee if you’re ever going to survive holiday shopping, consider skipping the syrups, drizzles and whipped cream. A small candy cane hot chocolate from Tim Horton’s has 51g of sugar. That’s a quarter of a cup!
Easy on the alcohol. With all the holiday dinners, parties, and social events, it’s easy to over do it on the alcoholic beverages as well. Not only do these drinks contain a ton of calories, they sometimes lead to late-night snacking. Consider sipping a club soda with a splash of cranberry juice between alcoholic drinks to slow down the pace.
Be a humble host. Bigger is often thought to be better and we can get carried away setting out as big a spread as possible for holiday guests. The more choices we have, though, the more we consume. For example, even though M&Ms taste identical regardless of their color, studies have found that more M&Ms will be consumed from a bowl that has 10 colors than a bowl that has seven colors. This year, consider serving only one item from each food group to narrow down the choices. Grapes, crackers, cheese and walnuts, for example.
Listen to hunger and fullness cues. As we get busy during the holiday season, it can be tempting to ignore hunger and try to power through your to-do list, but this can often lead to overeating later. Then, with an abundance of delicious food available, it can be tempting to over do it. Just because some is good, doesn’t mean more is better. Slow down and allow yourself the time to recognize when you’re satisfied instead of continuing to eat until you feel stuffed or sick.
Don’t forget the fruit and veggies. During the holidays chips, chocolate, candy and pop can start to be the four major food groups. Serve fruit and veggies to counterbalance the high-calorie treats. Instead of creamy dips and dressings, use hummus, salsa or Greek yogurt.
Schedule self-care. With the hustle and the bustle, rushing here and there, our own self-care can slip down the priority list. Schedule time a few days a week to read a book, take a hot bath, go for a power walk, or spend time at your favorite hobbies. Taking this time for yourself can help you recharge and give you the boost you need to stay in the Christmas spirit.
Make time for regular meals. Avoid skipping meals in an attempt to save calories for later. While this might sound like a good idea, it can lead to overeating later in the day. Eating regularly scheduled meals can reduce cravings. Our bodies are like cars — they work best when we put fuel in the tank. If you’re operating on empty all day, it’s no wonder you can’t seem to get the motor running.
Eat mindfully. How can you stay mindful when your mind is full? Though holiday to-do lists may be dancing in your head, meals are a time to be present. Express gratitude for the food you have in front of you and eat without distractions. Nurture and nourish yourself. Savour every bite with intention and attention.
Don’t wait until January. There’s no time like the present. The reason we always want to start on Monday, or the beginning of the month, or in the New Year is because we know we can’t do it perfectly right now so we think we might as well not start at all. However, paying no mind to your eating because you can’t do it perfectly is like slashing your other three tires because you got a flat. If you over-indulge at one meal, don’t slash the other three tires. Simply set your intention the very next time you eat and make choices that honor it.
These top 10 tips may seem like tall orders, but the general themes are flexibility, moderation and balance. Start to change your thinking in order to change your behaviour. A registered dietitian can help. Ask me how!
Ashley Hurley is a Registered Dietitian in Sudbury. Follow or contact her at her Facebook page.