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‘Tis the Time for Mindful Eating: Danielle’s 5 Key Tips to Surviving the Holiday Food Deluge
Oh yes, here they come again, the holidays! It’s funny because it’s a time we all look forward to, but that fear is still there…the fear of overeating all week and inevitably gaining weight. For many people, this is very predictable. In fact, the average American gains 7 to 10 pounds between November and December. But really, who can resist these delicious holiday treats?
Most people, on the other hand, never gain extra pounds during the holidays. I’m usually one of them. “It’s because you’re a dietitian and you never like food,” you say. “No way!” that’s what i’m talking about. I like many foods. Lots of food. “Ugh, moderation word. Overused.” Yes, I agree. But in most cases it is true. If you keep it in moderation, you can enjoy a wide variety of foods. Too much attention? No. Have a little fun? Yes.
Now, you might be thinking, it’s not fun. What’s a holiday when you can’t eat until your stomach almost bursts and your grandpa’s lazy son needs an extended siesta? I can hear you. We all have traditions we look forward to and long for this time of year. For many people, overeating is one of them. As mentioned above, we are afraid of overeating during this season, but we expect it and do it anyway. It’s like an unbreakable vicious cycle. How do we get out of candyland hell!
One of the first steps is to recognize the problem! The problem is that when we overeat, we constantly monitor our natural hunger/fullness cues, which eventually leads to dysfunction, and we can’t even tell when we’re hungry or full anymore. We begin to eat for pleasure or pain instead of physical necessity. This leads us to eat more often and in much larger portions than necessary.
What to do? This is where a few basic common sense nutrition tips can be very helpful. It may not change your life right away, but trust me, over the weeks and months you will slowly become more in tune with yourself and be better able to feed your body what it needs rather than what your cravings tell you.
Danielle’s 5 Tips for Surviving the Holiday Food Deluge:
1. Identify your weaknesses and where they occur.
Recognition is always the first step, right? You need to assess where your problem areas are. Is it sugar? All carbs? Salt? Large portions in general? All of the above? Will the problem be in the workplace? At home? At family gatherings? Alone at night? All of the above. Think about the foods you can’t stop eating and where you can find them throughout the day. Write it down.
2. Make a daily and weekly plan.
Remember, most weight gain comes from small but cumulative overeating during all holidays, not just Thanksgiving and Christmas. Make a plan for yourself so that you can predict what you want to eat each day and stick to it. Having a plan frees the mind to think about other important things and even frees it from considering cravings, especially if you know that according to your “plan” they are not an option.
*If you need help with party planning, come to me for ideas!
Also, keep a diet journal as you go. Writing down what you eat, at least in the short term, will increase your awareness of what you’re eating and help you avoid random snacks. When you are forced to think more about what you eat, you make better choices. So put pen to paper (or finger to phone) and keep track for a few weeks over the holidays.
3. Don’t give up all your favorite foods. This is the worst thing you can do, especially when you are starting something new. In my experience, the more taboo a food is, the more you crave it. All I can say is that all foods are allowed, but portions are controlled. This is the key. Build it into a plan and make sure you stick to a specific portion. *Remember, usually the first 1-3 bites of any food are the most satisfying. The word is pleasure, pleasure, pleasure. Enjoy every bite. When that uber-pleasure is over, put down the fork. Save the rest for another day. I know it’s hard, but try!
4. Keep up the physical activity! I can’t tell you how many people have given up training during this time because they were “too busy”. Oh no. This is unacceptable. We all have extra things we add to our daily routines because of the holidays, but skipping exercise isn’t something we can cut back on. Less exercise can increase your risk of depression (especially if you’re prone to it), reduce your willpower over portions, and, of course, only add extra calories to your day because you’re not burning those bad boys. Basically, my advice is to INCREASE your exercise while on vacation! Make November and December your most favorable months. You won’t be sorry it’s January when everyone kicks their sorry asses off to the gym!
5. Always fill up on fruits and vegetables.
Basically, when in doubt, choose fruits and vegetables. This beauty is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants… just the things you need to counteract any unhealthy choices you may encounter during the holiday months. By filling your plate with produce at every meal, you’ll feel much better and gain less weight.
Bonus tip: Reduce stress as much as possible! Stress always makes eating worse (ruining our holiday mood). Before the holidays begin, think about what helps you de-stress now and make a plan to do those things regularly. Reading a book? Will you be with a friend? Meditation or deep breathing? Yoga? A quick getaway? If the holidays stress you out, fight against it this year and incorporate some stress-relieving activities into your schedule!
Keep these tips in mind as you navigate the next weeks and months, and good luck as you navigate another wonderful holiday season!
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