Wait, wait wait...It doesn't HAVE to be the season for throwing our positive nutritional practices to the wind and eating poorly just because foods that don't meet proper nutrient density are around. It's strange, you may feel like somehow you're doomed to fail so it's perfectly fine to find yourself sneaking around eating that crusty, dried-out chocolate cake at 11:30pm even though it's more like cardboard and does nothing for your energy, workouts or health.
Now is not the time to check out. Now is actually the time to check IN people! With the right knowledge and attitude you can come out of this Holiday Season unscathed. You don't have to find yourself feeling guilty over the next three weeks about things that you've eaten. Let's get that straight right now. There is no food that is off limits. The minute you start thinking you're going to go into some special magical place where you will abstain from every Christmas cookie is only going to turn on the signals in your brain that will only say one thing and one thing only blaring in bright red fluorescent lights:
I WANT COOKIES
I NEED COOKIES
BRING ME THE COOKIES!!!!!
So, let's not do that to ourselves. Deal? Let's instead go about this a different way. Let's commit to being smart, feeling empowered, planning ahead, making good decisions, not feeling guilty (no matter what), loving our body and eating mindfully.
Ahh.. banana sushi
Let's start with real hunger vs. emotional hunger. It's your job to look for the signs of actual physical hunger. Know the difference! Physical hunger grows slowly over time. You may feel your stomach growling and when you assess the time since you last ate it may be around 1.5-2.5 hour mark. When you examine emotional hunger it develops much more quickly. It is unrelated to time since your last meal. You may be without physical signs (other than dreaming about cupcakes).
When a client tells me they have an emotional eating issue, the first thing I ask them to do when they are overcome with a "I must have that __X___" wave is to get up, walk around their desk / the party / wherever they are and then grab a glass of water (at least 10oz). Drink the water and then try to get busy doing something for 10 minutes. If the 10 minutes pass and they still want "whatever" it is, then go ahead and have it. Don't have ten pounds of it, but do have a reasonable amount. That way the client is not denying themselves, but they are seeing if they are really hungry and they may even get busy and realize an hour has passed and they moved on without having "X". Win! If they have it, that's fine too, but the same practice must be applied each time.
Of course there are other good ways to set yourself up for a positive holiday season. Below I name just a few:
1. If you are attending a Holiday party, DO NOT go on an empty stomach after running around all day like a manic and not eating for 6+ hours. Make sure you plan your day ahead to have balanced meals prior to the party and even a healthy snack within the hour before. Go in to the party fully hydrated and somewhat full. You'll do a much better job at making good decisions.
2. Fill up your plate at least half full with vegetables (and grab the small plate, not the one for giants). Vegetables are a great source of fiber which helps you feel full and satisfied. The volume of the vegetables in your stomach helps you fill up without a lot of calories and you'll get plenty of nutrients at the same time!
3. If you're baking, choose ways to lower the fat content of your items. You can replace a recipe that calls for oil in your muffins or cakes with applesauce. Fat free dairy items such as Greek yogurt can also be a replacement to oil or butter. Remember replacing fat in baked goods often requires a shorter baking time. About ten minutes before the timer goes off, test the item by inserting a toothpick and seeing if it comes out clean.
4. Keep that booty moving my friends! It's easy to let the hustle and bustle of the Holidays overwhelm you and cause you to skip your workout routine. If there was ever a time you need structure, this is IT! If you can burn some of those calories you will feel better and give your body some love. If you can't spend the amount of time you usually do, then take a walk with a friend, fire up your best cha-cha at a party or take 20 minutes and do a high intensity body weight routine. You can find videos on youtube with everything from yoga to dance. It's a great time to try something new!
5. Alternate the booze! If you're going to have the fruity drink or hot whiskey cider, alternate it with a water. This will not only help you stay hydrated (therefore assisting with avoiding the holiday morning headache), but it will also save you from a few calories that you might not need in the first place!
6. Wait for it! If you know Grandma's famous pecan pie is your favorite dessert in the world, then don't fill your plate with a plethora of other desserts. Instead, have that pie and really savor every single bite. Spend the time to eat it slowly and be satisfied with your choice. Sometimes the good things are worth waiting for!
7. Remember the same keys for better choices still apply - balance and moderation! There are no off-limit foods, but there are ways to fill your body with the nutrients it needs instead of empty calories. Indulge in a few of your favorites, but stick to what you know still makes sense within your eating plan and personal health goals.
I hope a few of these tips will help you as you navigate this wonderful season. I love this time of year for so many reasons. Enjoy those things that really bring you joy like seeing family, hugging a loved one, spending quality time together. It doesn't have to all be about food you know!! If you keep a few of these tips in mind you'll be better equipped to make choices that will fuel your body and your mind!!