I’m sure you’ve read those “how to survive the holidays without weight gain” tips. Hey, I’ve written some of them. If you have a busy work and social calendar, it can be a real challenge to stay on track November through January. Weight maintenance sounds boring, but it’s a good lifestyle strategy, and focusing on good eating habits on your “off” days really helps (“off”, meaning regular work days, and days/nights that you don’t have a holiday gathering to attend).
There is so much emotion that revolves around what to eat or not to eat, that many have lost sight of how to eat, and how much to eat. Your body is actually very good at telling you what it needs and when. During any time of the year, eating should be enjoyable, and should nurture and support a healthy mind and body.
Rather than fuss about every little morsel, think about why you’re eating (the answer should mostly be “because I’m hungry and need nourished”). Consider these ten simple Do’s and Don’ts:
- Do eat when you’re hungry. Plan healthy meals and snack options. Add more fruits or vegetables daily. I push this because they are loaded with vitamins and fiber, and almost everyone needs more than they consume. And of course, part of a DASH Diet plan.
- Do eat what you are craving. If you ignore all of your cravings, you are either going to be very cranky, or you will end up binging on what you ignore, or some other unwanted, high calorie food.
- Do consider normal, modest portions. We do eat too much – we are served too much in restaurants, our bowls and plates are too large at home, and portions from everything from buns, to muffins, to bagels, to coffee cups, are larger than they used to be, 25 years ago. Toast half a bagel, eat half a sub, order only a “tall” latte, and take half of your lunch home in a to-go box.
- Do plan to exercise more often. That’s right, more. Even if in short bouts of 15-20 minutes, try to have some sort of exercise scheduled into your daily routine. Mark it on your calendar. Schedule it. Don’t skip. Do less rather than nothing.
- Do have a shopping list, and go grocery shopping so you have healthy foods at home to snack on and prepare. Bake something special from scratch, instead of picking up bakery items. The extra effort involved may help you avoid overdoing it with sweet treats.
- Don’t eat just because it’s noon, or 6pm or whatever. It’s normal to be more, or less, hungry on some days. Use your body’s cues; you don’t always have to be on the same schedule, just try not to go too long between meals or get over-hungry.
- Don’t weigh yourself more than twice a week. That is one of the most self-sabotaging things you can do. You aren’t going to gain or lose fat overnight.
- Don’t feel guilty about eating anything. Even if you just downed a Ho-Ho®, don’t worry about it. It happened, move on. If you had a crazy craving, and you indulged, it’s okay. Just plan to eat healthier foods at the next meal.
- Do hydrate – things get busy this time of year, so don’t forget to hit the water fountain or pour a glass of water through the day.
- If you need some support, try working a dietitian, and if think you have compulsive or disordered eating issues, seek the help of your health care team.
Roll into the holiday season happy, healthy, and guilt-free.