Sure, eating is fun — a lot of fun — particularly when you’re out with a group celebrating a special occasion. ‘Tis the season for ugly Christmas sweater parties, cookie swaps and extra-jolly happy hours. Temptation is everywhere you turn right now, so you might wondering if it’s even possible to avoid gaining five (or 10!) pounds this year? The answer: Yes.
Consider these tips no matter what scenario you find yourself in:
Indulge mindfully at dinner parties: Most holiday parties will likely serve plenty of booze and finger foods—dips, pigs in blankets, cheese plates and desserts. It’s always a smart idea to bring a healthy dish, such as homemade guacamole or salsa, salad, a veggie tray or shrimp cocktail. You might not feel particularly festive bringing lower-calorie fare, but trust me, you’ll be happy you have the option there—and so will others.
So load your plate with healthy stuff first, then carefully select a couple of indulgences. If the food is served in a buffet style, take a look at all of your options before digging in. If you fill up on chips and dip before you even realize that the host has meatballs cooking in her crockpot, you might really regret munching mindlessly on those tortilla chips. Take your time, weigh you options and then make a mindful decision.
Stay on course at family functions: Trust me, no one could be more understanding about how hard it can be to turn down food from family members: I’m Greek. Not only is it near impossible to resist my Great Aunt Frances’s baklava, but seeing the smile on her face as she serves me just one more piece almost seems worth the exorbitant amount of calories.
But you know what I realized over Thanksgiving when I spent time with Aunt Frances? The little lady is watching her figure, too. She politely declined all my offers to join me in sharing a piece of pie at a restaurant or sample her fresh-out-of-the oven creations. This made me realize that although she gets extreme pleasure from watching others eat, she would probably — woman to woman — understand if I declined her offerings.
As I’ve always said: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. So if grandma is shoving cookies in your face before dinnertime, politely say, “Oh grandma, you know how much I love your sugar cookies, but I want to save room for the delicious meal you’ve prepared!”
And if you get hit with “Oh really, that’s all you’re eating?” or “Don’t you want another slice?” Just respond with a smile on your face: “Everything is great, but I don’t think I have room for another bite!” This is not the time to explain yourself or discuss calories or weight gain or New Years resolutions. Be nice, be concise and move on.
Amp up the exercise: Is there a rule that says all gym memberships need to start on January 1? I think not. Following your regular exercise schedule, or even trying out a new class with a friend, will help keep you feeling positive about your efforts and comfortable with your body.
In return, it will most likely help you make good food choices. Do you really want to let a few gingerbread men undo your hard work?! Just make sure you don’t use exercise as an excuse to eat. It’s takes all of five minutes to eat back the calories you just spent 45 minutes burning on the treadmill.
Sip smart: I know that imbibing is fun, I do. But can you decide to be more conscious about your alcohol intake this year? I’m not a fan of following strict rules, but having a loose plan of how you will handle certain situations is always a good idea. For instance, if you have more than one party to go to in a week, figure out in advance which one you will allow yourself to let loose at, and which one you will just stop by for a drink or two.
You may also decide that you won’t start drinking until a certain hour (if the function starts early), or that will you cut yourself off by midnight. I know, I know, easier said that done, but it can’t hurt to start the night off with good intentions. For instance, this Thanksgiving I decided that I wouldn’t have my first glass of wine until we sat down to eat, and it made it that much easier to make good choices, actually enjoy what I was eating and not end the night feeling like I might pop!
Being a mindful eater seems like such a chore at first — especially over the holidays — but I can’t think of a time when I regretted it. Seriously, when will you ever say to yourself, “Geeze, I wish I felt stuffed and bloated right now!” Indulge wisely this year and make it count. Don’t shove handfuls of nuts into your mouth…just ‘cause. And let go of old traditions or habits (ahem, eating pie for breakfast!) that really won’t serve you well in the long-run.
Think about it: Do you really want to feel uncomfortable in your skin throughout the holidays and cringe when you see the extra pounds staring back at you in all of your New Years photos?
Decide what’s worth it to you and what’s not. How do you want to feel? What kind of person do you want to be? Keep those thoughts in the forefront of your mind and make your decisions accordingly. You can do it…any time of year.
– ELLEN COLLIS
Ellen Collis is a blogger at Wannabe Health Nut and Health Coach in NYC, who graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free health consultation to discuss how she can assist you with your nutrition and lifestyle goals. She would love nothing more than to help you have more energy, feel fabulous in your own skin and live a healthy life that doesn’t require giving up your favorite foods.