Getting through the holiday season while staying on track with your health goals takes a little bit of advanced planning. We’re usually the first to support indulging in a celebratory meal when the occasion is appropriate, but the back-to-back events and sugary gifts during the Holiday season make it difficult for even the most well intentioned eaters to stick to a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
It’s not realistic for many people to completely restrict certain foods for an entire season, so it’s helpful to sit down with your calendar, anticipate the events and scenarios where you’ll be tempted by indulgent food, and make a plan. While a lot of people will fail with a “no sweets at all” rule, you may have more success by saying “I’m going to skip the store-bought treats at the office and enjoy Grandma’s homemade pie this year.”
Here are some strategies to consider as you look over your Holiday schedule:
Ask yourself: “Is the food worth it?”
If you’re going to indulge and celebrate the season, make sure the extra sugar and calories are worth it. Perhaps your grandmother makes a fabulous pumpkin pie that tastes like heaven, or you and your mom have baked sugar cookies together every year since you can remember and eating them together fills you up emotionally. Whatever the reason, make sure it’s worth it to you. You’ll often know in advance what type of food to expect at an event, so take it into consideration as you look over your holiday schedule. If the food isn’t fabulous or doesn’t provide some other type of value to you, skip it and focus on building relationships instead.
Define the purpose.
What is the purpose of the event? Is it to celebrate with friends? Connect with rarely seen family? Socialize with coworkers? Whatever the purpose, make that the priority. On some occasions it seems that the food is the purpose and those are the events you should plan to indulge in. On the other hand, if the food has historically been uninspiring, stick to the goal of connecting with the guests and save your cravings for another party.
Set realistic limits.
Some of you may be looking at your schedule and finding 2-3 events each week that seem worthy of indulgence – lucky you! Too much celebration (even it it’s justifiable) can be a quick way to get you off track. Choose 2-3 events per month to enjoy guilt-free and spend the rest of the time enjoying the other guests or activities rather than the sweets.
Plan for recovery.
We’ve found that the day after a party often has more impact on a person’s health goals than the party itself. Staying up late, drinking alcohol, and eating sugar-filled treats can set you up with cravings for fats, sweets, and caffeine the following day. Plan ahead for a balanced breakfast the morning after a party and be sure to schedule in some exercise. Getting your blood sugar back on track as quickly as possible is the key to limiting cravings and maintaining a balanced lifestyle.
Learn from your mistakes.
If you end up indulging more than you had hoped at a party you didn’t expect to be worth it, don’t feel guilty or view it as a failure. Instead, analyze what happened so you won’t make the same mistake again. Perhaps your office hired a different caterer this year and the food was much better than expected or maybe you simply stood too close to the buffet table and mindlessly nibbled fried appetizers all night. Whatever the case, balance your diet out the next day and plan a little better next time.
What strategies do you incorporate into your Holiday planning? Tell us in the comments below!