Making the Holidays a Catapult into the New Year

18 11 2011

The Health Behavior Consultants have heard many participants say they are feeling good about heading into the holidays, but our goal is to ensure participants not only feel good, but also confident they possess the tools and skills to make reasonable choices throughout the season. This is not a time to suddenly expect the unreasonable from ourselves, such as not eating ANY mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie, nor is it a time to throw in the towel and go crazy with holiday goodies. Balance is possible and giving yourself permission to find that balance will result in feeling good about your choices and not guilty or unfulfilled. So, here are a range of tools and suggestions to assist with staying on the path toward meeting your personal goals.

Although it may be hard to believe, the holidays don’t have to be about the food! Is food a component of the holiday season, absolutely, but it doesn’t have to be the focus. Take your power back from food and place your attention on the company you keep. Make the holidays about fostering relationships. Strike up a conversation with those family members you have not seen in a while, or invite a friend over to share your time. Don’t get locked into obsessing over the side dishes and desserts, you deserve to be kind to yourself and those around you by giving them your undivided attention.

If you are cooking at home, here are a few things to help you stay on track. To keep from grazing as you cook, try chewing gum. It will occupy your jaws and allow you to save room for the finished products. Also, simple “eat this and not that” switches can have a big impact on the nutritional make up of typical holiday items. Think about switching some of the usual ingredients to healthier choices (check out the link for the holiday handout). Prepare ahead of time with inexpensive containers that you can pack for guests to take food with them. This will help you get some of the more unhealthy choices out of your home and leave you with leftovers for a day, not a week. You can also ask guests if they are interested in a pot luck holiday. They can take the leftovers of their dishes with them and their containers, leaving you with less clean up and food to get rid of.

Are you planning to visit others for the holidays? Offer to bring a healthy side dish (consider the ideas in the handout) or purchase cooking items when you get into town. Kindly refuse offered “doggy bags,” and ask family or friends to split desserts. If they are planning to serve food items buffet style, feel free to scan the table ahead of time. Consider the items you really want and get those first to avoid overfilling your plate. If you are committed to attending two feasts in one day, consider eating certain items at one and others at the other to avoid overindulging.

When you do serve your plate, keep this is in mind. We are more likely to savor and enjoy smaller portions than heaping scoops of food items. Why? Because there is a smaller amount which increases mindfulness and slower eating. Eating smaller portions not only helps to appreciate some of our favorites, it will also combat the dreaded food coma and uncomfortable feeling of having overeaten. Before heading back for seconds remember that it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to relay the message to your brain that you are full. While waiting for your brain to catch up, engage in a conversation or take a short walk around the neighborhood.

In preparation for the holidays, be realistic about your food intake. More than likely you will eat a couple hundred calories more than a typical day. That is to be expected, but it doesn’t have to change your outlook. Eat a light breakfast and continue to EXERCISE. If possible, get an extra workout in earlier in the week. On the day of, run the steps at your house. Also, if you have access to exercise equipment, use it! Bouts of 10 minute exercise is all you need to stay on track. Initiate a family activity, such as a pick-up basketball game, dog walking or even a Turkey Trot 5K in your area. You may just role model the behavior for others and motivate change in those you care about.

Click the link below for healthy ingredient switch tips and recipes that may make all the difference.

Thanksgiving Recipe Handout

Want more information? Check out the links below for even more tools and recipes for surviving the holidays.

http://ext.wvu.edu/features/2010/11/16/holiday-eating

http://www.eatright.org

http://www.eatingwell.com

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