One of the things I want to plan well this year is how to manage my weight during the holidays. Because, let's face it, the next few weeks are some of the toughest weeks of the year when it comes to eating well, controlling portions, avoiding mindless eating, and keeping emotional eating at bay.
Tough, but not impossible. I think it's entirely possible to eat well, enjoy holiday foods, and prevent weight gain during this busy time of year. And it hinges on taking just four steps, none of which are difficult or complicated.
Are you looking for a way to manage your weight too, as you navigate the next few weeks? If so, join me in taking these four steps to better health, less guilt and more peace of mind.
1. Don't allow the holiday season to become a six-week "eating season."
Yes, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas provide a lot of opportunities to eat - at family dinners, parties, church events, shopping trips, and many others. But those events don't happen every day - many days between now and New Year's Day are normal work, school and family days. And most days that include special events don't require you to eat holiday foods all day long. So don't let every day become a "holiday eating event," and don't assume that the next few weeks are a total loss with regard to managing your weight.
Sure, you want to eat Christmas cookies at the neighborhood cookie exchange. But you don't have to eat them the day before, and the day after ... and the day after the day after. And you want to eat dressing and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and pie for Christmas dinner. But you don't have to keep eating them in the days that follow - even if you have lots of leftovers. And just because someone brings holiday treats to the office or to your house, you don't have to keep eating them. Make a plan for eating normal, healthy meals and snacks on most days, and do some prep that will allow you to eat well in between the special meals and events.
2. Eat the holiday foods you really love, and avoid the ones you don't
Everyone has favorite holiday foods. Two of mine are pumpkin pie and ginger cookies. (And dressing. And sweet potatoes.) Maybe for you it's your mother's Christmas cookies, your neighbor's homemade candy, or your special coconut cake. So enjoy those foods, the ones that make the holidays special for you. Eat them, savor them and don't feel guilty about them. (I, for example, will be enjoying pumpkin pie with real whipped cream on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and maybe a few days in between!)
But many holiday foods don't hold a special place in your heart. And some of them are worthless junk that doesn't deserve to be eaten. You know, like the packaged cookies your co-workers keep leaving in the break room? Or the candy your kids bring home from various parties? It's junk - and you don't need it. So avoid those foods (get rid of them if possible) and save the calories for the ones you really love.
3. Move your body every day
Your body needs to move and be active every day of the year, but even more so during the holidays. Regular physical activity helps you deal with some of the downsides of the holiday season, including worry, fatigue, the "blues," and excess calories. It reduces stress, helps you feel energized, burns calories, and generally makes you feel great.
At this busiest time of the year, you'll think you don't have time for it. But make time - it's worth it. You don't have to go to a gym or do anything complicated. Instead, fit movement into your day and combine it with other activities. Walk for 30 minutes at the mall before shopping, walk with your husband after dinner, walk while your kids are at soccer or choir practice, work out with a DVD before your day begins, ride bikes or take a hike as a family on the weekend, or visit a walk-through holiday lights display. Schedule time for moving on your calendar - you deserve it, and you're worth the effort it takes to make it happen!
4. Drink lots of water and eat real food most of the time
Stay hydrated - it keeps you feeling great and helps your body function well. (Sometimes when you feel tired or hungry, you're actually dehydrated.) So carry water with you wherever you go, and keep a bottle or glass handy at home or work. If you don't like plain water, make fruit waters. I don't enjoy drinking water, so I have to remind myself frequently that my body needs it. And eat as much real food as possible. When you're not enjoying your favorite holiday foods, eat primarily fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Gaye Groover Christmus, MPH is a wife and mom to two almost-grown sons. In her “day job” she works as a writer and editor in a health field. Her passion, though, is encouraging married women to slow down, live with vitality and energy, and create joy and intimacy in their marriages. She believes that small steps can lead to big changes, and that women armed with knowledge and a plan can transform their hurried, hectic lives. Gaye blogs at CalmHealthySexy. She’d love to send you her ebook, 17 Ways to Live Calmer, Healthier and Sexier – Starting Today – as a gift when you subscribe to the blog.