With Thanksgiving only weeks away, many Americans are already sweating the annual battle with those dreaded holiday pounds. Each year the parade of traditional and delicious, yet often unhealthy dishes marches down Main Street USA but instead of leaving the streets full of confetti, they leave your body full on confatty. With this in mind, we thought we would give you a few tips, ammunition if you will, to help you plant your victory flag at the top of the holiday hill.
- Eat a healthy snack before going to the party. Plenty of studies have shown that the hungrier you are, the poorer the food choices you will make. In order to keep yourself from stuffing yourself with stuffing, eat a healthy snack before you leave your home. You will feel fuller and be less likely to make poor food choices once you arrive.
- Substitute healthier ingredients and recipes. Many people shun this obvious yet controversial advice. The mentality is that Americans want to eat traditional dishes that bring them comfort and memories of holidays past. This is easy to poke holes in. Your traditional dishes were once not so traditional. Do you think the pilgrims split green bean casserole with the Indians? And where did they get the marshmallows to top the candied yams? Start your own new traditions with healthier food choices. In a few years they will be just as much a part of the tradition as your Uncle Larry’s old high school football stories.
- Practice portion control. I want you to think of your plate as a pie chart. In order to avoid a waistline that rivals old Saint Nick himself come December 25th, you have to start eating well at Thanksgiving. According to choosemyplate.gov, 50% of your plate should be composed of fresh fruit and vegetables, with another 40-50% composed of heart-healthy whole grains, and the other 40-50% composed of proteins. This means no skipping the spinach for extra mashed potatoes and gravy. Follow this and you will be ahead of the game come spring and the dash to be bathing suit ready!
- Run it off. Exercise is well established in the battle to control blood sugar regulation and increase dopamine production which decreases cravings for comfort foods. If you don’t already have a regular exercise plan, start one and stick with it. You don’t have to be a marathon runner. 30 minutes per day 5 days per week of moderate exercise is all you need to maintain a healthy weight.
- Keep Calm and Carry On. Stress is a huge contributing factor in poor food choices. Keep your stress down around the holidays by exercising, meditating, playing music or whatever helps you blow off some steam.
- Mind over matter. The most powerful tool you have to fight holiday weight gain is that lump of gray matter 3 feet above your belly button. A very powerful tool to fight bad food choices is to simply change the way you talk to yourself about foods. Instead of letting bad foods get the best of you by telling yourself “I can’t have that,” empower yourself by telling yourself “I don’t want that.” Knowing that you can eat it if you want but simply choosing not to shifts the power heavily in your favor.
- Eat slowly then wait it out. Chew your food and really experience the flavor. Then, before going for seconds or thirds give yourself a few minutes for your satiety signals to hit your brain. You won’t be unbuttoning your pants or taking shallow breaths at the end of the night when you give your brain time to signal that you are full.
- Don’t blow it out of proportion. One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that, although most Americans gain weight over the holidays, the average weight gain is only 1-2lbs. If you approach all of your holiday meals with a wartime mentality you won’t really enjoy yourself which will set you up for failure in holidays to come. The holidays are for enjoying with close friends and family anyway. With that in mind, just be mindful when making your food choices. You can have some dessert, just don’t have a super-sized portion. You can drink some egg nog, just keep it to a glass to get the flavor. Commit to indulging a little bit but also to being mindful and working it off come spring. You will come out of the holidays with less weight gained and less running to do.