There is so much to enjoy during the holidays. The decorations, gift giving and family traditions, but, it’s the endless rounds of parties and festive dinners that can cause problems for people trying to lose weight, or even those looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If you’re worried about overindulging this festive season, check out my tips to help you stay healthy and happy. Remember, careful planning is the key to getting through the holidays, and the next time you feel challenged, remind yourself why you started on this youth preservation journey in the first place.
- Don’t Overload on Guilt
Let’s be honest, eating some unhealthy food during the holidays is inevitable. No matter how dedicated and ‘good’ you’re trying to be, the onslaught of parties and get-togethers means a mass of tempting treats, and always saying “no” can become a problem.
When you do succumb to the delicious food on offer, don’t let your guilt spiral out of control. Guilt can lead to additional unhealthy behaviors. If you overindulged in the party food one day, focus on returning to your regular eating routine the very next day. Don’t get caught up obsessing over the dessert you had last night, instead, concentrate on the delicious, healthy food you are going to eat today!
- Focus on Food Heaven
Holiday buffets, special seasonal menus and lavish parties present a never-ending selection of food to choose from. You can become giddy with the excitement of piling your plates with a little bit of everything, but, stop and think about it for a second. Not all holiday dishes are created equal, and you really don’t need to try everything.
If you’re going to take a break from your normal eating routine, make sure you’re choosing the foods you are genuinely excited about and give you true enjoyment. In other words, if you’re going to cheat, make sure it’s with something really worth it! If it doesn’t make your heart flutter, skip it.
- Switch to Sparkling Water
Another tradition of holiday parties is the free-flowing alcohol. Bottles of bubbly and seasonal cocktails may help some people get into the holiday spirit, but if you are going to enjoy the odd tipple, don’t go overboard. Nobody enjoys dealing with a hangover, but the effects of too much alcohol go beyond a sore head and a dodgy stomach the next day. Drinking alcohol causes facial bloating, dehydrates your skin, robs the body of Vitamin A and is proven to accelerate the aging process.
When you’re celebrating with friends and family this season, make sure to alternate alcoholic drinks with sparkling water. Not only will this help you avoid consuming additional calories, but it also keeps you fresh and fights the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Water is wonderful and you should be drinking more of it!
- Veg Out
When faced with the massive and varied amounts of food on offer at holiday buffets, it’s tempting to pile your plate with all the most mouth-watering offerings. Eating without thinking leads to ignoring your internal cues of hunger and satiety. Do you even like the seasonal dishes on offer? Just because it’s limited, you don’t have to eat it!
Start your meal by loading your plate with vegetables. If you’re worried that sounds boring, remember, there are lots of fun, delicious and healthy seasonal side dishes, packed full of vegetables. By starting with the low-calorie options, you’re increasing the nutritional content of your meal, and when you reach dessert, you will likely feel too full to have anything more than just a bite.
- Don’t Save up Calories
Before you go to a holiday party, do you think about skipping a meal to save up calories for the evening’s festivities? This means you’ll be arriving at the buffet table hungry and are more likely to overeat. When you’re hungry, the cravings you feel for salty, fatty and sugary foods come from an increased level of cortisol – a steroid hormone that plays an important role in nutrition.
The idea of saving up calories for later in the day can backfire big time. “Eat your regular meals and snacks through the day, and fill up on protein-rich and high-fiber foods so that you have a nice, full feeling when you get to the party,” suggests Angela Dufour, a registered dietitian.
- Follow the One Bite Rule for Desserts
The spectacular selection of delicious and decadent desserts on offer over the holidays can be a minefield for anyone trying to live well and eat healthily. The pressure you feel to enjoy traditional food while fighting against the temptation to overindulge is tough. When confronted with yummy Christmas candy cupcakes, or a brandy butter covered pudding, try to follow the ‘one bite rule’ – allowing yourself one bite means you can join in with the food festivities, feel less restricted, and best of all, it won’t change your weight management goals. Obviously, you need the strength and willpower to ignore temptation and not eat any more.
Also, don’t forget the seasonal fruits and nuts available during the holidays. Nutrient rich pomegranates, mandarin oranges, chestnuts and walnuts are appetizing alternatives to the sugar laden desserts you typically find at this time of year.
- Merry Meditation
A survey carried out in December 2014 found that 20% of the UK population was stressed about Christmas, a holiday that’s supposed to have its foundation in peace and goodwill! When you think of the pressures behind shopping, cooking and fitting in all the festivities, it’s not surprising people can end up feeling stressful and anxious.
The best way to manage stress successfully is to integrate stress-busting changes to your lifestyle on a daily basis. Meditation is a perfect way to achieve this. Not only will regular meditation keep you calmer over Christmas, it can help you live a longer, healthier life. Scientific evidence suggests it can improve psychological conditions like anxiety and depression, which in turn can affect mortality.
- No More New Year’s Resolutions
As the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, millions of people around the world will be making New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and get healthier. The statistics for sticking to resolutions are not good – 25 percent of people will abandon their new plans before the first week is up. After six months, more than 50 percent of people will have failed in their resolutions. New Year’s resolutions don’t work!
If you want to become a happier, fitter person who lives a longer, healthier life, you need to work on making sustainable changes to your lifestyle. Radical dieting and random detoxes won’t help you. The changes you make should be part of a regular and committed focus on feeling good, reversing damage already done to your body and increasing healthy lifespan, not just lifespan and health separately.