- When you think about the holiday season, it conjures up images of twinkling lights, perfectly wrapped presents, and tables laden with the most delicious holiday dishes. It's also a time when most people toss their healthy eating habits to the wayside. By the time the New Year rolls around, the gifts you've received aren't the only things you've gained.
Being concious about your health is the first step to getting through the holiday's guilt free.
In fact, it's become such a common occurrence that the annual holiday weight gain of five to seven pounds is just accepted by most of us. We shrug it off and make resolutions to exercise more and eat better. But it's a bigger problem than you think - and making a few simple tweaks to your normal routine can make a world of difference.
"If you want to get through the holidays without feeling like you've totally failed again, making a conscious decision about your lifestyle is the first step," says Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez
, author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management."
"This volatile combination of food and stress can easily snowball into feelings of guilt," cautions Dr. Rodriguez. "Guilt only perpetuates the cycle and causes you to feel more out of control. By approaching the holiday season with an awareness of its temptations but also arming yourself with a plan to combat these, you'll be able to truly enjoy the season."
Six tricks that Dr. Rodriguez says will help you avoid packing on the pounds this holiday season:
Don't let worry about weight gain turn into guilt.
It shouldn't be simply weight gain people concern themselves with. The feelings and situations that cause overeating should be your main focus. If you stop thinking so much about gaining weight and start focusing on the feelings that lead to the behavior, you'll finally be able to stop the cycle. "If you're obsessing over weight gain, these feelings will ultimately make you more anxious and stressed, which are appetite stimulants," says Dr. Rodriguez. "Getting in touch with your feelings and recognizing what guilt feels like will help you reason through the situation and eat to feel satisfied, not stuffed."
Have a pre-party plan.
Having a pre-party plan is crucial to being merry this holiday.
Recognizing your love of honey-glazed ham and dressing is the first step to waistline recovery! Approaching the holidays with a renewed awareness of your tendency to overindulge is paramount in stopping this behavior. Behaviors don't change on their own; it's got to be by design. "Simple tricks like drinking water and eating before the party allow you to make the event more about socializing than snacking," says Dr. Rodriguez. "Having this game plan in place helps mitigate risk and thwart unwanted holiday weight gain."
Don't use the holidays as an excuse to overeat.
Many of us think, What the heck, it's the holidays. I might as well just enjoy myself and worry about my battle of the bulge in 2011. But the best time to start weight maintenance is not after the holidays - it's now! "Don't sabotage your lifestyle by binging on holiday goodies and then suffering the consequences in the New Year," encourages Dr. Rodriguez. "By staying focused and aware of your environment and feelings, you'll be on the right track to maintaining your healthy lifestyle."
Focus on your friends and family - not the food.
When you walk into your company's holiday party or your daughter's dance recital, don't hone in on the snack table. While the hors d'oeuvres table might be crowded with treats and people, focus on socializing with friends and family instead of on the food. Remember, conversation is calorie-free! "There are so many activities during the season that food doesn't have to be your main focus," says Dr. Rodriguez. "When you go to holiday gatherings, slow down and enjoy the atmosphere and then think about eating. Most people will already be on their second (or third!) plate, and you'll still be on track with your healthy lifestyle."
Pick what you want.
Getting in touch with your feelings and recognizing guilt will help you reason through situations.
Seeing all of the holiday goodies and knowing you're not supposed to have any is about as tempting as temptations get. Try the one-a-day approach of indulging in one goodie each day. And don't be fooled by the hidden dangers of liquid calories. Those pumpkin spice lattes are just as calorie-ridden as an actual slice of pumpkin pie! "Allow yourself to select foods you like the most and skip foods you can have any other time of the year," encourages Dr. Rodriguez. "Taking the time to savor every bite in a relaxed manner will make those goodies taste so much better, and you'll feel satisfied more quickly and eat less! Meals are a time to enjoy, not a race to see who can finish the fastest!"
Welcome the winter wonderland.
Think of all the fun winter activities you used to do as a kid - sledding, skiing, and ice skating, just to name a few. Who says you have to stop enjoying winter just because you're an adult? Plan a weekend ski trip with your girlfriends or go caroling in your neighborhood. The options are endless for winter fun. "Winter has a lot of special activities that you're not able to do year-round," says Dr. Rodriguez. "Think of all the winter traditions you can start or continue with your family and friends just by finding ways to have fun outside. If you're having fun, it doesn't feel like you're exercising."
"Maintaining a healthy lifestyle shouldn't get in the way of the excitement and joy of the holidays," says Dr. Rodriguez. "Simply being aware of the season's many temptations can increase your weight loss odds. At the end of the day, it's the time spent enjoying the holidays that really matters."
Be sure to choose what treats you'd like to eat and what to leave aside when attending holiday meals.