By Roni Laytin, NASM CPT, NASM CES, AFAA GFI
November marks the first month of the holiday season, a time when high calorie, fried, and delicious food abounds! There are sweets at the office. The leftovers are seemingly endless. Trying to maintain a balanced diet at this time seems pointless. This way of thinking about consumption is akin to going on an all-out spending spree without looking at your bank balance or credit limit. There are ways to enjoy the holiday season and engage fully, allowing yourself to eat delicious treats, without feeling overloaded or gaining weight. These dietary principles are great to follow any time of the year, but they are especially helpful while there are so many temptations around.
The first step to preventing overeating is making sure you are properly fed with nutrient dense foods. Nutrient dense means having the proper macronutrient ratio of carbs to protein to fat, as well as being filled with the vitamins and minerals necessary to properly fuel your body. Make sure you’re eating protein dominant food until you’re almost full, before diving into the cookie tray. Know that not all protein is created equal. A cheeseburger from In-N-Out may be filled with protein, but it is not as healthy as cooking 10-15% fat organic beef at home. So much of maintaining a balanced diet and avoiding detriment to your health is about proper planning. If you can make time for preparing just two lunches and snacks per week and cook them at home before going to work, that is an improvement.
Treat yourself to snacks. Bring a healthier dessert with you, one that has ingredients you can pronounce and no high fructose corn syrup. You know that a colleague’s homemade cookies will be extremely tempting once the mid-shift slump hits, so arm yourself with healthier options. Be an advocate for your own wellbeing and think of the future over present moment cravings. This is where the spending analogy comes in. If you spend $300 on shoes, but you know you have lesser income coming in, or higher expenses the following month, that’s cheating yourself out of financial stability. The same goes for holiday consumption. If you’ve been on track with eating (there is no real “track” to speak of, but bear with me here), and you eat a ton of cookies so that the resident baker doesn’t feel bad, that’s cheating yourself out of nutritional balance.
Drink water and remain active. There are times when we may think we’re hungry, but we actually just need to hydrate. It is more difficult to notice when you’re dehydrated as temperatures drop, because you’re not feeling as hot; it is just as important to drink water beyond sweaty season. In terms of exercise, if you remain active, you’re more likely to make healthier eating choices. Regular exercise can kick healthy eating habits into gear, because eating poorly doesn’t fuel an active lifestyle. Maintaining an exercise regimen will also prevent you from investing in expensive diet and exercise programs in the new year; there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to diet and exercise, so these types of programs are always a gamble.
Enlist a buddy or team of supportive people to hold you accountable for taking care of yourself. It is proven that fitness and nutrition goals are easier to obtain with social support than they are just by going it alone. This could look like checking in with a group of friends and/or family members daily or weekly, joining a workout group or class ahead of the new year, or seeing a fitness and/or nutrition coach.
Above all, mindset is key when it comes to maintaining your healthy eating and exercise habits throughout the holiday season. You are not helpless to the overwhelming tasty food and drinks available. Having a strategy will not only prevent overeating, but it could also make holiday eating more enjoyable, as the usual guilt and fear of weight gain won’t be looming in the back of your mind. You have the power to make it a healthy and tasty holiday, and if all else fails, January 1st isn’t far off.
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