In just a matter of a few short weeks, we’re going to be in the midst of the most celebrated time of the year. For most of us, this means that we’ll be among family, friends and loved ones, eating, laughing, drinking and attending various parties and gatherings. We’ll be eating out more, grabbing meals on the run because our standard routines would have been interrupted, and although we may welcome the disruption in our daily schedule, undoubtedly, most of us (if we’re not careful) will put on a few excess pounds between now and New Years Day. As a matter of fact, the average person will gain somewhere between 5 to 10 pounds during the holiday season…and not all of it will come from eggnog. In fact, there are several contributing factors for weight gain during the holiday season, and we’re going to explore every one them, and hopefully, by the conclusion of this article, you’ll be able to make good cognizant choices which will help you keep your energy level up and the weight down.
As I mentioned previously, the holiday season not only represent festive times, it also represents a change in your regular routine. You’ll be going out more often…whether it’s to the mall to shop for gifts or to a neighbor’s house for an impromptu party, you will find that your traditional cycle of coming home and making dinner will be broken. How many of us will have to pick up a gift that will take us to the mall until the wee hours of the night? And will you really feel like making dinner once you arrive home? Wouldn’t it be easier to grab something in the food court? Or stop at Boston Market? Or even better yet, order the infamous pizza when you get home?
How about the multitude of holiday gatherings that you’ll be going to where ninety percent of the items on the menu will undo every effort you’ve ever made at keeping yourself trim throughout the year? Think about it? Rich, gooey macaroni and cheese, hollandaise sauce, creamy potato salad, thick gravy, hot biscuits with melting butter, sugar cookies, plumb pudding, strawberry cheesecake, sweet potato and pumpkin pie with mounds of whipped cream…I have to undo my belt just thinking about it. That’s two inches to my belt line just waiting to happen.
How about the time that you would invest in taking that power walk, going to the gym or hitting the treadmill? There barely seems to be enough hours in the day to go to work and meet your mandatory responsibilities around the house much less managing to squeeze in an extra hour or two to take care of yourself. No wonder so many people are stressed out and overwhelmed by the time New Years comes and goes. The end result is that you’re so tired that when you finally do get around to making those New Years resolutions to yourself, mentally, you’re not prepared to keep them and no matter how well your original intentions were, you wind up breaking your promise generally by the third week of the new year.
Over the years, I’ve corresponded with nutritional counselors, taught aerobic classes and actually paid attention to my own doctors when they made the suggestions that perhaps as an older man, it wouldn’t hurt me to drop a few pounds.
In the end, developing healthy eating habits became crucial, not just to get through the holidays, but all year long. Coming from a family where the holidays meant forgoing my daily diet and eating everything that looked good on the table, I struggled to think of ways that would make my transition into the new year easier. I always wound up making the resolutions for a new and improved me – and inadvertently wound up breaking the promises before January ended. I struggled to think of how I could change this cycle and keep the promises that I made, and made some interesting discoveries.
The first one was that your holiday season eating habits actually begin to change one month before the onset of the holiday season, especially if you’re a woman with children. Halloween signifies the unofficial beginning of Fall, and it also gives millions of mothers across the country a reason to go out and buy candy in excess. The most common excuse is to have something to give the trick or treaters on October 31st. It’s so easy to pick up a Snickers or Milky Way here and there when it’s readily available.
Now let’s fast forward to Thanksgiving where the tradition is to eat in excess…and how could you not? Everything looks and smells so good. Unless you have exceptional will power, no one in their right mind is going to diet on a holiday where you’re given a perfectly good reason to eat whatever you want. Now let’s fast forward by only two weeks. This takes us into the middle of December, where people are now out hitting the malls in full force, forgoing a regular dinner for dining out. Your regular routine of exercising has been interrupted, replaced with activities that feel better to you for the time of year. Who wouldn’t rather be enjoying the time of the season with friends, family and relatives than going to a gym and focusing on yourself? The very time of year is for giving to others. You’re not thinking about what’s best for you, and if you are, time doesn’t permit you to do anything about it.
I’ve corresponded with several nutritional counselors who made several suggestions that will help you make getting through this holiday season tolerable and at the same time, making the ability to keep your New Years resolutions easier.
1.) Forgo the Halloween candy – I’m not telling you that you can never eat chocolate again. I’m telling you to be realistic with yourself. You and I both know that it’s okay to have the occasional piece of chocolate, peanuts and/or nougat. We also know how often we actually have it so if you’re one of those people that are constantly reaching for the candy dish, rethink it. One way to keep yourself from going to the dish (or the bowl) is to arm yourself with decent snacks to keep your blood sugar from dipping throughout the day. Cheese sticks and nuts are excellent sources protein and a snack that will keep your blood sugar level consistent and carry you through to the next main meal of the day.
2.) As you get closer to Thanksgiving, remember to keep everything in moderation. It’s okay to have a slice of cheesecake, or sample the macaroni and cheese, but balance is the key. Sample the foods that are good for you just as much as you would the food that isn’t so good for you, and if you over do it, don’t worry about. Guilt is one of the top factors in why we continue in a behavior that isn’t so good for us. Thanksgiving dinner is only one day. Don’t allow yourself to think that you have the luxury of a whole month of eating decadently. That’s where you do the damage. New Years Day will be here before you know it. And it’s a lot easier to be at the base of a hill looking up to try to climb it than the base of Mt. Everest.
3.) Plan Your Season – If you take the time to plan your vacation, why can’t you do the same for your holiday? Budget your time the same way that you would your finances. Designate the day that you’re going to shop for your gifts. Make a list of what you want to buy and for whom. The whole objective is to try to keep yourself as close to your regular schedule as possible. Most of us get tired from attempting to do too much at one time. We go into the season blindly, knowing that we have to make dinners, go shopping and decorate like crazy…but the majority of us don’t plan it. Sometimes, it’s not about the “What” but the “How” and the “When”.
4.) Moderation is Key – By moderation, I don’t just mean food. I’m talking about alcohol consumption. Besides the obvious, over-indulging in alcohol isn’t good for you. Wine is high in calories and other beverages break down into sugar once it hits your system…and guess where it gets stored?
5.) Don’t Wait Until December 31st – Make your resolutions now and call them promises. The whole concept of making a resolution is good, but it doesn’t work. Do you remember the resolution you made January of this year? And if you do, did you keep it? If you did, you’re among the small percentage that does and I take my hat off to you. Make your promise now. You want to lose weight, start doing something about it now. Don’t wait until next year. You won’t have the stigma of a date that everyone makes false promises to themselves, and you won’t set yourself up for failure. What you would have done is institute a healthy change for a healthy lifestyle instead of making a temporary change for a couple of weeks.
6.) Lastly, make time for yourself – If you’re going to squeeze in extra shopping time, you’re also going to need to squeeze in some extra down-time. You really are going to need to unplug and unwind. If that time means going for a walk by yourself, going to another room to read for a few minutes or (if you’re really daring) going to a gym, remember, you need to be good to you so that you can be good to someone else.
I hope that these tips will make it easier to survive the holiday season. Take what you can from what I’ve said. Even if you can only use one or two of the tips, I can promise you that it will make a difference in the way that you enjoy your holiday season.