With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the holidays have officially arrived, and what a great time of year it is. After all, there is not a whole lot better than getting together with those whom you care about to celebrate this special time of year.
Despite all the positives that the holidays bring, they are also notorious for wreaking havoc on one’s health and fitness goals. The good news, though, is that it doesn’t have to be this way!
Below are 10 quick tips to keep your nutrition on track this holiday season:
#1) Understand the Influence of your Environment
Most individuals are unaware of how strongly the surrounding environment can influence eating behavior. While many people believe they are in control of what they eat, most fail to realize that we have a built-in, auto-pilot that regulates our eating habits.
Understanding that your environment has the potential to affect the way you eat and learning to become more aware of your own eating behavior will help you avoid succumbing to the influences of your surroundings.
#2) Get a Workout In
Getting a quick, but intense, workout in the day of a big holiday party can be beneficial to you in several ways. Such a workout will rev up your metabolism and help make the marathon of feasting that is to come at least a little less detrimental.
Exercise also benefits you psychologically by causing the release of several “feel-good” hormones. In turn, you will be happy to have gotten a great workout in and will subconsciously want to treat your body right. This will, hopefully, make you less inclined to crave many of the less-than-ideal foods that are often available at holiday gatherings.
#3) Don’t Go in With an Empty Tank
Do not arrive at any holiday celebration starving! Remember how we discussed earlier that your environment can influence your eating behavior? Well this effect is more pronounced in those who are really hungry. The last thing you want to do is go into a party ravenous, as this can often lead to disaster.
If you know dinner is going to be served at a given time, make sure you have a small meal a few hours prior to the holiday dinner. This pre-party meal doesn’t have to be big; just a little bit of lean-protein, some fresh veggies, and maybe some healthy fats. It should be just enough to hold you over until dinner is served. Having such a meal can make it easier to avoid going to town on every appetizer in sight when you finally arrive at the party.
#4) Set Your Standards Ahead of Time
Setting your limits ahead of time can also help you through a holiday get-together. For example, promising yourself (prior to the party) that you will only allow yourself one dessert, or that you will avoid eating appetizers, can help to reassert your position of control. It will help shut down that automatic response to environmental cues and make you more conscious of what you will eat.
#5) Stay Away from the Snack Tray
Want a simple way to avoid eating too many appetizers? Stay away from them, literally! When food is in plain sight, people are more inclined to eat it. By making sure to socialize away from the appetizer tray, you will indirectly be sparing yourself from unnecessary snacking.
If you must snack though, stick to the veggie tray. Come on now, you know that somebody’s aunt brought the veggie tray; so there are no excuses. You really can’t go wrong with having a serving or two of vegetables to hold you over until dinner is ready. Just be wary of the veggie dips, as many of them will turn your once healthy snack into a caloric nightmare.
#6) Don’t Try to Multi-task
Try to avoid combining eating with other activities. Distractions are often a major contributor to overeating. Think about it: you are going to be getting together with all kinds of family and friends, enjoying each other’s company, and catching up on old times. The last thing on your mind is going to be how many nachos you just inhaled while some annoying in-law was yakking your ear off.
Socialization is not the only distraction you are going to encounter, as TV is another major culprit. Surely, at some point you are going to want to sit down to catch a game, parade, or other holiday special. When you do, just be sure that there is not a big bowl of munchies sitting right next to you waiting to sabotage your diet.
#7) Serve Smaller Portions
If there is an option for plate sizes, always go with the smaller choices. Smaller plates and bowls will effectively reduce the amount of food you can fit on them. Research has shown that people unknowingly eat more food when served larger portions without feeling any more satiated than when smaller portions were consumed. Just realize that rushing up for seconds defeats the purpose of reducing portion sizes through the use of smaller plates and bowls.
#8) Start with the Foods You’re Really Craving
Come holiday time, everyone has a few select foods that they have waited all year to indulge in. These should be the first to hit the plate. After having these foods, you may find that your desire for anything else has disappeared, and you will have effectively saved yourself from unnecessary overeating.
Also, trying to limit your plate to just a few select foods will help reduce the amount of food you consume. Research has demonstrated that consuming a greater variety of foods causes people to eat more than when there is less variation. So limiting your plate to a few must-have items may help in reducing the amount of food you end up eating.
#9) Hold Off on Second Helpings
Waiting 20-30 minutes before contemplating second helpings can often allow you to avoid eating excessively. It takes time for your brain to realize you are full, and so it would be best to wait a bit and see if you are really still hungry or are simply giving in to those environmental influences that surround you.
One Final Tip…
#10) Have Fun and Live a Little, then Get Back to Reality
The Holidays are meant to be enjoyed, and so you should cherish the time with your family and friends. Avoid adding undue stress unto yourself. If you have been consistent in all areas relating to health and fitness within your life, then it is unlikely that one day will spell disaster for your goals.
So take the time to enjoy the holidays. Once the celebration is over though, return to focus and get right back on track. Don’t let one day of celebration turn into weeks of weakness. Emphasize the “day” part of “holiday,” and you will be just fine.
For more great strategies that will keep you in shape this holiday season, check out the New Year, New You! Fitness Program brought to you by TEAMWORKSFitness!