Enjoy the Holidays Without Gaining Weight
The Holidays are here. It is true that every holiday event, from work functions to family events, revolve around food, but if you are trying to lose or maintain your weight this can be a dangerous and stressful time of year. If you take a few precautions you can enjoy the holidays and the traditions without worrying about gaining weight.
This is not about starting a new eating plan. The holidays are not the time of year to begin a diet, there are far too many temptations and events outside of your control this time of year. Starting a diet now would set you up for failure, so it is best to use your energy and good intentions in a way that will bring you success.
A good way to start counteracting the effects of holiday eating is to increase your activity. Keep your regular exercise routine but also think about ways to sneak in extra exercise. Start your day with some stretching. Clean your home and exaggerate some of your movements to burn more calories. Walk a few extra laps around the mall or park your car further away in the parking lot. If you take a bus or train to work, get off one or two stops earlier and walk. If you need to go up or down a floor or two, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Those little extra movements add up to extra burned calories.
The easiest way to overeat is by skipping meals. When you become overly hungry it is hard to control the appetite. To avoid losing control eat a small meal every 3 hours or so. Also do not attend any dinners or holiday functions hungry. Eat a healthy snack or if you know the food served will not be healthy, eat your regular meal before you go. This way you will not be hungry and you can just sample a few items.
There are usually some holiday dishes that you look forward to all year. If that is the case, you should enjoy them, but compromise with yourself and limit consumption of the other foods. For example, I love holiday pies. If I want to eat them guilt free then I choose more vegetable based dishes, less fatty ones and reduce my alcohol that day. This way I can eat my favorite desserts and not worry as much.
If you regularly drink soda pop or juice, this is the perfect time to cut back on these beverages. If you stop drinking your calories you will be able to eat more food. For example, two 12 ounce cans of soda are the equivalent of 300 calories. A cup of mashed potatoes is approximately 210 calories. If you eliminated two sodas you could eat the potatoes and still have 90 calories left! So if you drink soda or juice, switch to water and you will be able to eat more food without gaining weight.
Another beverage that can get you into trouble is alcohol. It is alright to enjoy yourself, but drink in moderation. Not only do alcoholic drinks have a lot of calories, but too much alcohol quickly dissolves any willpower you may have. If you have a hard time cutting back then try drinking an entire glass of water in between each alcoholic drink. This will slow you down.
If you cook, you can control the fat and caloric content of the food. Keep making your traditional dishes but make some easy substitutions that will not affect flavor. For example, for baked goods substitute apple sauce for oil (or if this is too extreme, try using half of the oil and half of applesauce). Use skim milk instead of full fat milk in recipes, also, when using evaporated milk, use the skim or low-fat versions and use egg substitute instead of whole eggs. Try unflavored or greek yogurt in the place of mayonnaise or sour cream. Before you start to cook, think about the dish and try to come up with one or two ways to cut the fat and calories, nearly every recipe can be slightly changed without anyone knowing the difference.
The holiday season can be a very busy and a particularly stressful time of year. Many of us turn to food to comfort ourselves to relieve the stress. If this happens to you, do not think this year will be different. Anticipate stress and make time for yourself. If you plan for it before you get stressed out, you will be able to cope so much better. Leave room in your schedule for some time alone or for activities that you enjoy, for example taking a bubble bath, catching up with old friends, yoga, meditation or prayer, doing some reading or even scheduling a massage. Also, when doing things around the house, turn off the television and play your favorite music instead. Sing or dance along if you feel like it, have fun at home! Listening to music can reduce stress and make you feel better almost immediately.
Start new traditions that do not revolve around food. Find ways to spend time with loved ones without eating, outdoor activities, board games, crafting, knitting or even making decorations are all fun activities that do not have to involve food.
The holidays are meant to be enjoyed. A special time of year we spend with friends and family. It is possible to enjoy the holidays and keep a sense of moderation so you can start the new year on a healthy path.