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The Holidays are Busting Out All Over, But You Don’t Have To Be

It’s a balancing act to enjoy holiday festivities and foods without feeling the pangs of regret when you step on your scale on January 2nd, but you can do it.

What’s your holiday eating style?

Do you eat in moderation most of the time?

Do eat first, then think about what you should or shouldn’t have eaten, or do you think about what you want, choose and then eat?

Do you have little or no self control?

Do feel in control of what you eat?

Do you eat in excess – certain foods, all foods, at certain festivities, at all festivities?

Do you stuff yourself – some of the time, most of the time, all of the time?

Do you overeat – all foods, certain foods, no foods?

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it

If you’ve selected phrases above that indicate you are in control, most likely last year you successfully managed to enjoy the holidays and partake of some of your favorite foods and desserts without gaining holiday weight.  Whatever you did right last year will work this year, so keep on doing what you did.

If it is broken, fix it

On the flip side, if you’ve selected phrases that indicate you did overindulge, and you   suffered the consequences of gaining those hard-to-lose extra pounds, then this article is for you.

Insight – the first step towards change

There are myriad reasons why we overeat during the holidays. First and foremost – we are inundated with a host of foods that smell good, look tempting, and (if I didn’t cook it) taste pretty good.   These cues trigger overeating. The sight, smell, and memories associated with holiday foods are definitely challenging, but if you understand that these powerful cues can override your good intentions, you can change the outcome. You can determine which cues you want to respond to and which ones you will avoid or overcome, but you will need a plan.

How to outwit holiday food cues

1.   First and foremost don’t go to holiday events on an empty stomach. Hungry people are more susceptible to sensory cues. If you think saving calories by not eating all day is a good strategy think again. You’ll eat all the calories you saved and hundreds if not thousands more.

Never go into a holiday food zone hungry or thirsty.  Drink a glass of water or two and eat approx 200 calories containing protein and/or fiber within an hour.  Hungry people don’t make good eating choices. If you are not hungry, you’ll be better able to pick and choose, instead of acting on impulse in response to food cues.

2. Before you go, decide what you want to eat. Be selective. You really don’t have to taste it all.  In fact, research indicates that eating small portions of everything is not a good strategy because you never feel quite full or satisfied, so you eat more and more.  Choose a few foods and desserts and eat reasonable portions.

3.  Adjust your attitude. If you tell yourself you are depriving yourself, most definitely you will overeat.  Instead, tell yourself that you are making informed choices.  Let’s face it, you can eat whatever we want to, but there is a price in gained weight. Armed with this knowledge, you are more likely to make wiser choices. When deciding which foods to eat and how much of them you will eat, think about how difficult it has been to lose those excess holiday pounds. Ask yourself if it was worth it. Only you can be the judge of that.  Remember, it’s always your choice.

4. If you didn’t pay attention to tips 1, 2 or 3 and you wind up eat everything that isn’t nailed down, take a few minutes before the day is out to count calories and fat. Use the CalorieKing Food & Exercise Journal along with the 2013 CalorieKing Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter, or use CalorieKing online tools.   You will be so shocked at how much you ate, it will motivate you to make wiser choices the next go round. In fact, the best defense against weight gain is to maintain a food and exercise journal especially during the holidays.

It’s not just the food, It’s the Big Excuses

Excuse #1 “The holidays only come once a year, so why shouldn’t I eat everything I want to?”

To be very clear, the holidays do not come only once a year.  We are always celebrating some holiday or other -– birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, Easter, Passover, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, Labor Day Week End – you get the point. Even week-ends are high on the holiday excuse list. Add it up – counting weekends, holidays, etc there are approximately 126 days you can find reasons (excuses) to overeat.  Granted, this is a very special time of year, with unique circumstances, but don’t use that as an excuse.

Excuse #2 it’s really not the holidays if we don’t eat and drink and make merry (with lots of drinks, desserts, candy, cookies, etc).

Now, even you don’t believe this one really – do you? Isn’t there more to the holidays than food?  Don’t get me wrong. I look forward to holiday dinners and desserts, but I always keep in mind the years that I’ve gone overboard.  I enjoyed the food during the short period I ate it, but I suffered months afterwards kicking myself and trying to lose the extra pounds. Shift your focus from food (when you can) to the other aspects of this season.  It is not all about food.  It s about sharing and giving and loving and socializing and spiritual growth and being thankful.

Bottom line, I’m not saying don’t eat holiday foods.  Just don’t eat them to excess.  You’ll enjoy what you do eat more and you will be happier on January 2nd than you would be if had no self-control.