It’s that time of year again. In addition to holiday dinners and parties, the exhaustion that comes with planning and shopping can put a damper on our emotional health - as well as our waistlines. While some accept holiday weight gain as a fact of life, and then proceed to make New Year’s resolutions to work it off, what if we avoided the gain in the first place?
Our environment plays a huge part in what we eat, so if we surround ourselves with large portions of unhealthy foods, we are setting ourselves up for bad decisions. Stress eating is one of the most common reasons for weight gain during the holidays and throughout the year.
We comfort ourselves with the hormonal high that we get from eating a large meal and feeling uncomfortably full. We also tend to snack all day on sugary, fatty snacks and calorie-laden drinks when we are feeling stressed. What can we do to avoid this?
Motivation to change our habits is one of the most powerful tools we have, and even more powerful than most weight loss medications. If we continue to make the same choices, then we will continue to get the same results. If we are able to convince ourselves that it is worth it to make healthy decisions for our long term health, those changes seem to be more attainable.
Think about your personal reasons to lose weight (or avoid weight gain) during the holidays. Fitting into clothes better, improving your blood pressure and being a good role model for your children – are all good examples.
Once we have a strong foundation in our minds of why we want to change our current habits, we can start to incorporate small changes in our routine.
Planning ahead for the holiday season and managing time wisely can help avoid the rush towards the end. You should be realistic about what you and cannot do, and should not accept an invitation to every event if that will be a source of stress. Make time to reflect upon the holiday season with immediate family to relax and enjoy quiet time, as opposed to being rushed from one party to another.
When you make your plate this season, be mindful of your serving sizes. Some tips are to avoid fried foods and thick gravies which are secretly loaded with calories, fat and salt. Switch to healthier vinaigrettes and homemade sauces.
When you look at your plate, no more than ¼ should be grains/carbohydrates such as pastas, rice or bread. Another ¼ should be veggies, another ¼ a lean protein and the last ¼ a serving of fruit (or more veggies). The site www.choosemyplate.gov is a good website to get started in learning about serving sizes and other lean protein choices.
If you absolutely need to have dessert, have a small piece of pie or a few bites of dessert – and see it as a treat for all the hard work it takes to keep on track. Don’t see this as a failure, but also try not to make it an everyday habit. Also avoid the “guess I fell off the wagon, there goes my diet” attitude and instead go right back to the food habits you want to keep practicing.
Everyone can use some rest and relaxation. Happy holidays to you and your family, and have a joyous season!