So. Happy Holidays, right?
About 69% of people say their stress levels go up during the holidays. Some of the stressors are crowds and long lines, gaining weight, getting into debt, and lack of time. There are others, of course, but these are at the top.
Ironically, the coping strategies people tend to use to deal with stress during the holidays are food and alcohol – which of course can make any weight gain worse.
So let's look at 6 tips that minimize the holiday damage to your food plan.
Exercise is very important because it's a stress-buster. If you can keep your workouts going through the whole holiday season, you'll feel much better and might not need to stress eat or drink as often.
Try an early morning workout – before anyone in your family is up and around. Fewer demands on you will help you get your workout first thing.
If that doesn't work for you, try the BTN tactic: Better Than Nothing. BTN workouts are short – perfect for a day that leaves no room for something longer. No matter how busy you are, you can probably find 10, 11, or 12 minutes for a BTN workout.
BUT! To make this useful, it has to be physiologically meaningful. You have to pair the short duration with high intensity intervals. This approach is in keeping with research that shows high intensity interval training to be effective – some say much more effective than longer, slower cardio.
Sample format: Warm-up for 3 minutes – 1 minute easy, 1 minute a little harder, 1 minute a little harder. The rest is all about intervals and recovery. Try 40 seconds very hard, with only 20 seconds of partial recovery. Keep that going for the remaining 7 minutes.
If 40 seconds is too long, try 30 seconds very hard, with 30 seconds of recovery. If exercise is new for you, make your work interval 20 seconds and your recovery 40 seconds.
Remember the old Nike slogan and Just Do It!
Avoid the break room! Every office is set up differently, but the question is this: Where do they keep the holiday goodies? Stay out of that room as much as possible.
Never skip meals in an attempt to avoid calories on a party day. That's just a binge waiting to happen. Eat as usual to prevent overdoing it when you get to the party and face all the temptations.
Eat some food before you go. The best choice would be protein foods (some chicken, turkey, fish or other protein you have on hand).
When you get to the buffet, give yourself a full serving of protein first. That would be 3 to 4 ounces of turkey, ham, whatever the buffet meal includes.
Next, cover at least half your plate with vegetables. Naked veggies are best with sauce on the side, or at least choose the clearer sauces or dressings.
Last, pick a small indulgence that you'd like. Don't waste calories on foods you can get any old time. Do you really need another dinner roll? Instead, save the calories for one of Aunt Mildred's fantastic cranberry muffins.
Now step away from the buffet! Don't eat your meal while looking at all the food you didn't take. Just concentrate on what you have.
The most helpful order would be to start (and finish) your protein first. It will change your brain chemistry so you actually want less food.
Next, fill up on the vegetables; they're low in calories. Finally, have that terrific muffin.
Bonus tip: Limit yourself to one indulgence per holiday meal. If you can summon real inner strength, limit yourself to one indulgence per day!
Avoid alcohol whenever possible. It changes brain chemistry in a way that will make you want more food – and junkier food, too.
If you do drink alcohol, alternate 1 alcoholic beverage – wine, beer or mixed drink – with 1 glass of sparkling water (or ordinary cold water). Keep alternating throughout the evening.
Meal Control as Survival
If you're given any control over the meal, jump at the chance!
"Bring a dish" is a perfect invitation for you to put together a beautiful vegetable platter or salad. If you're asked to bring a dessert, bring fruit and nuts.
Many guests will appreciate it. It's simply not true that everyone will grab the highest fat selection or the most decadent dessert if they're given a choice.
If you have control over the meals at home, consider modifying all recipes all season long. Everyone has a great recipe for mashed potatoes, for example, but you can substitute chicken broth for butter or cream. Cutting butter and sugar in half in other recipes probably will go unnoticed by your family.
And avoid glazing veggies or fruits. That just adds unnecessary sugar.
These are just a few helpful tips to get through holiday parties and dinners with less damage, less weight gain, and less stress. More great tips to help you sail through the holidays in a future article.