By Melinda Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDCES
As the end of the year approaches, we can be filled with feelings of both excitement and dread. As visions of sugar plums, gingerbread, latkes and yule logs dance in our heads, we may need reminding that the holidays are about so much more than food! Take a few minutes now to create a personal holiday survival plan by choosing 2-3 tips to focus on this season.
Make a Plan – Surprises can be wonderful when it comes to gifts… but not when it comes to sticking with your healthy eating plan. As much as possible, plan your meals and snacks ahead of time, so you’ll be less tempted by spur-of-the-moment treats and you’ll decrease the risk of overeating. Use the 80-20 rule as a guide, aiming for healthy choices 80% of the time, and fitting in the less-healthy favorites 20% of the time.
Keep on Exercising – You may be hearing the song in your head, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” – but you’re tough! Either bundle up with an extra layer (and non-slip boots) or expand your indoor options for keeping active: walk the mall and enjoy the decorations and music… or do your fitness routine in front of the TV while watching favorite holiday movies.
Find Some Fun Recipes – While you may be used to overly sweet and gooey traditional favorites – there are lots of festive yet healthy ways to enjoy food. Think stuffed mushrooms instead of baked brie. Wine-soaked baked pears instead of trifle. The internet abounds with clever and mouth-watering holiday ideas. The internet abounds with clever and mouth-watering holiday ideas.
Take Time to Breathe – Sit by the fire. Light some candles or just dim the lights and breathe. Do it slowly and intentionally. Try the “four by four” technique – breathing in for four counts and then exhaling for four counts. Taking a few minutes each day just for yourself.
Be Mindful – Continue to use mindful eating skills including eating slowly and intentionally, noticing the flavors in every bite. Avoid eating standing up or with distraction. When eating, only eat. Remind yourself of the real meaning of the holidays – and savor those memories… not just the food.
Keep Records – The holidays are not the time to stop your routines of keeping food records or weighing yourself regularly. Research shows these two activities are linked with successful weight loss and weight maintenance for many people. December does not mean “vacation” from doing these– keep them up… and don’t be too judgemental on yourself if the results don’t always match your goal.
Drink Water – Keep your water bottle filled with your no-calorie favorite beverage such as water, seltzer or a festive, fragrant herbal tea. Be careful of unwanted calories that can easily sneak in through holiday beverages such as egg nog, hot chocolate or mulled wine. Plan ahead!
Think Festive Fruits and Veggies – There are so many colorful and seasonal options. Think green kiwis, red pomegranates, red and green grapes, red and green peppers. Treat yourself and try some things you’ve not had before such as: baby honey nut butternut squash or star fruit.
Bake and Share– Love to bake, but afraid of having it around the house? Offer to make pies for the local shelter. Share your favorite cookies with friends and neighbors.
Pick a Perfect Portion – You’ve heard, “good things come in small packages”. It’s the same with yummy foods. Make bite-size treats in mini-muffin cups, portion out the savory spiced nuts into small single servings and keep the plate method in mind as you aim to fill half your plate with lower-calorie veggies.
Get Support – The holidays can be a hard time for many reasons, not just sticking with a diet. Remembering the loss of loved ones or juggling demands from well-meaning friends and relatives can be stressful! As always, having a good support system can help you through rough times. It may be a compassionate spouse, empathetic friend who listens well, our Facebook community or a professional mental health counselor.
Have Sweet Dreams – Did you know that getting enough sleep is linked with successful weight loss? Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night!
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