Life is for the living, and holidays are meant to be celebrations of life, not opportunities to stress more—especially about food.
That said, many of us get sucked into a variety of extremes when it comes to our eating habits/tendencies/patterns during the holiday season, either adopting rigid eating rules and restrictions OR throwing care to the wind entirely.
Neither approach is very satisfying or very helpful to us.
When we restrict heavily, vowing to avoid all treats, to only eat ‘healthy’ foods and to control our portions strictly, we often create more stress for ourselves than is necessary and set ourselves up for missing out on holiday enjoyments and/or eventually bingeing on the foods we’ve avoided so strenuously.
When our pendulum swings to the other end of the spectrum, and we eat whatever we want, whenever we want, and with little or no portion control.
We paint ourselves into a corner pretty quickly, creating a situation where we experience unwanted weight gain/body composition changes that make us feel worse—physically and emotionally.
Too often this primes us to rebound after the holidays with another restrictive ‘fix it’ diet or plan, which eventually is too restrictive for us to follow long-term, which leads us back to scenario A….
I’ve definitely experienced both ends of the spectrum, which led to a few years of trial and error while I learned to navigate holiday indulgences, practice and progress.
That finally resulted in these 7 basic tips and tricks that make ‘staying in the middle’ (eating without stress, with enjoyment, and without weight gain) possible these days.
Here are my top 7, time-tested, low-stress, effective eating strategies that make the holidays more enjoyable while still maintaining a stable waistline, in no particular order.
**The idea is to take the one or two that make the most sense to implement in your own life and then stick with them all season long (doing them all at once probably isn’t feasible or helpful).**
1. Planned Indulgences:
At the beginning of each week, I check out the plans for the week and then decide when I'll be enjoying my favorite treats, where I'll be enjoying my favorite treats, and how much is a realistic portion to enjoy. I typically plan to indulge in one, maximally two of these treats a week.
Then I put my plan into action! For example, when I know I have a special occasion coming up (birthday or holiday party), I know what treat will likely be available, what I like best, and then I decide (before I even get there) what I'm going to enjoy AND how much is a reasonable portion.
Takes tons of the stress out, and I know I get to enjoy my favorites with no stress or guilt!
2. Follow 90/10 or 80/20 rule:
Count how many meals you eat, on average, each day, then multiply that by 7.
If you're adhering a 'tighter' lean eating approach, then you'll want to follow the 90/10 approach.
If you're solidly on a maintenance plan, then 80/20 can work for you. This means that of the total number of meals you consume each week, between 10 and 20 % of those meals are indulgence meals.
This is can also work in well with the Planned Indulgences approach!
3. Monitor Fullness: (aka: eat until satisfied, and not past this point)
Sometimes this is also thought of as 'eating to 80% full,' which means mostly full, but not completely full (which also means eating until uncomfortably full or at near or total stomach capacity).
Ways to do this include setting down the fork between bites, chewing slowly and thoroughly each bite, taking a 'half time' to check in with the stomach to see if fullness has been reached or not, and following this guideline as described by Georgie Fear:
"When you aren't feeling better by eating more, you're in the satisfied zone."
4. Use a small(er) plate:
Studies have shown that using smaller dishes naturally results in eating less while still feeling satisfied/satiated, and I've tested this approach thoroughly and found that it really works--and really well.
A filled smaller dish gives the illusion of eating lots of food while naturally limiting the quantity of food that we eat.
Try it out at your next meal or social gathering and see how it works for you!
5. Use Plate Fractions:
Make sure every plate of food you eat is made up of 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 protein and 1/4 starchy carbs. If you're carb-sensitive, then increase the protein and decrease the starchy carb.
6. Use the ‘Get a Taste’ ‘sampling’ method for high-cal, low-nutrient faves:
Take a few bites or very small serving of whatever favorite food you drool over, slowly and mindfully, of course! When that flavor stops being Ah-Mazing, set that food aside.
You get to enjoy without bingeing!
Overall, the most important thing is to recognize and remember that it’s the consistency of our behaviors and choices that creates our outcomes, not the ‘every once in a while’ meals or events.
So having a really indulgent meal (or day of meals) that goes outside our norms once ina while (eg: Thanksgiving dinner) won’t cause us problems, besides some digestive discomfort.
But eating this way MULTIPLE times over a few weeks can.
So find an approach or approaches that work for you and put it into action all season long, so that you can both enjoy the season with less stress, and keep your waistline happy, too, all the way through January 1 and straight through 2019.
7. As with our eating patterns, our consistent movement/exercise patterns make a difference for us, too.
To help keep you consistent, but not obsessive and/or overwhelmed, I'm giving you a list of workouts that require little to no equipment or space to do with the demo videos for each one this week.
That way you can choose what suits you best over the long weekend OR over the next few weeks and keep moving consistently so that your feel less stressed, more accomplished, and just happier and calmer in general <3
Enjoy--and I wish you a happy Thanksgiving, filled with the people and things you love best.
And in case you're traveling this Thanksgiving holiday, or just don't feel like leaving the house to go work out, here are some small space and time-friendly workouts you can do anywhere 🙂
"Have a Happy Thanksgiving" workouts:
Loop Band Love Circuit:
Timewise Dumbbell Circuit:
Double Kettlebell Press-Hinge-Row Circuit
Plank Complex for the Core (Bodyweight)