The holidays are full of magic, friendship, and lots of love. But I'd be lying if I said the holidays are an easy time to stay healthy and ward off weight gain. With all the delicious food and drinks surrounding us, it can feel tempting to consume it all in one fell swoop. I've learned the hard way, though, that eating without any structure or guideline in my head can result in overindulging, which leaves me feeling sluggish, bloated, and completely disenchanted with the entire holiday season.
After experiencing many tree-trimming seasons in which I gained weight and had to work hard to lose it in the new year, I've finally locked down a little formula that helps me fully enjoy the holidays and all they have to offer — without the tummy aches and supertight jeans. These are the guidelines I follow every year to prevent unwanted weight gain (and still eat pumpkin pie).
1. I Only Eat When I'm Hungry
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it's much easier said than done. During the holidays, there is food at every turn, whether it's at the office or at home. People are always sharing tasty desserts and snacks, and it can feel impossible to turn it down. But if you listen to your body, it will tell you when it's actually in need of food or if you're just bored or answering a silly craving.
If you're at the office and you feel like reaching for a festive snack, drink a glass of water first. You might be surprised at how often we mistake thirst for hunger. If you get to the point where you're hungry enough that you would eat an apple, then you know that you're actually hungry. Following this rule will prevent you from overeating, and it can be especially handy when you're at an event where you're surrounded by food. The more you listen to your body, the more you'll be able to decipher when you truly need food and when you don't.
2. I Never Go to a Party Without Snacking on Something Before
Going to a party hungry is a rookie mistake. I would know, because I've made it hundreds of times. And when you arrive to an event with a growling belly, you're more likely to make poor choices. Even if there is going to be food at the party I'm going to, I always make sure I have a protein-rich snack before I head out the door. This keeps me full and satiated, and I'm able to think clearer about which snacks I'm reaching for.
3. I Ignore People's Comments About My Eating Choices
There will always be an opinionated friend or family member who will prod or tease you about your dietary choices. They'll ask why you aren't eating the cake or having a fourth glass of wine. Remember that it doesn't matter what other people say. So what if they poke fun at you when you turn down certain foods? All that matters at the end of the day is that you feel your best and you're happy with your choices.
Many of my family members eat a very unhealthy diet, so I've had to learn to be OK with my decisions. I no longer feel bad when I politely say no to some of the foods they're passing around the table.
4. With Every Glass of Wine, I Drink a Glass of Water
It's easy to forget about staying hydrated when you're having fun, but when you fill yourself up with booze and hardly any H2O, you run the risk of feeling dehydrated, a little too drunk, and painfully hungry. That combination often leads to overeating, due to a cloudy head and dulled senses. By drinking a glass of water with every drink, I'm able to pace myself and think smartly about the food I'm choosing to eat.
5. I Keep Track of My Protein Intake Throughout the Day
Just because you're indulging doesn't mean you have to completely forget about your macros. I don't think about the amount of calories or carbs I take in every day during the holidays (life is too short and bread is too good), but I do keep track of my protein intake. Protein keeps you feeling full and satiated, and it's also a necessary nutrient to keep your body prepared for an impromptu workout. I feel better going to a party knowing that I've already met my protein goals for the day; it helps me make better choices with what I'm going to eat.
6. I Stay Away From Packaged and Processed Foods
Nobody should ever be deprived of pumpkin pie, but when it's the store-bought kind that's packed with all kinds of preservatives and strange ingredients I don't recognize, I'll pass. I always seek out the homemade goodies instead. These are generally made with whole, recognizable ingredients (and they taste way better), so you know your body is able to process them better.
Similarly, when you get home after a long day of festivities and social events, rather than picking up fast food or ordering in, try to muster up the energy to make yourself a healthy meal. These small choices will add up over time, and you'll find that they all contribute to you feeling and looking your very best.