The holiday season is upon us and that means family, friends,
presents, parties, and lots of delicious food. Celebrating
with food is culturally engrained in most of us. And here lies
one of the great quandaries that comes with the six weeks between
Thanksgiving and the new year. We've all worked hard, or at least
thought about working hard, or dreamt of working hard, to maintain
our diets and keep from gaining those extra pounds. But let's face
it--is there anything less fun than worrying about maintaining a
diet during this joyous time?
There's a reason why most people's New Years' Resolutions
include losing weight. For many of us, the months of November and
December represent the season of temptations. But don't let the
myth of the unavoidable holiday weight gain dampen your holiday
spirit. In fact, according to the New England Journal of
the average person only gains 1 pound over these six weeks compared
to almost 1 pound per day when traveling on a cruise.
Nonetheless, for many of us, being mindful of healthy eating is
still very important and remains a challenge.
Nutritionist Dhana Blissett urges people to practice "
mindful indulgence." I've compiled a few pieces of advice
gleaned from health care experts about how to maintain your
healthful eating habits-and your waistline this holiday
- Moderation is the KEY! Many holiday foods are
perfectly healthy options so indulge, but do so in moderation.
- Don't skip meals! Rather than "saving" room
for a big dinner, eat at normal mealtimes and eat normal portions,
which will keep your appetite at bay and reduce the desire to
overeat when "everything looks so good, I already know I'll want
- Be active! Try to sneak in a little more
exercise if you're feeling guilty. Not only will the exercise burn
the extra calories, you can benefit from the energy boost to finish
that last minute holiday shopping. Even 10 to 15 minutes two to
three times a day can help; your body doesn't know the difference
and the overall effect will be the same. Also, consider exercising
just before meals. As part of the cool down process your metabolism
will continue to burn calories while you are eating and even
afterwards, this process is called the
excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.
- Socialize, but mindfully! Holiday parties and
socialization leads to overconsumption. According to Barbara Rolls,
Ph.D., professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State
University, a research study conducted at the same University found
that that dining in a group causes the average person to eat 44
percent more calories than they would eat alone. Rolls stated that
"Since the number of distractions will most likely be greater, a
holiday party can increase the tendency to overeat even more than
just going out to dinner with friends." Therefore, try to be
mindful of your environment and allow the fellowship to represent
the entrée and the food the side dish.
- Stay hydrated: NO not "that way, silly"! Drink
lots of H2O to stay hydrated and avoid "heavy" drinks.
Understand that liquids, like eggnog and alcohol, can provide just
as many if not more calories than full sit down meals. Also
drinking alcohol inhibits willpower, which you'll desperately need
when dinner is served and it's time for seconds.
- Have a partner: Dieting can be hard under any
circumstance and no one wants to suffer alone during the season
"o'plenty." As partners, you can reinforce to one another the
importance of staying mindful and disciplined.
- Brush your teeth! Yes, brush your teeth
after a meal, seriously. The feeling of having clean teeth and
fresh breath will deter you from grabbing that extra snack on the
way out the door to the next gathering or right before bedtime,
when all those excess calories can do the most damage.
In the end, regardless of how mindful and well intentioned your
holiday eating strategy is, ultimately how much you eat is the
important factor. All excess calories are
usually converted into unwanted body fat. So sometimes
the very best and most productive exercise you can do is to push
away from the table and just walk away.
I wish you the Healthy(ist) Holiday Season!