First and foremost, I want to acknowledge that holidays are a time to relax, enjoy your time with family and friends with yummy foods and drinks. Don’t think of holidays as a speed bump to your health and fitness. Health and fitness go way beyond physical health, there’s social, emotional, mental and psychosocial aspects to health. Focus more on all the other aspects of health during this time of the year. It goes without saying that physical health is also very important but don’t get to caught up on your training and eating routine that you miss out on the other important parts. Alright now that my rant is over, let’s talk about some strategies that can help you stay on track with your routine, avoid excess fat gain and help you manage your weight over the holidays.
- Plan it out: There’s going to be many social events on – work parties, catch ups with friends, family, maybe even a couple events in one day. Plan out when you’re going to be attending, put them in your calendar and evaluate which events are going to be worth the extra food splurge. Once you’ve decided which ones then enjoy the food guilt free. Often times we’d overeat on things that we are not even excited about just because it’s the holiday season. If there’s a tray of choc chip cookies at the office, but you’re a brownie girl. Don’t indulge in 3-4 just because they’re there and its holiday season as it will most likely lead to food guilt. Instead, it’s probably better you bake brownies with your friend, spend some quality time in the kitchen and indulge in those guilt free.
- Limiting alcohol – alcohol has 7 calories/day. It’s a toxin and we are all aware it does nothing for you nutritionally. Nothing wrong in enjoying alcohol socially, but if attending a social event or a meal with family don’t start with alcohol before food as it can increase appetite and you’d more likely overeat regardless of hunger. Enjoy your wine while you eat. Also be mindful of sweetened drinks and opt for sugar free mixers.
- Keep a routine in your eating – don’t skip meal! It sounds a little counter intuitive as you may think you’re saving calories for a big meal/treat. Our brain runs best when it’s in routine, it doesn’t like it when things are out of order and makes poor decision when that happens. If you’re a 4 meals/day type of person and don’t eat for a full day. You’d most likely would overwhelm yourself when it is time to eat and keep eating past the point of satiety and fall in to the cycle of food guilt.
Pro tip: I like to have a high protein snack just before I leave my house for a meal out. Chobani yogurt squishes, an Up & Go Energise or a couple of corn thins with smoked salmon slices are pretty good little snacks.
- Keep active – if you are in routine of exercising regularly, keep that routine all through-out the break. It may not be a programmed workout or a session where you hit PBs. But any exercise is good exercise. A good hit of endorphins can amplify your mood, feed your subconscious brain happy hormones and increase food pleasure.
- Adapt and adjust – revisit what strategies help you stay on track when everything is under your control. Try and implement those when having social meals. For myself protein and plant first is my principle when I am having family meals. It’s a strategy I practice in my regular eating and help me when I visit family. I fill up on veg either in a salad form or curried veg (it helps when your mum is veggo) then protein and then everything else. It sometimes can be challenging to balance out cultural meals but if I tick off the plants and protein first then I can be sure my meal is balanced. Plants are high fibre and protein is very satiating, it also ensures I’m not eating past hunger satisfaction. Adapt the same principles – eat your plants and protein first then move on to all the other dishes and desserts.
Endnote: Holidays are a time to enjoy delicious foods and drinks with people you love. If you find yourself being anxious around food or overly food focused during the holidays. It may be worth talking to a dietitian (myself or another) and work on your relationship with food. Food is meant to be a lot more than calories or energy, there should be no guilt associated with any particular foods.
Good luck and Happy Holidays!
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