I love the holidays! I had great memories growing up and I want to do all I can to create awesome new memories with my family. Some of those memories most definitely involve food. My mom loved to bake and during the holidays she went into overdrive. She made all the traditional foods and even some that are a little more obscure.
So no, I’m not some weirdo that doesn’t like holiday food or treats! And I’m not going to preach to you to bring your Tupperware to all your parties and events.
But there are a lot of things you can do to avoid the typical holiday weight gain almost all experience every year. Why not be proactive about holiday decision-making instead of reactive after the damage has been done.
First things first, we need to remember a few things…
We Have Free Agency
We’re all adults and we have 100% free agency over what makes its way into our bellies. That’s right, you don’t HAVE TO eat something just because people around you are tempting you to do so – always happens…
When we attend parties we are relentlessly pressured to eat whatever holiday treat is available. When you’re trying to be on your best behavior and just enjoy the friends and family, they focus in on the fact that you’re not stuffing your face.
“One piece won’t hurt you!”
“Just work it off in January…”
You eventually cave…But you don’t have to!
Don’t Eat Your Feelings! Don’t Stress Out!
The holidays can be the most stressful time of the year for some. Family drama, end of year deadlines, the expense of Christmas presents, or maybe just bad memories from Christmas past. Don’t use food to cope with your feelings. Eating your feelings very rarely results in any improvement in your stress. It usually amplifies it. Hit the gym, go for a walk, yoga? Do something other than stuffing your face.
So What Can We Do?
This is good practice to do year round, not just the holidays. Look up the calories and nutritional facts of some of your favorite holiday food. With this knowledge you can see which indulgences you may be able to fit into your diet. Watch for high amounts of sugar and fat.
Know Your Triggers
Acknowledge what foods may trigger a binging episode. Prepare in advance by eating before, so you’re not hungry. For the really poor food choices, you really should do this. Some things just shouldn’t be eaten.
This principle is something we teach our clients and really allows for flexibility with nutrition. This goes hand in hand with being informed…If you have macros you’re trying to stick to on a daily basis then you can exchange your planned food with some of your favorite holiday treats with minimal damage…potentially. It’s always best to stick with nutrient dense whole food, but mom’s homemade caramels are sooo good!
If you’re supposed to have rice or another starchy carb in a meal but you’re Aunts famous apple pie is calling your name, forgo the rice and have a few bites of pie. Not a direct exchange, but it can reduce the damage.
Focus On Satiety
This is another good rule to live by…Eat until you’re full, not stuffed! Slowing down the pace of your eating is a great way to realize just how full you are. When you eat quickly you don’t give your stomach enough time to signal your brain that you’ve eaten enough. Slow it down and savor each bite!
Fill Up On the Good Stuff
Focusing on the meat and veggies first, even eating more than you typically would, will keep you from multiple trips to the dessert table. It’s very difficult for your body to actually convert protein to fat. I’d say it’s damn near impossible!1 So eat all the turkey breast you want, load up! All that protein and tons of veggies assure great satiety and keeps the tempting pie at bay.
Plan To Indulge
If you know you’re eating some pie and chocolates no matter what then plan for it. Don’t overdo it, savor each bite and move on. Planning ahead can reduce stress and guilt.
Work Out Before
It’s well documented that your body is more glucose tolerant after a hard weight training session. Performing a glycogen depleting workout, perhaps weights and some cardio, can blunt insulin response.2 So if you can get a good hard training session in the day of an event it will help reduce the damage.
The last thing you want to do is ruin your holidays being stressed out about food and all the tempting goodies that can wreak havoc on your goals. Enjoy the time with family and friends and make memories! Planning ahead and being proactive can help you avoid gaining ANY weight over the holidays!
1. Bray, George A., et al. “Effect of dietary protein content on weight gain, energy expenditure, and body composition during overeating: a randomized controlled trial.” JAMA 307.1 (2012): 47-55.
2. Titchenal, C. Alan, et al. “Does prior exercise affect oral glucose tolerance test results?.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 5.1 (2008): 1.