Ahhh, the holidays. I absolutely love them. I must confess, however, that this is one of the most difficult times of the year for me in terms of sticking with my nutrition goals. It seems to start with the Halloween candy (they start selling it in August now I think!) and carries through to the New Year.
I have learned the hard way that if I don't go into the holiday season with an eating strategy I will trip up by October and spiral to a full crash and burn by December 31.
Notice I said eating strategy and not diet. If you've spent any time on my blog, you know I am not a fan of dieting no matter what time of year. Strategy on the other hand, is just smart. Here are some tips I find helpful.
Keep your water intake up.
I find that if I am adequately hydrated I'm not as hungry and I don't have as many cravings. That might not make sense, but there are times when you think you want something to eat, but really you just need fluids.
Stay on schedule with your eating on the day you have a party or event.
Don't fall for the "I won't eat all day and that way I can eat the party food and still stay within my calories" thought pattern. It doesn't work. Your body needs clean food for fuel throughout the day. If you've gone all day without adequate food you'll be too hungry, your defenses will be down and you're likely to eat too much calorie dense, nutritionally deficient food. Instead, eat your clean meals as usual right up until party time.
Get your workout done.
Don't skip your workouts due to a busy schedule. Your health is important. What is it about the holiday season that makes us undo everything we've worked for throughout the year like it's a two month vacation? When you are busy and stressed exercise is crucial. The only way I can ever accomplish this, no matter how good my intentions, is to build my workouts into my calendar ahead of time and everything else goes around it. There are going to be some days that you cannot help missing a workout. The sky is not going to fall. Rest assured though that if you don't schedule them, they are a lot less likely to happen.
Review your week and decide on your treats ahead of time.
If you're like me, opportunities to fall off the bandwagon are lurking around every corner. I still don't think well on my feet. I'm seduced by the smell of movie popcorn, a sudden suggestion of going out for Mexican food and those chocolate/peanut butter Christmas trees that I am certain are manufactured by Satan, Inc. If I don't plan, the temptations will blind side me (as if I don't know they are coming) and I get weak in the knees. If I look at my calendar each Sunday night and decide where I'm going to spend my 2-3 treats a week ahead of time, I can focus. Then when it's treat time I can enjoy it without guilt, and without having to assess the damage at the end of each week.
Order first at a restaurant, fix your plate first at home.
That's so rude! Yeah, well so is leaving the house with a muffin top wearing jeans that are too tight. This is one of my favorite tips. If you're in a restaurant, especially for a fun occasion with friends, and you order first, chances are you're not going to change your order with the waiter after you hear what everyone else orders (you might even influence others to make better choices). But if you order last, that lean protein and steamed veggies with a plain sweet potato in your head might just come out of your mouth as an order of fried chicken tenders and honey mustard with a loaded potato and salad complete with croutons, cheese and ranch dressing.
Treat, don't cheat.
To me, examples of "cheating" are when you eat something you didn't intend to, you ignore smart portions and eat until you're about to pop, you can't stand up to temptation and give in to every opportunity to eat junk, or throw in the towel and just go on a binge or think "I'll start Monday" or "I'm so deprived, I deserve this!". It's a negative cycle of failures and it will pull you down. On the other hand, "treating" yourself has a positive connotation. It indicates you're eating in a mindful fashion, you're strategizing, you're rewarding yourself with a nice treat that you've earned. Periodic treats keep the experience positive. Next thing you know you'll desire those treats less and less, especially if they are junk food. It will have less appeal and you'll find yourself thinking twice about whether or not you even want to indulge after all.
Choose your favorites when treating.
What do you really want? A cheap processed fast-food style dessert wrapped in plastic or Aunt Betty's chocolate chess pie? Some weak soft serve artificially flavored vanilla ice cream on a kiddy cone or a scoop of Ben & Jerry's in a waffle cup? Half of a crappy frozen pizza or a slice or two of loaded pizza from an authentic Italian restaurant? Be choosy!!! Don't just eat every random thing that comes along, decide exactly what you want and eat it. It keeps you from feeling deprived, it's much more satisfying and you'll probably eat less of a really rich, tasty food than junky stuff.
Choose the healthiest options at the party.
If you're going to grab a drink, make it a small glass of red wine. On the buffet, go for the protein. Small portions of cheese and nuts may also be good options. Eat fruit if available. Top it off with a small sweet if you want it.
Eat before you go.
This is one of the smartest strategies. If you've eaten one of your clean meals before you leave for your party, you're not going to be near as hungry and it's easier to make best choices. You can still enjoy a treat, but your portions may be much smaller and the food will be less enticing.
Make it about the people, not the food.
I live in the south. We don't do anything without food, and lots of it! When faced with that situation over and over, you learn to focus on the people and try to make it less about the food. Start conversations, meet new people, plan activities that don't revolve around food. Get creative!
These are just some of my favorite tips and strategies. What works for you? Leave me a comment. I'm always learning something new!