How to Keep Your Diet On Track During the Holidays
Let’s face it - SO many of you messaged me asking me to write a post regarding my thoughts on eating healthy during the holidays. I get it! It’s HARD. In fact, with all the delicious baked goods and family recipes, it is really hard to not find yourself overindulging. But, if the idea of heading to your family dinner is giving you anxiety, let’s talk about some ways to help keep everything on track.
Give yourself some grace
Say it with me - one day does not derail your progress. I’ve mentioned it before in some blog posts (I linked some relevant ones below), but if you are continually eating well, focusing on your macros and not letting yourself eat everything in sight, then this one day will just be a blip on the radar. If you want to look at it from a purely scientific standpoint, 3200 calories is approximately one pound. Even if I ate 3200 MORE calories than I normally would eat in a single day (aside from the fact that this is an enormous amount of food), it’s not going to immediately convert into a pound of fat and suddenly live on my hips. If anything, you’re likely to find yourself with a killer stomachache, questioning that fifth slice of pumpkin pie.
So, if you want the cookie - eat the cookie. I’m here to tell you that if you are doing 99% of the right things, then this 1% isn’t going to matter in the scheme of things. Holidays are a special time to enjoy spending time with your friends and family. Looking back at past holidays, I can honestly say that there has never been a memory where I thought, “Wow, I shouldn’t have eaten that cookie that day.” Do you even remember what you ate last year? Of course not. But what you do remember is the memories that you will make with friends and loved ones. And that should be of the uttermost importance going into the holiday seasons.
Reminder: you do not have to earn this food
I specifically touched on this piece of information in the post, “How I Changed My Relationship with Food.” Food is not earned. Food isn’t something that you get if you were good and don’t get if you didn’t hit a goal. Food is a necessity in our life, just like breathing. That being said, I’ll say it one final time. Enjoy your food today.
Ok, ok… now I’ll get to ways that you can actually keep your diet in check during the holiday season.
Have a big breakfast - avoid free-standing food.
You know what is really dangerous? Free-standing food. What do I mean by that? Well, that’s the relish tray. That’s the whole “cookie table” that my grandma always used to have. That’s the trays and trays of cheese and crackers. Simply put, if you stay away from those tables, you’ll find yourself less likely to be mindlessly grazing on them. Many times, in our mingling with family and friends, we’re just unconsciously grabbing at the food to fill our hands (and our mouths!).
Be mindful of what you are eating. If you are hungry, sit down and have a bit of food. But, if what you’re really looking forward to is a big plate of turkey and stuffing, keep the pre-dinner snacking to a minimum.
The same goes for eating before you go. If you’re having a late lunch or dinner, make sure you have a solid breakfast. Fill up your pre-party plate with plenty of protein, carbs and a sizable amount of vegetables. Especially if you’re not heading to your holiday party until later in the day, you can make sure that the other meals of the day are on point! The more that you can do earlier on in the day, the less you’ll find you fail at later.
Bring your own food.
Now, this might come with a bit of a critique, but hear me out. If you’re truly concerned about what is going to go into your mouth, then bring your own food. It’s that simple. For one, it doesn’t make you weird. If you’re going over to a friend or family’s house, likely they already know about your food dedication. I can promise you - they aren’t going to care. And, ultimately, if they do care, what kind of friends are they? You definitely don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!
And yes, I have done this before. There were many years when I was in college that I didn’t eat meat (but I did eat fish). I brought my own salmon to Thanksgiving dinner and prepared it because I knew that I wouldn’t be eating the turkey. And guess what - no one said a thing!
At the end of the day, you are the one that is tracking your own macros. Going over to a Thanksgiving dinner is like going out to a restaurant. Even with the best intentions, you can only at best estimate what is in the dish. So, if you are someone who needs to stay on track with your food and macros, take out the guesswork. Bring what you want to eat.
Keep Up your Water Intake
Sometimes we forget hunger for thirst. It’s more common than you might think! Especially in social situations where we get distracted and excited, we might forget to take the time out to sip on some water. Keep an eye on your water consumption during the day (or night!) of your holiday outings. Not only will it prevent you from drinking too much, it will keep you from mindlessly eating! If you struggle with drinking enough water, hold a glass while talking to friends. Or, make sure to take a sip of water after every 2-3 bites.
Set limits for yourself
Are you afraid that one cookie is going to be a gateway drug to a life of cookie corruption? Then set yourself a limit. Setting yourself a limit isn’t a punishment, but simply allows you to be mindful about your consumption. If I know that I can only have one cookie (or one glass of wine!), then I’ll make sure that I enjoy every sip or bite! Again, you can adjust this limit to whatever it is that you’re eating - You won’t go back for seconds. You’ll only eat one kind of dessert. It’s truly amazing how slightly tweaking your mindset - you’re not restricting yourself from all things entirely - can make a huge difference in how you feel towards holiday eating.
Ask yourself - How will you feel later?
I’ve heard this from quite a few clients - “Well, I wanted it at the time….but then it wasn’t worth it!” This could come in a variety of forms. I know that I have food allergies, but sometimes, it’s worth a bit of discomfort for something that is really good. But usually, it’s not. In fact, more often than not, I wish I wouldn’t have eaten something because of the way that it made my body feel afterwards. So, as you’re sitting down to your holiday dinner (or libations!), ask yourself if what you’re about to eat or drink is worth it. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t indulge just a bit (see points #1 & #2), but if you’re eating it simply because it was there - is it worth it? If you’ve been waiting all year for your grandma’s pie, then it’s likely worth it. But a night of gut ache for something that you rarely eat is hardly worth indulging. Even if it seems like a good idea at the time.