Ahh … the holidays. They evoke feelings of everything from excitement to dread as calendars are crammed with shopping, packaging, and parties. Between time-saving fast food runs and an endless parade of Christmas cookies, the frenzy can cause risks to your health over the holidays, whether you’re an L.A. gym regular or spend all month on the couch watching the Hallmark Channel.
Staying steady with a diet-and-exercise program is tough from Halloween through New Year’s Day, but with a few tips from health experts you can curb some of the damage – including an oversized appetite for treats.
Plan Before You Party
When your Aunt rolls out the yule log and your annual Christmas party features a chocolate fountain and open bar, your diet is on thin ice. Sure, you can add a host of hardcore fitness classes to your schedule, but there are also ways to firm your grip on healthy moderation over the holidays. The University of Michigan website suggests you plan ahead by holding your own kind of “pre-party,” where you brace yourself for massive temptation to avoid the downward spiral that can follow holiday overeating.
You may like the starve-all-day-feast-all-night approach to partying, but it might not be in your best interest to continue that pattern. If you’re famished and you lay your eyes on festive platters with buttery crackers, cheesy spreads, and sugary cakes, you tend to consume more than just a meal. So, before the next Chamber mixer or your friend’s annual Hollywood Hills Christmas party, try noshing on a low-calorie snack to curb some of the appeal.
Believe it or not, where you’re situated at a party can give you an edge in tackling how to stop overeating when you socialize. Avoid standing near the food table, if possible, because of the constant pressure to resist temptation (you’ll enjoy your conversations more too). Pick up a plate and choose some favorite foods to bring to a comfortable spot in another part of the room where you can chat between chews. Be sure to include fruits and vegetables to balance out the divinity fudge and frosted Pfeffernuse.
If the host includes multiple plate sizes, choose something small to limit your unhealthy holiday food intake. It goes without saying that fewer trips to the dessert table will also keep your calorie count down. Once you dig in you can savor your treats by chewing slowly to make them last; it’s a great strategy for maintaining a diet plan all year long. By giving your brain sensors time to trigger the chemicals that signal satiety you feel full faster.
Dial Down the Drinking
Don’t forget the beverages – from cocktails to eggnog, they can become your biggest source of empty calories (like the Peppermint Mocha you order at Starbucks to wash down your Cranberry Bliss Bar). You don’t have to swear off seasonal favorites for tap water, just attempt moderation. Try to limit your alcohol intake and choose such options as carbonated waters or juice-infused drinks when possible.
Change Your Office Protocol
Monitoring your day-to-day food intake over the holidays involves an extra measure of effort and willpower – especially at work where everyone shows off their baking skills with seasonal favorites to share. One option is to double down on your Burbank Fitness Club visits or increase your laps in the pool to offset overindulgence in the break room, at your desk, or in the corporate lounge.
If you work from home and have no control over decisions made by the boss (yourself), well … that’s a problem for another day. But if you work in an office environment, chances are you have weeks – or even months – of pies, cakes, and candy brought in by staff members. Nutrition expert Martha McKittrick has an article on her website offering a balanced approach to handling the onslaught of holiday treats at the office:
Create a healthful mindset – Strict dieting over the holiday season is a bit unrealistic. If you deprive yourself every time your favorite treats are offered, you risk overindulging later. An all-or-nothing mentality is typically too harsh.
Check in with your feelings – If you imagine how you’ll feel after inhaling a plate of fudge you’re more likely to limit your intake to two or three pieces instead of five. (Or nine.) It can also lead to a feeling of pride when you find you can enjoy the bounty of the holidays in moderation.
Keep your distance – By avoiding the break room, or at least delaying your access to bountiful spreads and yummy desserts, you decrease your intake, but when you’re in close proximity to high-calorie foods you’re tempted to visit repeatedly for “just one more bite.”
Bring your own food – Packing a tasty, filling, healthy lunch for work is a great way to minimize your desire for dessert. You can even add a high-protein snack for the afternoon to take the place of the beautiful (though empty calorie) options brought to the office by your coworkers.
Build a buddy system – Nearly every goal is more attainable when you share it with someone else, from a workout partner to support groups. If you aren’t in a weight-loss program where you share your experience with others perhaps you have an office mate you can turn to for a little accountability.
Set company standards – Whether you run a Los Angeles fitness company or you’re a Burbank business owner, you can set some boundaries during the holiday season to limit the volume of junk food pouring into the office. Indulging in seasonal specialty foods can inspire bonding among coworkers, which is great, but you can set the stage for some moderation in the process.
Temptation occurs year-round – from passing on the Porto’s Bakery box at meetings to ditching the drive-thru for groceries from the Farmer’s Market. The holiday season comes with the year’s tastiest treats (along with a mixed bag of merriment and stress) but one thing you can control is what you eat and how much you indulge. Adopting a few healthy strategies will give you a greater chance that the gifts of the season will be items from your wish list, not an extra 10 pounds to lose.