The time has come, the season has arrived: The Holidays are here. And along with the family gatherings, football games, and presents will come a whole lot of opportunities to do Bad Things to your diet and your physique.
How bad? Well, the average person will gain 3 to 7 pounds over the 40-day period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. Do that ten years in a row, and congratulations: you’ve added around 50 pounds of body mass from holiday eating alone. Never mind aging, injury, or other dietary hiccups that might arise.
So, yeah – this presents a problem.
What are you going to do about it?
Watch Your Drinks
If you want to help yourself avoid the potential for damage, first give yourself the ability to succeed. The great majority of the caloric damage at these gatherings doesn’t come from stuffing or Pineapple-Upside-Down Cake.
No, the majority of the empty calories will come from what you drink.
Think about it: how many Cokes will you consume over the course of a holiday gathering? Because each and every one will set you back 140 calories. Worse yet, that 140 calories has ZERO nutritional value to you. No vitamins, no minerals, no protein. Nothing but processed sugar that will go straight to the “Store me as fat, please” list.
Beer isn’t much better. A can of the most popular “Light” beer, Bud Light, works out to 110 calories. Only a few less than a Coke. And the problem with beer is simple: the alcohol impairs your judgement. The more beers you have, the more you think it is OK to have. You could get yourself outside of a six-pack of beer (and the accompanying 660 calories) before you even meet the temptations around the dinner table.
Stick to water, if you can. If not, coffee or unsweetened tea are OK as well. But give yourself the opportunity to succeed. Because you haven’t even gotten to the hard stuff yet.
Rein In The Impulses
I know what you are thinking. “But Jeremy,” you say, “everything is soooo good during the holidays. How can I resist it all?”
Simple. You can’t.
The theoretical person exists that can surround themselves with holiday goodies and not indulge. In the same sense that theoretical alien life exists: it may be out there somewhere, but in the meantime just hand me another slice of that double-chocolate Pecan Pie.
So, if the cornucopia is too much to resist, don’t resist. Direct the flood that you can’t contain.
Instead, try everything in very small doses.
Do you really need a pound of everything on your plate? No, not really. Get a tablespoon-full, or a small slice, or a single item of whatever. Then, as you eat, focus on the folks around you. You probably only see them once or twice a year, right? Take a bite of your small serving of food “A”. Chew thoroughly. Put down your fork and turn to the person to your right and chat about whatever for a moment. Return to your plate. Take a bite of your small serving of food”B”. Chew thoroughly. Put down your fork and turn to the person on your left and chat for a moment.
Repeat this process until you’ve tried everything on your plate. Still hungry? Start around your plate a second time, this time focusing on the items you found particularly yummy.
By the time your stomach tells you “Stop! I’m full!”, you’ll have had a fraction of what everyone else around you did. And you’ll have had some valuable time catching up with friends and family members.
A Call To Action
No joke – this technique really works. The reason it works is because your stomach is slow to report to your brain about when it has reached capacity. If you start with a huge pile of food and rush through it, you will reach capacity and pass right through it and not know about it – until you are uncomfortably bloated and nodding off on the couch, wondering how you could have possibly eaten so much. Again. Just like last year.
So, just dodge that bullet. And give yourself some extra tools to use to fight the “Holiday Bloats.”
Another thing you can do to help out? Stay active.
Now, I am not inviting you and your family outside for some brisk snow-field volleyball. (Though if you live in Florida, or California – heck, why not?) But, seriously, how much fun are you having sitting on the couch watching football? Listening to everyone’s digestive processes?
So, move around instead! Go grab some photo albums and look through them. Volunteer to wash the dishes. Play with the kids or the grand-kids. Even just wandering around the yard (if one is available), or throwing around a football (rather than watching one being thrown.)
Also, is this gathering taking place at Mom and Dad’s? Or Grandma and Grandpa’s? I will bet a significant amount that if this is taking place at the home of an older family member, there are some things lying around the place that could be done. Rake some leaves. Repair a squeaky door. Help organize a library, or a craft room, or a garage. Every minute you spend moving is a minute your body is using fuel, not adding it to long-term storage.
And if you can contribute to a family member at the same time, well: isn’t that what the holidays are all about, really?
Making The Holidays (Not) Count,
PS: I recently had the opportunity to create a guest blog post for the folks at Prairie Sage Wellness Center. Feel free to check it out here!