Holiday eating should not be scary and restrictive, but rather a time to enjoy the food you would not have otherwise in the circle of your friends and family. Here are the best tips and practices that will help you navigate through the holiday season like a nutrition pro so you feel mentally and physically great without sacrificing your body related goals!
Should I be dieting, maintaining, or bulking during holidays?
Whatever fits your long-term program. From the long-term perspective, the best thing is to approach holidays with a maintenance/bulking mindset. This way you will give yourself a break from dieting. Noone should be dieting all year round!
If your goal is to gain body mass, don’t think you can eat however much you can. That is not healthy either. But you can enjoy a few bites more.
Whatever you choose to do, don’t do it from the place of fear and restriction.
Should I track food during holidays?
If your goal is to lose weight and you absolutely need to lose weight during holidays, then tracking food can help you stay flexible. Other than that I would not recommend doing it. Rather enjoy holidays including food.
Here is a simple strategy you can use to prevent overeating without counting calories and weighing your food. The magic is in the order of food you eat.
You start by eating vegetables and protein sources (salad and turkey or tofurkey 😉 ). The salad will fill you by volume and turkey/tofurkey is a rich source of protein that will help you feel satisfied for hours.
Then, if you want to, enjoy your favorite treats.
Should I exercise more to earn food or rather burn off calories the day after?
Some people try to burn off extra calories by exercising more or exercising more to earn food. Neither of these creates a healthy relationship with food and if you do these practices, please be mindful about it and rather choose to make your decisions from the place of self-care and joy.
Here is how I navigate holiday eating without ever gaining a gram of weight.
I stay active
Holidays or not, I keep my routine. I usually get up early and go for a run before breakfast. Sometimes I even have two trainings a day even during holidays and in that case, some extra calories from cookies and cakes only help me. But just because I don’t need to restrict the number of calories I eat, does not mean that anything goes! If I have training goals, I want to have energy for training so I avoid eating heavy meals anyway. This might mean postponing a walnut or a poppy strudel for the evening, when I rest and digest.
Days during holidays can get crazy and early mornings are the only time you have full control over. Being active is also one of the key practices of people who successfully maintain weight. When it comes to activity, walks with family, especially after meals not only feel great, but they will also help your digestion.
I am mindful about what I eat without restricting any food
Holidays involve special food. The problem is if you think that just because some food is special, you need to eat as much of it as possible before it is gone.
Before, I used to eat all the treats there in a day or two and be done with it till the next holiday season. While it did not show on my belly, it showed on my relationship with food. I felt guilty afterward, which does not create a good relationship with food.
Nowadays I enjoy treats in moderation. For example, I eat oatmeal all year round but if I want to enjoy my favorite walnut pie, then I simply use half of the oats I would usually use and don’t add any fats in my oatmeal. I make sure to keep protein and vegetables in my meal, even with treats. I know it might seem strange, but think about it as a green protein smoothie with a pie.
Take no hostages!
The biggest reason why people gain weight during holidays is not one holiday meal. It is when one meal turns into an eating spree. We tend to prepare much more food than we need to. It originated when food was scarce and holidays were a short period of time in a year when food was abundant. This is not the case nowadays. We constantly have an abundance of food so preparing a lot of it no longer makes sense.
Make just enough food for the feasts and if you are visiting your family, take no leftovers. If it means they would hate you for it, take only your favorites and freeze them for later.
I also like to freeze my favorite pie and have it anytime during the year. This is one way you can practice an abundant mindset. If you don’t feel like the food is special (scarce), you are much less likely to binge on it.
Out of sight, out of mind
Putting away food (like in the freezer) and not having it in sight everywhere you look will help you eat like you would normally do even during holidays. The problem is that food is usually all around, all day long. Grazing on food throughout the day correlates with higher body weight.
That is why self-imposed restrictions like “not eating after 6 p.m.” work for some people. It is a clear and simple rule to follow. Just don’t use it as an excuse to eat everything in excess before that time.