Nothing like an endless parade of gingerbread men to derail all thoughts of spinach. Why choose a salad full of greens when deviled eggs are singing their siren song?
Virtually every human brain lucky enough to have a holiday season spends that season looping an inner monologue of: “It’s all so delicious! It only comes once a year! But I don’t want my jeans to feel like sausage casings or to spend the holidays feeling like one more candy cane will make me explode. HALP!”
Because we like to help, we asked Arlene Perry, a health coach in Denver, how to stay healthy this holiday season. Here are tips to take you from the first bag of Halloween candy to the last eggnog-fueled Christmas soiree.
Distance Yourself From the Hors D’oeuvres Table
“Holidays are a constant barrage of unplanned eating,” Perry explains. You go to a party hungry, chow down on delicious calories and then wonder where that extra five pounds came from. But there are ways to enjoy yourself without becoming a sugar cookie shut-in.
“Scan the buffet and choose the more simply prepared food, such as a sweet potato instead of the sweet potato pie,” says Perry. “Limit yourself to one plate of food and eat slowly, savoring each bite. Sit while you’re eating.”
Choose to eat your favorite delicacies, rather than shoveling in whatever crosses your path. As you scan those heaps of food, find what looks truly delicious. What do you really love? What would you be sorry to miss? Take a small helping of that thing and pass up the unhealthy treats you don’t really care about. If pumpkin-frosted sugar cookies make your heart sing, have a pumpkin-frosted sugar cookie. But don’t toss handfuls of candy corn into your maw just because you’re sitting near the bowl.
Barrage of Tips to Counter the Barrage of Unplanned Eating
Eat something healthy before you go to a party, preferably something with plenty of vegetables. Make time to exercise each day – a hike, a walk, whatever you enjoy. Establish ground rules ahead of time, specific ones like, ‘Just have a taste of everything and a sliver of dessert’ instead of ‘No pigging out.’ Choose healthy appetizer options like chilled shrimp, veggies and fresh fruit. Don’t take home plates of leftover brownies. Grab a dessert plate for your meal instead of a dinner plate.
If You Fall Off the Health Wagon with a Resounding Thump…
First and foremost, be kind to yourself. It’s okay if you forget your resolution to stick to the green beans and dive headfirst into a bag of fun-size Snickers bars, washing them down with a pumpkin spice latte.
Instead of saying, “Too late, I’ve already blown it,” pick yourself up out of your kid’s Halloween stash and eat a healthy dinner of sauteed vegetables and tasty grains. It’s more important to note that it happened, give yourself a break, and make the next thing you eat a healthy thing.
Perry recommends the one-day-at-a-time approach – each new meal is an opportunity to start fresh. “Just because you blow lunch doesn’t mean you have to blow the rest of the day,” says Perry. “Get away from the kitchen and the food. Put on some comfortable shoes and get some fresh air and take a walk. If you don’t see the food, smell the food or touch the food, you’re much less likely to go and get the food.”
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
If you take a shovel to the buffet table at the office holiday party, drink a lot of water. “The next day you’re going to wake up thirsty,” says Perry. “Don’t mistake it for hunger. The first thing you should do in the morning is drink a whole bunch of room-temperature water.”
Use Your Brain For Good, Not Evil
“It’s more a question of changing the way you think about food,” says Perry. “It’s the way you deal with sabotaging thoughts that thwart your efforts.” Most of us have a spinning hamster wheel in our brain that spits out thoughts like:
“It’s a holiday, I’m entitled to an extra slab of honey roasted ham and marshmallows on my potatoes.”
“Everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn’t I?”
“You know what tastes better than being healthy? Frosted pumpkin bread.”
Perry has her clients write out a corresponding response to self-sabotaging thoughts, like, “If I have seconds, I’m just going to feel lethargic and sleepy instead of enjoying the rest of the party.” Begin making a habit of noticing why you want to eat something and what the result will be.
Still struggling? “I always tell people to get a health coach,” laughs Perry. “Tell me all your issues and I’ll do what I can to help you put yourself back together.”
How would you like to stay healthy this holiday season?