Eating Light This Holiday Season

Looks tasty doesn’t it?

I originally posted something like this back in 2010, but as it’s the holidays again, it serves as a great reminder for the upcoming overconsumption. Here are a few strategies to keep in mind over the next week as you feast on food and try to stay adherent to your weight-loss goals.

1) Set a Realistic Maintenance Objectives For The Holidays 

For most people, a weight or body composition maintenance objective over the holidays should be the focus. I’ve heard plenty of estimates over the years; people gain on average XX lbs over the holidays. You can insert your own number there, but I’ve read 4-10 lbs on average, depending on the study.

Now if you could just keep your weight the same through December, you’d be that much better off than average for the rest of the year. Weight doesn’t just suddenly appear, it creeps on. It’s not one day of overconsumption that hurts, it’s a week or a month of consistent over-eating that hurts.

This is where your mindset becomes important, can you maintain your weight through exercise and nutrition this time of year? I think you can. Most people aim for perfect, all or nothing. There are many reasons why this mentality can be a recipe for disaster, because it’s just not feasible for most. Be realistic.

Your mind will be in a far better place come January, because of this, and January typically signals a feeling of renewal in most of us.

2) Alternate Alcoholic Beverages With Glasses of Water

Don’t want to give up drinking completely but still want to shed pounds or keep your weight the same through December?

I’ve used this as a weight loss strategy with many over the years. It’s realistic, in that it allows you to socially drink still — be honest, no one wants to be THAT guy/gal at the Christmas party — without looking like a prude and it cuts your liquid caloric intake in half for the evening.

It tends to help curb that hang-over you would have otherwise had too.

You could also choose some better options for alcohol. For example, any alcohol mixed with any soft drink is not so good, but soda water with vodka and a splash of lime is a much better option. Wine is a better option than beer often too.

Keep consumption to a more realistic quantity with this simple strategy.

3) Eat More Lean Protein with Every Meal

20 for women (about the size of your palm – see this article), 40 grams for men should suffice — 3 eggs has 18 grams.

Protein increases the thermic effect of food which slows sugar absorption into the blood stream and requires more calories to break down during digestion.

Small quantities of good fats (Nuts, Avocados, etc…) have been shown to have a similar effect, as has fiber, but protein is the preferred approach over the holidays.The other side effect of protein consumption is that it leaves you feeling fuller, longer, so you’re less likely to over-consume.

Let’s face it, turkey breast is not the problem over the holidays, it’s the white bread, marshmallow yam casserole, pies, cakes, stuffing and sauces. Avoiding sugar or reducing it’s effect on your body is part of the goal over the holidays.

4) Slow Down and Practice Hara Hachi Bu

The Okinawans have a saying, which translated to English means, “eat until 80% full.” 

In a time where gluttony is everywhere, mass overconsumption the norm, it can be tough. Eat more slowly and more thoughtfully and you’ll know when to shut it down, just a little bit earlier than usual. Don’t worry, it takes 20 minutes for your hormones to switch the process up removing ghrelin (hunger hormone) and adding amylin to the system — among other things.

Really, anything that gets you to slow down when you eat and think about what you are eating is a good thing.

A picture of your plate, might make you think twice about what you are about to consume. It is also far easier than keeping a food diary over the holidays. If you need extra accountability assign a ‘holiday eating buddy’ and text message photos of food to each other.

Anything we can do to slow down your eating over the holidays will be useful so enjoy a conversation, take a picture, chew your food more, or eat smaller bites and take any means you can to slow yourself down.

5) Out of Sight – Out of Mind

This is the time of year, everyone puts chocolates, candies and other snacks out in an endless supply. It’s considered hospitable to have large amounts of food out for people to snack on, but it’s not exactly friendly to the waist-line.

Hide this food, do not leave it out and keep refilling it over the holidays for your guests.

I know a lot of my relatives do this, but realize if it’s there, people will eat it, yourself included.

Instead make or pick up a couple of tasty but relatively filling ‘non-processed’ appetizers and bring them out at a scheduled time (mid-afternoon), when it’s gone, it’s gone. Something to start a conversation with, curbs hunger slightly and keeps your reputation as a hospitable host intact.

Remember lean protein is your friend here.

6) Be O.K. With Waste

My family is always encouraging me to finish things off over the holidays.

When I was younger, I would oblige because I had a ferocious appetite that could not be satisfied. I was also physically active 12+ hours a week at the time.

These days I’m much less likely to get peer pressured into polishing the stuffing off. I don’t eat myself to the feeling of stuffed because I don’t worry about waste, or the much more likely: left-overs. I’m not sure I really like the feeling of being stuffed, having to undo that belt buckle a notch, or worse showing up with stretchy pants to holiday dinner?

Realize it’s O.K. not to finish everything on your plate or try every single — of the 14 different dishes on the table — kind of food on the dinner table.

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