9 Ways to Have a Great
Holiday Season with Your Eating Plan Intact By Ben
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The Thanksgiving-to-New Year's holiday
season can be a fun time of celebrating with friends and family . . . but if
you're not careful, it can turn into a 5-week festival of overeating, too. Not
only is this period associated with heavy winter comfort foods, but seasonal
treats and big holiday meals can be a minefield for people trying to stick to a
fitness plan. It's no wonder so many people end up dieting in January just to
make up for their recent excesses.
But as someone committed to gaining and
maintaining a fit body, you should know that it is possible to enjoy
the season without feeling deprived or looking like a party pooper. Follow
these tips, and you can have a fun time and maintain your weight - or end up
even leaner than before.
Forget the preemptive diet. A new British
study found that lots of women crash-diet before the holidays in the
expectation that they'll overindulge during the season itself. But your goal
should be to learn healthy eating habits that you can stick with over the long
term, not to lose weight now just so you can gain it back later. That's likely
to lead to a yo-yo dieting cycle, which could lower your metabolism and make
fat loss more difficult than ever. Instead, make the decision now that you'll
eat reasonable portions later (even on Thanksgiving), and you won't have
anything to make up for.
Stick to your workout
program—or start one. We recently gave you some tips on how to keep
up with your fitness plan over the holidays. (Read "Stay Fit This Holiday
Season") Here's another reason why you should: Exercise and eating right go
hand in hand. When you're working out, the food you eat goes toward energy and
muscle, not fat. And you'll naturally want to eat foods that fuel your body,
instead of junk that detracts from your performance. And if you do indulge in
occasional treats, your regular workouts will help prevent them from doing much
Remember, you're building a habit
of fitness that will last you a lifetime. When better to work on it than the
busiest period of the year? You'll learn how to devote time to your own
well-being every day, even when you have a lot of other things to do. (Use your
fitness program's workout calendar, or
WOWY SuperGym®, for scheduling support.) And when your
friends and family see you getting leaner and fitter while they're poking new
holes in their belts, you'll be an amazing inspiration.
Be careful with comfort foods.
When it's cold outside, you may be tempted to cocoon indoors with hot, hearty
meals and snacks. This isn't necessarily a problem if you make fitness-friendly
choices. (Check out our guides to
winter stews and healthy hot drinks.) But if lousy weather or a lack of
sunshine makes you crave carb-heavy dishes, prepare them with healthier carbs
such as root vegetables and whole grains, not macaroni or mashed-potato flakes.
And make them part of a balanced meal, not the whole thing.
Moderate your treats. More than
any other time of year, the holiday season is associated with lots of "special"
foods—turkey and stuffing, pumpkin pie, candied yams, green-bean
casserole, latkes, Christmas cookies, etc. Some of these would put you way off
your food plan, even if you managed not to stuff yourself the way so many
people do. But others are just fine when eaten in moderation, or can be made
much healthier—in fact, you couldn't do much better than a meal of
turkey, baked yams, and fresh green beans. (And you can make
Shakeology® a daily
Plan ahead for parties. Cocktail
parties can be the downfall of any food plan, but they don't have to be. First,
if you're expecting to be served treats or hors d'oeuvres instead of healthful
food, have a protein-rich snack before you go. It'll prevent you from gobbling
up appetizers or sweets out of sheer hunger, and will help keep your blood
sugar steady even if you do have a few cookies or crab puffs. If there's a
buffet, watch your portions carefully; it's easy to pile on the food,
especially if there are a lot of choices you want to try. And if it's a
potluck, bring along a dish that's both tasty and healthful—it'll
guarantee there's something good for you to eat, and others will probably
appreciate it, too.
Don't stress out. A recent study at the University of
California, San Francisco, confirms what you already know: You're more likely
to eat high-calorie comfort foods when you're under chronic stress. And the
holidays can be a perfect storm of stressful conditions and sweet treat
You probably can't avoid the
annoyances that come with too little time or money, holiday crowds, or lengthy
family get-togethers, but you can keep them from getting you down. If you're
working out regularly, you already have a leg up on the average person, because
exercise helps reduce tension and create an upbeat mood. Help yourself even
more by doing something relaxing for a few minutes each day, whether it's yoga,
meditation, or simply listening to calming music. And if you do start feeling
stressed, stop for a few seconds and take slow, deep breaths instead of
reaching for an extra snack.
Don't abuse the booze. Yes, a
glass of wine or champagne can be a nice way to celebrate the season, and it's
pretty much obligatory on New Year's Eve. But too much drinking has all kinds
of negative effects: extra calories (which your body will burn while storing
carbohydrates), lowered inhibitions (which can lead to overeating, or behavior
that will require an apology later on), and a feeling of sluggishness or worse
the next day that can derail your fitness plan. As long as you're an adult and
don't have problems with alcohol, an occasional drink or two is fine—but
if your cheeks get as red as Santa's regularly, eventually your belly will
resemble his, too.
Avoid the food-gift trap. You could stay away from heavy
sweets all year and still find it hard to resist grandma's special fudge, even
if the box contains 2 full days' worth of calories and enough sugar to fuel an
army of hummingbirds. So what should you do with food gifts? Store-bought
baskets of fatty sausages and "cheese food" are fine to regift (or donate to a
food bank), but homemade goodies are trickier. You'll have to be polite and
enjoy a little, preferably in the giver's presence. Leave the rest out for the
family to share, or bring it to work (where it'll probably be devoured
quickly). If it's a treat you really love, divide it into small pieces and
freeze them in individual baggies, so you won't be tempted to eat it all at
Give yourself a break. If you
do overindulge at some point, don't beat yourself up about it, or
decide to give up entirely and start over in January. As long as you have a
consistent fitness program, you're unlikely to lose the progress you've made.
Just Keep Pushing Play every day, go back to your food plan, and look forward
to your healthiest holidays ever.