Top 5 Tips for Holiday-Proofing Your Diet

You ready?  I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Even dietitians don’t eat perfectly all the time! By the way, we also don’t exercise perfectly all the time. It’s true. Dietitians aren’t perfect—we are human. Just like you. Which means we understand what it’s like to head into the holiday season with the best of intentions, but not really knowing how it’s going to go.

Maybe some of you are wrapping up the year ahead of the game in weight and/or healthy behaviors. Others may not have figured out yet how to get started or stay consistent.  Wherever you are—here’s the thing.  Finding your balance, however that looks for you, will be key to starting January off in a good place. And, it will help you feel good physically, and emotionally, in the here and now.  Win-win.  [SM1] So, I’m going to share five of my top tips and I encourage you to consider, implement, choose from, mix-and-match, and/or come up with your own.

1.  Keep moving! The holidays are busy time, but are they an “active“ time? Think about this. Consumer research shows that it’s very common to mistake “being busy” for “being active.”  So, in addition to metaphorically, or even literally, “running around”, most will likely need to make a deliberate effort to “work in their work out”.  There’s a long list of why this is beneficial.  Staying in the habit of exercising will help you keep your momentum going into the new year. You will have more energy. You will feel better about yourself than if you fall off the wagon for two weeks. And, finally, it will help with your calorie balance. During the holiday season, most of us will consume more calories than usual. It’s just part of the cultural act of celebrating and, frankly, it’s OK. Mandatory even. But, think about it. If you are usually physically active and you stop, while simultaneously adding treats, you are going to be in more of a calorie surplus than you would be if you kept working out.

Tip: You don’t have to carve out substantial time—just maximize the time you have.  Try interval training or HIIT to get maximum calorie burn in minimum time.  There are many apps out there, but I really like the free one from NIKE Training Club.

2.  Fill up on the good stuff. Yes, we are going to go to parties. Yes, we are going to overindulge at times. Yes, we might not listen to our stomach so much this time of year when it signals to us that it’s full. But, what we can all do going into a celebration is to fill up on those foods that are going to be satisfying, filling, and displace some of the room that is left over for the indulgent stuff. Bonus: you will also be less starving going into those decisions of what and how much to eat.  Which brings me to my next point…

Tip: The foods that are going to be most satisfying are those that combine fiber, protein, and a little bit of fat.  Try egg and tomato on a whole wheat English muffin; a veggie-rich salad with some tuna and light dressing; or an apple with a spoonful of peanut butter.

3.  Be mindful of how much you indulge.  Being mindful can take several shapes, depending on where you are and your personality.  You can predetermine how much you are going to eat and then stick to it. You can plate your choices and then walk away from the food table.  You can cleanse your palette or chew a piece of gum to signal to your brain that you are done. You can have a medium portion of a couple of dishes or have a small portion of many.

Tip: There is no right or wrong answer here, just the end goal of managing the number of calories you are consuming at one time.

4. Focus on the simple things you can do. For each day and each celebration, devise a game plan.  And when I say, “game plan” I mean one that includes the things that you feel certain that you can do, not the things you feel you should be doing to deprive yourself.  Deprivation leads to overindulgence in the long-term, which is a bummer because you aren’t really enjoying yourself in the short-term and then not meeting your end goal overall. That’s why I recommend focusing on the positive steps that you know you can take to be ahead of the diet game knowing that these choices could be different for each individual.

Tip: Follow steps 1-3 above and count that as your win!  Come up with different ways to make these steps happen in your life!

5.  Give yourself grace and have fun! The holidays are supposed to be fun.  They are supposed to be about quality over quantity. They are supposed to be sacred. If you can’t give yourself some grace over the holidays, then when can you?  So, know that being on track with nutrition and positive lifestyle choices does not have to be all-or-nothing. Sometimes the best laid plans, well, just don’t work.  And that’s ok. Just continue to get on that proverbial horse to do something, anything that is healthy for your body

Tip: If you try something that doesn’t work out, that’s ok. Maybe that’s not the “something” for you. Rather than beat yourself up, try something else. I recommend making changes individually to “test” them out and then add others in as you get the hang of it.

So remember, perfection is not the destination…or even the critical part of the journey.  Just go and do something each and every day and then give yourself credit for doing it (non-food rewards, please) 😉. And, remember, YOU GOT THIS!  Happy holidays, all!!

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