The holiday season is notorious for unintentional weight gain; but that’s to be expected when there are holiday cookies at every corner for nearly two months straight. Finding the balance between indulgence and blatant overeating isn’t an easy task, which can make the holidays extremely frustrating for the health-conscious individual.
Fortunately, there’s no need to dread the holiday season. Despite popular belief, it is possible to lead a healthy lifestyle and enjoy the holiday season, pecan pie and all! It takes a bit of patience, a lot of planning, and dedication to yourself, but you can make it through the holidays unscathed!
Use this holiday survival guide to help you enjoy your holiday season, operathletes!
1. GET YOUR BEAUTY SLEEP
The first step to surviving the holidays without packing on the pounds is as simple as getting some shut-eye! A lack of sleep correlates with weight gain, so ensure that you’re meeting the sleep recommendations set forth by the National Sleep Foundation for your age bracket.
2. STAY ACTIVE
The holidays can be hectic, but sticking to a regular exercise regimen will not only prevent excessive weight gain, but will also help reduce your overall stress level, which can ultimately help prevent “stress eating.” Avoid using exercise as a punishment for an imperfect diet choice — instead, earn your cheat meals by kicking your own booty at the gym on a regular basis 😉
3. STAY HYDRATED
Most people are regularly under-hydrated. Ensuring that you are well-hydrated is a crucial part of your overall health, but it can also help prevent “boredom eating.” If you’re ever unsure as to whether or not you’re truly hungry or if it’s just the boredom talking, grab a glass of water! You may find that you were simply thirsty.
4. LIMIT “CHEATING” TO DESIGNATED “CHEAT DAYS”
The use of the word “cheat” in this context refers to meals that are outside of one’s regularly healthy diet. During the holidays, it’s extremely easy to unintentionally make every day a “cheat day.” Designate your cheat days (such as Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve), and outside of those special occasions, stick to a healthy diet rich in green veggies, delicious fruits, whole grains, and lean protein. By planning your “cheat days” ahead of time, you will be able to monitor your eating before & after the holiday, and frankly, your special days will likely feel like a more satisfying treat!
5. BE PICKY ABOUT & ENJOY YOUR “CHEAT MEALS”
If you eat ham on a regular basis, why would you binge out on ham on cheat day?? Go ahead and treat yo’self to those delicious goodies you don’t have on a regular basis, like turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, et cetera! In my own experience, I’ve noticed that one of the biggest mistakes I can make is punishing myself during a cheat meal by depriving myself of what I really want, or after a cheat meal by filling my mind with regret for going “off plan.” Although it’s easier said than done, avoid the urge to punish yourself for a cheat meal; instead, do the work you need to in your exercise and diet regimen on a day-to-day basis, decide that you’ve earned this cheat, have what you want, and enjoy every last bite.
6. PACE YOURSELF
Pace yourself throughout your meal, but also throughout the entire day. Avoid the urge to starve yourself so you’ll be “empty” enough for the big meal, and savor every bite so you don’t accidentally stuff yourself sick! It’s okay to eat more than you usually do during your cheat meal, but there’s little worse than eating so much so quickly that your body punishes you for your splurge! Instead, eat only to a comfortable level.
7. STRIVE FOR BALANCE, NOT PERFECTION
So you’re juggling healthy eating, exercise, proper hydration, and adequate sleep habits on top of your everyday life. Let’s face it: you’re not always going to be able to balance them perfectly, and that’s okay! You’re only human, you can only do so much. Some days will be better than others. Instead of punishing yourself for those slip-ups, put your time and energy into getting back on track as soon as possible.
8. CONSUME SUGAR SPARINGLY
Sugar is extremely addicting. The more you have, the more you’ll want. This isn’t to say you can’t have that piece of pecan pie; but if you can, limit your dessert plate to just one sugar-filled item. Just know that the more sugar you have on cheat day, the more you’ll have to practice your self-control the following day, when you’re back on track with your healthy eating.
9. ALWAYS USE A PLATE
Snacking straight out of the cookie jar is a recipe for disaster. This form of snacking without a definitive limit is even more dangerous if you do it in front of the TV or while you Netflix, like most people do. Instead, make yourself a small plate, put the rest of the goodies away, and enjoy your little plate.
10. LIMIT THE LEFTOVERS
This one is pretty easy to understand at its core: the more temptation you have lying around the house, the more tempted you’ll be to fall off the horse. With all the cookies, candies, pies, and leftovers hanging around, an individual who may usually cheat once or twice during the week may suddenly find themselves cheating on a daily basis! If you’re the host, try to divvy out leftovers to your guests so you have little left to “take care of” (which we all know is code for “eat, yourself”). If you’re the guest, don’t take home several tubs of leftovers. Perhaps prepare one little meal for lunch the next day in one to-go container, then leave the rest.