Holiday feasting always started early in our house. The cooking was complete by 9:00 in the morning and Thanksgiving dinner was served by noon. The menu was simple and has been the same for as long as I can remember. Once the feeding started, we continued until it was all gone – nothing was ever thrown out.
Post-Thanksgiving week went something like this:
Breakfast: Egg custard pie (It's a southern thing!)
Lunch: Turkey, dressing + pie
Dinner: Turkey, dressing, string beans + pie
This pattern of eating lasted until we polished off each item (not surprisingly, mom's 8 pies were always the first to go!). Then, we'd repeat the EXACT same scenario with the EXACT same meal at Christmas. The insanity of eating that way never really hit home until I was well into my thirties, as in a measly 5 years ago! I mean, it was the holidays and this meal was only prepared at this special time of year, so didn't I deserve to cut loose? Never mind the fact that it took almost half the year to undo the damage from that 4-week period.
Even after changing my diet for the other 48 weeks of the year, I still accepted that during this period all bets were off and it was ok to eat this way because I could ‘work it off'. At some point it clicked that this kind of excess just didn't jive with my lifestyle. Stuffing my face with all of those rich foods, meal after meal, day after day went against everything that I stood for – moderation, balance, nourishing my body and not being a slave to my taste buds. Nothing beats my mom's holiday spread, but I can appreciate a single meal without putting an entire year's worth of effort or my health in jeopardy.
One of the best things about this time of year is undoubtedly all the delicious holiday-themed treats and smells coming from the kitchen. Party invites are probably being thrown your way and you might already be wondering how you will enjoy the festivities without totally wrecking your progress. You will surely be tempted by tasty treats and delicious drinks while enjoying the company of family and friends and, by all means, should enjoy them. Use these holiday eating tips to indulge with moderation and avoid falling face first into the seasonal fat traps.
Set Your Day Up in Advance If you already know that you will be enjoying a favorite treat, like my mom's egg custard pie, make adjustments to the rest of your meals for that day. So, if some of your favorite foods are carb dense, eat less carbs throughout the day. The same practice can be applied to fats. Making adjustments to other meals will improve the overall macronutrient balance for the day.
Party Full- Another option to consider is having a healthy meal before you go. If you show up ravenous, you are more likely to make poorer food choices. Just like they say never go grocery shopping hungry, showing up to a smorgasbord with an empty stomach isn't the best idea either. As if all the decadent desserts aren't tempting enough, being around these things when you’re in need of food increases your likelihood of overindulging. Try eating some lean protein and a mix of fats and carbs before heading out.
Practice Moderation Living a healthy lifestyle doesn't mean you can't partake in the holiday's bounty. Rather, it means you understand the importance of moderation and you practice it. Decide up front that you will indulge mindfully, eating the way you do the rest of the year with a treat or two added in. One approach you can take is to follow an 80/20 rule (80% healthier choices, 20% less than healthy). This way you won't feel deprived of any foods, yet you won't have to carry around the guilt or the pounds from overindulging.
Eat Slow & Stop Before Full This recommendation stands all the time, but doesn't hurt mentioning again here. Although you may want to dive head first into the goodies, slow down your eating. If it is a once-a-year meal act like it and savor each and every bite. Not only will you appreciate the meal more, you will give your brain and gut time to communicate fullness and help you recognize when to stop eating. Once you start to feel full, you know it is time to stop.
Forgive & Forget-If things don't go according to plan and you somehow find yourself polishing off an entire pie (it has been known to happen!), let it go and move on. Listen, we’re all human, and as such we are fallible. There will be times we overdo it, but holding on to that guilt will do more harm than good. What matters is how you move forward. Acknowledge your overindulgence, try and figure out what triggered it, and carry on. Live in the present and let go of the past.
Remember What Food Is & Isn't- Sometimes we find ourselves uncomfortable in a room full of people or relatives we are glad we only see once a year. Being stressed or nervous can increase your chances of eating one cookie too many. During these times, remember what food is and isn't. Food is sustenance. It is not a problem solver. It’s not a friend to confide in. Mindlessly eating in response to an awkward or uncomfortable situation won't solve any of your problems, it just creates a new one – overindulgence! See food for what it is and don't let it be your crutch.
Whether fall and winter or spring and summer, these rules apply year-round. By sticking to the nutrition and exercise habits you've established and indulging mindfully, you can increase your chances of staying svelte through sweater season and ready to rock come summer. Always check in to the real meaning behind each holiday and recognize that it isn't just about the food. Most importantly enjoy this time with your family and friends!