Ah, the holidays, with their festive decorations, delicious meals, family gatherings … and weight gain. The holiday season can be a formidable challenge for women watching their weight, particularly with all the food temptations and busy schedules that make it harder than ever to exercise. To help you beat the holiday bulge, here are six healthy holiday diet strategies.
Holiday diet strategy #1
Plan your holiday diet plan — but be realistic. Make weight maintenance, not weight loss, your goal. Think about the situations you’ll face and what you can do to minimize the dietary damage. “Planning is … instrumental for navigating your way through holidays, birthdays, parties and other special occasions,” writes Tom Venuto in The Body Fat Solution. “I believe that these are occasions where it’s perfectly appropriate to relax and enjoy the food, family and fun that are part of these special times. However, this doesn’t mean gorging yourself or throwing all caution to the wind.”
Holiday diet strategy #2
Make dietary adjustments
If you know you’ll be attending a holiday party, for example, adjust your eating accordingly, or put in a little extra time at the gym. Avoid skipping meals altogether, however, because if you allow yourself to become too hungry, your self-control will falter. You can also experiment with healthier versions of your favorite holiday foods.
Holiday diet strategy #3
Maintain healthy habits
Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with wholesome choices. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products should make up the basis of your regular diet. Fill up on these healthy choices so that you’ll be less likely to stuff yourself with the unhealthy foods that cross your path. In addition, aim for 30 minutes of exercise every day, even if you have to break it up into two or three short sessions.
Holiday diet strategy #4
Maybe you’re a sucker for Great Aunt Marge’s famous mashed potatoes, or you live for the yearly holiday cookie exchange. Before you’re confronted with holiday eats, determine your favorite holiday foods and enjoy them modestly, forgoing the holiday eats that aren’t that appealing. Figure out your favorites, and which holiday indulgences don’t do much for you. This also goes for alcoholic beverages – watch your intake or skip drinking altogether and spend the calories on once-a-year holiday foods.
Holiday diet strategy #5
Enjoy your food
Once you’ve chosen your holiday indulgences, put aside any guilty feelings and savor every morsel slowly and with awareness. Really taste the food, feel the pleasure of it in your mouth and in your stomach. Don’t talk or watch TV or read a book. Focus on the food.
Holiday diet strategy #6
Return to normal
The most important tip of all: After the holidays, return to your normal habits of healthy eating and exercise. This is especially important if, despite your best efforts, you feel you’ve really overindulged over the holidays. Quickly get back to normal to avoid or minimize holiday weight gain. Don’t let a few missteps here and there turn into six weeks of overindulgence.