Healthy Holiday Habits

“I can resist anything but temptation.”   –Oscar Wilde

Too much of a good thing is wonderful.”    –Mae West

It is time once again.  The holiday season is upon us; the time of year when the most delicious foods show up in the ads, in the stores, in the restaurants, in the office, at the parties, and on our table.

The time of year when we typically eat more than usual.

The time of year when exercise is most important, but given our busy-ness in preparing for the holidays, coupled with colder weather, we may not get out and move our bodies like we should.

The time of year when the foods are about twice as caloric as the normal foods we eat.

The time of year when eating is a social activity as much as it is an activity to sustain us.

And all of this is okay, all of this is expected.  The key lies in moderation.

All things, as the saying goes, in moderation.

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You have most likely heard all this before.  There are no earth-shattering, magical tips that haven’t been tossed out there before.  Sometimes, however, re-reading something you already know, or seeing the same idea printed in different words can strike a chord within, and make it stick; make it make more sense.

Sometimes, taking a step back and realizing that you are not alone in your struggles can help.  If you were, none of these tips would have been printed anywhere.   Knowing nearly every other person celebrating the holidays struggles too can make you feel not so alone.

Sometimes, too, hearing it in a positive tone can give you the confidence to believe that you actually can resist temptation.

These tried-and-true ideas have been around for a long time, and they can be implemented according to your individual needs.  Take what works for you and tailor it to your needs and your weaknesses.

Remember:  you are not the only one struggling, and you CAN resist—unlike Oscar Wilde.  And, perhaps Mae West’s quote should not be applied to holiday food intake.

As with any attempts to change any habits, being aware of them is typically the best place to start.  So many of us indulge mindlessly, so take a moment to step back and increase your awareness:

  • Check to see if you are actually hungry.  Many of us simply eat because it is there.  Step back and think about it for a minute or two before you indulge.
  • Slow down.  You will eat less in the same amount of time if you simply reduce your rate of intake.  Put your spoon, fork, or finger food down between bites.  Thoroughly chew each bite, savor it in your mouth before you swallow it, and then swallow again.  After that, then you can decide if you need more.
  • Keep a food diary.  Sounds like a chore, but it may be the best eye-opener to make you realize just how much you are taking in.
  • Focus on eating, and nothing else.  Don’t watch TV, talk on the phone, read or engage in any other activity that may distract you from realizing how much or how quickly you are eating.
  • Just like your mother said, don’t talk with food in your mouth.  Most of us are guilty of this.  It’s gross, but somehow marginally socially acceptable.  This takes you awareness away from how much or how fast you are eating as well, and poses a higher choking risk.
  • Fill up on vegetables and other healthy snacks before you hit the higher calorie foods.  Better yet, bring a vegetable tray to the potluck, usually there aren’t too many of those.
  • Drink a large glass of water before you plan to eat.  This is not only good for you, but will help to fill you up so you eat less.
  • Speaking of drinking water, the recommended amount is half your body weight in ounces, with equal amounts added for what you consume in caffeinated beverages because they have a dehydrating effect.  This sounds like a lofty goal, and most of us have a long way to go to get there, but anything closer to this is progress.
  • Instead of high-calorie sugary and/or alcoholic drinks, consider seltzer water.  Either plain or flavored, the carbonation and possibly the taste just might trick your brain into thinking you are indulging in something forbidden when you are not.  It actually counts toward your recommended water intake.
  • Chew gum.  Suck on a mint.  If you are craving sweets, eat a pickle or something else bitter.  It should kill the craving.
  • Better yet, brush your teeth.  Pick up a few inexpensive, disposable toothbrushes with toothpaste already on them to make it easier to brush, and subsequently easier to resist.
  • Enlist the help of a friend.  Setting goals with someone adds the element of accountability.  It’s too easy to be accountable only to yourself, most of us cheat and tell ourselves little—or big—lies in order to get what we want.
  • This friend can also be your exercise buddy.  Knowing someone is depending on you to show up for a walk, run or yoga class can be the determining factor that actually makes you show up and do the work.
  • Don’t try to lose weight during this season, simply maintain your current weight.  That is quite possibly setting yourself up for failure.
  • If you have a picture of yourself from earlier days that motivates you to eat less and/or exercise more, by all means get it out and look at it frequently.
  • If you are eating in a restaurant, chances are your portions are much more than you actually need.  Ask for a to-go box when your food arrives, and pack up half right away.  You will be less likely to eat it all if it’s already boxed up, and you have another meal ready.
  • Watch your portion sizes at the table or the party buffet.  Taking just a little bit less of the heavy stuff can make a big difference.
  • If you overeat at one meal, don’t kick yourself.  Simply move on, and eat less at the next meal.

And now one you may not have heard…

  • There are apps for your cell phone and other devices that track calories.  If you use other apps, simply search and find, or better yet, ask a teenager for help.  There are many out there, and some will likely be better suited for you than others.

Above all, enjoy.  Eating is one of the greatest pleasures of life.  Just make sure you to do it in moderation.