The Best Strategies to Maintain your Weight Through the Holidays

The Best Strategies to Maintain your Weight Through the Holidays

‘Tis the season of family togetherness and feasting, but not to worry, you can bake your pumpkin pie and eat it too!

Health conscious people all over the world brace themselves for these 2 months full of parties, feasts and festivities. It can be overwhelming to find a balance between enjoying these happy and festive months and maintaining the results from all your hard work over the past several months.

My philosophy is that everything is appropriate in moderation. The holidays SHOULD be enjoyed, and for me, yes, this involves ham, sweet potato casserole and pie. With this outlook, I still like to come into the holidays excited and prepared with a plan to keep myself on track.

1. DON’T PANIC

Remember that your food choices don’t equal your value as a person, and stay positive even when things don’t go exactly as you plan. It’s easy to eat or drink a little too much at one party and let this begin a negative spiral through the rest of the holiday season. 

The holidays are challenging for everyone on the eating front, and self-love goes a long way toward letting you come out healthy and happy on the other side. Don’t let one or two frustrating events spoil the entire season!

2. PICK YOUR BATTLES

In the spirit of cultivating a growth mindset, be realistic about what you can and can’t tackle. While, “I’m not going to eat a cookie for the entire holiday season” is unrealistic for most of us, “I’m not going to eat any cookies at the work” is entirely doable.

I recommend taking a good look at your calendar and evaluating which events are worth a bit of a food splurge. You can use whatever criteria you want for this, from the quality of the food to its sentimental value. What’s important is that it’s worth it to you (and that the food is delicious of course). Two special occasions per month is a reasonable target. You can dial this slightly up or down depending on your goals and how important the holidays are to you, but if you’re celebrating multiple times a week it could be problematic.

Once you have chosen your truly special occasions, don’t worry about them anymore. Look forward to enjoying them guilt-free. We’ll use the following steps to make sure the damage is minimal.

3. PLAN YOUR ATTACK

Now that you’ve chosen what is worth splurging on, you have also decided what isn’t. For me this was always work events. When these are events that I can’t gracefully refuse, it’s important I know my plan before heading in.

Always remember that food isn’t the reason you’re attending, and try to focus on people and activities instead. That said, when planning for food, there are a few key factors to keep in mind:
For shorter, cocktail hour-type gatherings, my priorities are making sure I eat beforehand or making concrete dinner plans afterward. That way a glass of wine or two won’t trick me into believing that subpar food is my only option. For longer events and dinners where escaping food is impossible, I optimize my food choices for health and make peace with the fact that this won’t be the most rewarding meal of my life.

In these cases, my number one priority is eating vegetables. I try to fill up on as many as I can, so at least the evening isn’t a net loss health-wise. My second priority is eating some kind of protein or meat, so I’m satisfied enough to avoid the lackluster desserts that will inevitably show up later.

Finally, at events like this I stick to lower alcohol drinks (wines, lighter beers) and completely avoid cocktails, which are often as sweet as soda. For me, cocktails are a splurge and I’ve already decided this event wasn’t worth it.

4. ANTICIPATE OBSTACLES

Executing your plan may be easier said than done. For instance, buffet-style meals can be particularly challenging for many people, as there are no clear boundaries to stop you from overeating.

If holiday events are difficult for you, chances are you fall victim to the same traps over and over again.
Do you skimp too much on dinner then lose it at the dessert table?
Do you eat a dozen hors d’oeuvres before the real meal even starts?
Try to anticipate these obstacles and set up an alternative course of action.
In the buffet example, the sheer number of options can often overwhelm our better judgement. Avoid this by committing beforehand to only eating one (satisfying) plate of food.

When it is time to serve yourself, examine the entire table of options before making your decisions, then choose the tastiest items you can find that are as healthy as possible. Once you’ve made your selections, eat them slowly and mindfully.
Setting up your alternative plan before the event prevents you from having to make decisions in the 
heat of the moment and reduces your reliance on willpower.

5. BE REALISTIC

When planning your attack and anticipating the obstacles, it is absolutely essential that you are realistic about the situation and your abilities, or it will be hard to achieve success. 

I don’t know anybody who can make it through multiple hours of drinking on nothing but raw carrots and celery, so don’t make that your goal. Be smart about your strategy and honest about your limitations, and make sure that your plan will work in reality, not just in theory.

If you feel like you’re guessing about what your options will be, try to find out more about the event itself and what to expect. If you aren’t confident about your ability to execute the best plan you can think of, consider recruiting a friend for more ideas and moral support.

6. CELEBRATE YOUR VICTORIES

Living healthfully isn’t a single challenge or conquest, but many small challenges that add up to the bigger picture. Keep this in mind as you go through the holidays, and don’t forget to celebrate the small victories. This is important for maintaining and happy and healthy lifestyle! 

Focusing on each of your wins as you experience them gives you a feeling of progress, and makes your small actions more meaningful psychologically. Feeling successful is far more motivating than “I wish I were thinner” or “I wish I had more willpower,” and can help you persevere down the stretch.

7. LEARN FROM YOUR SLIP-UPS

With many small challenges comes not just small victories, but likely a few small slip-ups as well.

DON’T PANIC.

If one of your plans of attack doesn’t quite work and you end up with three nutella brownies down the hatch before you can say “cheat day,” it isn’t the end of the world.

Instead of skipping your workout and eating a pint of ice cream in the bathtub to console yourself, acknowledge the incident as a miscalculation and ask what you could have done differently to prevent it. And no, the answer isn’t “be a better person” or “be stronger in the face of temptation.” Instead ask what strategies you could have used to have avoided being put in that situation.

For instance, you may have not eaten enough during dinner and still been legitimately hungry afterward. Eating more protein or veggies could have given you the fuel you needed to make it through the evening. Or maybe you didn’t realize that your favorite pastry chef was going to be catering this event and it suddenly switched from not-worth-it to totally-worth-it. Maybe you could have adopted mindful eating strategies instead of succumbing to the what-the-hell effect, and enjoyed a much smaller portion. Whatever the issue, it is something that needs to be acknowledged and addressed or it will likely happen again.

8. ADAPT AND ADJUST

As you build your holiday hacking skills you are certain to experience many successes and many setbacks. This is called learning, and it is the only way to make long-term progress.

Every year your circumstances will be slightly different. You’ll have different obligations, you’ll move, change jobs, get married, get divorced, have kids, they’ll grow up, etc. Life keeps happening. Your strategies will need to adapt to the changing times, but the lessons you learn each year will stay with you.

Another important addition is to make sure you enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones! 

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Source: MyFitnessPal


Source: MJ Fitnatic

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