Some call the six-week holiday season, “the most wonderful time of the year.” I call it binge fest. While I am not referring to the extreme behaviors cited in the Urban Dictionary definition of the word, those six weeks are often marked by a serious of regretful behaviors. We eat too much, drink too much, party too often and forget to exercise. That combination of factors can be a disaster.
But there are ways to make that extended time period less intoxicating but equally full of joy and holiday goodies. Here are my top five tips to keep regret in check:
1) Not all calories are created equal
The concept of counting calories began in the early 1900s. According to the laws of thermodynamics, all calories are created equal. But how our body breaks down each food group and the effect each food group has on our body is incredibly different. 1,000 calories of jelly donuts do not equal 1000 calories of veggies. And focusing on the calories instead of the quality and quantity of food you choose to consume during the holiday can be deleterious to your waistline. Eating is an essential part of our celebrations.
2) Pregame before family dinners or office parties
We often starve ourselves before attending an event, thinking we are saving up the calories to enjoy later. But going to a party hungry often leads to overeating. The best way to prevent overeating is to eat a light meal and drink lots of water before you head out the door. This will allow you to eat with your stomach and not your eyes and select those food items which you really want to eat…in moderation of course.
3) Size Matters
When it comes to plates, size does matter.
Studies have shown that our dinner plates have grown in size over the last century and our waistlines have grown proportionately. Big plates with a small amount of food can make you feel hungry. Instead, grab a smaller plate and fill it up proportionately, balancing the food groups. It may sound like a mind game but it can effectively help you eat 20% less during a meal. And don’t forget to eat mindfully, savoring the different textures and flavors in each mouthful. This process allows you to focus on your body and the signals it sends you during the eating process. While changing the size of the plate cannot guarantee weight loss, it will generally prevent weight gain.
4) Make way for veggies
One of the simplest ways to feel full and stay healthy is to fill half your plate with vegetables, either raw or cooked. Non-starchy colorful veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, beets and salad stuff are the best way to feast, both for your eyes and your belly. And they are a great way to fill you up. Blame it on the fiber which can help slow digestion, regulate your appetite and control your blood sugar levels.
5) Limit your empty calories
Alcohol is pure sugar which means it has no nutritional value. Same for most desserts. The more decadently elaborate, the higher the sugar content. I would never recommend to totally pass up the alcohol or the dessert table. My suggestion is to limit your quantity. Have a glass of wine and if you are still craving alcohol, try a glass of seltzer with a twist and see if that helps. Take bites rather than slices of cake or pie. You never want to feel deprived but at the same time, why leave yourself open to temptation?
6) Bonus Tip: Maintain your schedule
It’s a busy time of the year. While immersing ourselves in the joy of gift giving and spending time with family and friends, we often forget the importance of taking care of ourselves. Regular exercise is an important part of your schedule and it is in your best interest to keep it up. We look better, feel better, and have more energy and less cravings when we work out…the perfect excuse to enjoy a glass of wine and a small slice of dessert.