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How to have a realistic, healthy holiday season

 
I know, I know, not another article that gives you tips on how to eat healthy during the holidays. Well, good news! I'm not here to tell you to walk around eating a celery stick while everyone arond you chows down on the mincemeat pie and deep fried turkey. However, I'm also not here to give you a free pass to turn into a vacuum cleaner: you are on a diet and you want to lose weight. In order to accomplish that there are a few simple rules that will help you keep your eye on the prize.

Rules For Healthy Holiday Eating:
Before we get started, I want you to get comfortable, so put some turkey on your plate, get some of that great dressing (don’t forget the cranberry sauce), fight Cousin Danny for some of that green bean casserole my niece, Tasia, makes so well, and tell Grandma to save a piece of pie for you. Have a seat, relax, enjoy your meal (while balancing a soggy paper plate on your knee) and I will give you the rules to help you survive the season.
  1. Forgive yourself in advance and give yourself permission to have a good time: Look, this stuff isn’t poison! You didn’t take 10 years off your life just because you ate more than you should have...and then went back for seconds. You are only human, and you are here to have a good time! One of the reasons you want to lose weight, or keep it down, is so that you can enjoy life, and this is one of the most enjoyable times of the year. So, as they say, live a little. Whatever happens over the next few days will not kill you, and whatever damage you do manage to do can be rectified.
  2. It’s just a couple of days: Okay, for some families, it may be a couple of weeks...twice...Thanksgiving and Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanza. Whatever it is for you, it is finite, it WILL end, and it is mainly limited to a certain time of the year. Who you are in terms of health, fitness, and weight loss is determined by the overall accomplishments of the year, not by a few weeks in the fall.
  3. Stay with your program: You will definitely minimize the effects of all the dinners, cookies, and snacks if you can still get in your walks, aerobics, weight training, or whatever else you have been doing. During the holiday season, it can be difficult to get everything done the same as in the rest of the year, but two days of exercise Thanksgiving week, while not as good as three or five, is still better than none. Simply knowing you have not abandoned your plan will help you get over any depression you might have because of your holiday eating, and will help reduce any negative effects from all the delicious, gooey calories you have "accidentally" consumed. If you cannot stay on a formal program, squeeze in a walk, even if it is a high-speed shopping trip through the mall.
  4. Remain in touch with reality: You will hear people speak of "mindful eating". Be aware of what you are doing. Have you ever heard someone say, "That is so good, I just have to have some more?" Of course, YOU and I never say things like that! Well, the truth is that you DON’T have to have some more, and, if you do, it doesn’t need to be right now. Just because the food is there right now doesn’t mean it has to be eaten right now. You know what’s good for you and what isn’t. One piece of pie today is not going to kill you or destroy your weight loss resolution, but do you have to have that pie? Isn’t there a healthier treat you could have, or could you just wait until the meal has settled, or after you take a walk to rev up your metabolism and burn off some of what you already ate. Why not take a piece home with you and have it as a treat for later...when you aren’t as full as a tick.
  5. Food is not love: Many people tend to equate food and eating with love. You cannot change the others, but you can change your own attitude. Refusing seconds of Grandma’s turkey does not mean you don’t love her. If she is hurt because you normally stuff yourself and this year you’re not doing her food "justice", just say that you are stuffed but will have more later. Take control of YOUR life. Others will have to take control of their own.
  6. If you are the cook: Choose healthy dishes prepared in a healthy manner. If you have found a new diet-friendly food that you enjoy, share that with others. This will give you one more healthy dish on the groaning board to select your own meal from.
  7. Alcohol: If you enjoy wine, beer, eggnog like my Uncle Wilbur liked, or other drinks containing alcohol, just slow down and cut back. Try slipping in a glass of water between drinks. Drinks containing alcohol are sneaky calories. They do nothing for you nutritionally, but they do have a lot of calories. A few drinks with friends can give you more calories than a Whopper, and you probably have these drinks while snacking or eating a meal! Oh well! At least if you are a beer drinker, you can try some light beers. It will give you an excuse to sample.
  8. Be happy to be where you are, doing what you are doing, with the people you love: If you fall head over heels off the wagon, have fun. What you do throughout the year will have more effect on your weight and health than what happens between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.