Can you smell it already? Is your mouth starting to water? Get ready for it. In the next few weeks, the savory aromas of holiday feasts will be everywhere we turn! Pumpkin lattes, oven-baked turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cookies and pies are just a few of the holiday foods we’ll face in the next few months. And with this influx of tasty foods and social gatherings, most people will experience “holiday bulge,” gaining on average one to five pounds before the New Year. Unfortunately, this average increases the heavier you are.
So how do you maintain your physique for the next two months? How do you avoid the holiday bulge? And most importantly, how do you enjoy all of the festivities and tasty creations without having to glue your mouth shut?
My motto around the holidays is all about moderation. We have to equip ourselves with tools, control and accountability, but still be able to enjoy and celebrate with our loved ones. Let’s start planning right now and go over my favorite tips.
How To Avoid The Dreaded Holiday Bulge
- Avoid perfection: Want to know a sure-fire way to fail? Strive for perfection! Perfection is a myth and can’t be achieved. But we can all get through the holidays with a passing grade. I often tell my clients to have “more wins than losses” each day. When you walk into a holiday party or sit down for a family get-together, allow yourself one item that you normally wouldn’t consume on a regular basis. After you eat this item refrain from beating yourself up and enjoy this rare treat!
- Eat before you go: Holiday bulge can win if you’re hungry entering into meal time! I like to eat a healthy meal full of protein and fiber beforehand so that I’m not as tempted to make poor food choices when I’m at a party or sitting down for a holiday feast.
- Fill up your plate with greens: If you’re like me, you’d much rather enjoy a fun casserole or baked goodie than a vegetable. But I know that the satisfaction of eating like this will be short-lived. Try to fill your plate at least two-thirds full of vegetables, especially veggies that are green.
- Hydrate: Hydration keeps you full and helps with digestion. And dehydration is often mistaken for hunger. But this doesn’t mean filling up on alcohol and sugar-filled beverages. Don’t forget your H20. It’s a perfect holiday accessory!
- BYOD: Bring your own dish! Make something healthy and bring it with you to share. This ensures that you’ll be prepared just in case there aren’t any good options. You also can show your friends and family that healthy eating doesn’t have to mean boring. Get creative and learn how to make a nutritious holiday-inspired meal!
- Watch your portions: Make a commitment to not go back for seconds. Fill one plate—and don’t cheat by stacking your single plate as high as the ceiling. Avoid mindless eating scenarios too, such as sitting in front of a plate of chips and dip while watching a movie.
- Turkey and sweet potatoes: There’s some good news about holiday eating: There is a high probability that you will get to eat turkey. Enjoy this option especially if it is lean and not fried. The protein in each serving will keep you fuller, helping you limit your intake of other foods. Sweet potatoes or yams are another great option, as long as they aren’t drowning in marshmallows and brown sugar.
- Just say no: I know how easy it is to eat food that compromises my health goals when I’m worried that I’ll offend someone. It’s also very common to eat something just because everyone else is eating it. But remember that if people truly love and support you, they will not be upset if you don’t want to eat something they’ve made or offered. You are in the driver’s seat when it comes to what you are putting in your mouth. Avoiding holiday bulge has a promising prognosis when you take responsibility for the factors you can control.
- Exercise: This is not the time to say goodbye to the gym or cancel your membership. One of the best ways to combat the holiday bulge is to keep up your gym routine or even amp it up! I like to get in a good workout before I know I’m going to a party. Workouts can help keep your appetite in control and will lessen the severity of a large meal. You can always initiate a family gathering that involves physical activity, too. I suggest creating a collection of quick and intense workout ideas so you have no excuses during the busy holiday season.
- Set a new goal: Don’t wait until 2015 to set a resolution. If you know that the holidays are going to be challenging for you when it comes to eating healthy, you can set a new fitness goal or even sign up for an athletic event that you have to prepare for. When I sign up to compete in an upcoming fitness competition, I know that I’ll be staying disciplined throughout the holiday season as a result. Maybe you can sign up for a marathon or learn a new winter sport? There are even holiday-themed races that you can complete the day of a big holiday feast. Finding accountability is another priceless tool to avoiding holiday bulge. Do you have a loved one or buddy who can meet you at the gym? Could you set up a “biggest loser” challenge at work for the next two months? This has proven very effective for a lot of my friends and clients over the years.
Please know that holiday bulge is treatable, avoidable and manageable. Remember that we don’t have to be perfect and can fully enjoy the holiday season without destroying our healthy habits. Enjoy some treats, find some fresh recipes to share, grab a friend to keep you focused, and strive for balance over the next few months. Let’s have an awesome 2015 by making these last few weeks of 2014 our healthiest yet.
Happy holidays to you and your loved ones!