It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! And often the hardest time of year to stick with healthy lifestyle habits too. Many people with weight loss goals ask themselves this key question: Should I pause my weight loss efforts during the holiday season and just pick it back up in January?
It’s a valid question. My advice is that it’s not either-or. It’s not all or nothing; black and white.
Try thinking of healthy habits in a new way this year. Absolute perfection in your eating and exercise is not the goal. Consistent progress toward better health and sustainable healthy habits are the aim rather.
A healthy lifestyle means to be in this for the long haul. And because this is for life, it has to be reasonable, flexible, and able to withstand the pressures of life—like family vacations, social events, and holiday feasts!
It is important that you anticipate these nutrition obstacles and make a realistic plan to navigate them successfully and with your long-term goals in mind. While you don’t want to set unrealistic, strict goals that don’t allow any room for flexibility; you also don’t want to throw in the towel completely after one splurge and decide it’s all over until January. *Remember the aim is not a short-term diet, but a healthy lifestyle made up of consistent healthy choices!
The truth is you have to find a realistic balance: practice mindful eating skills and allow flexibility when you feel you need it, but have self-control and far-sightedness the majority of the time as well.
If you can eat healthfully at least 80% of the week, then there is some room for a planned and controlled “splurge” about 20% of the week if desired.
The 80% rule doesn’t mean that you purposely plan to eat poorly 20% of the time. It simply means you are aware that there is room for treats and splurges here and there in moderation. Moreover, you are able to bounce back from those meals and get right back on track without feeling guilty or defeated!
This is an important concept when it comes to maintaining a desired routine and sustaining a healthy lifestyle long-term.
Our bodies are very resilient and able to recuperate from minor mistakes. It is what you do the vast majority of the time that makes you who you are.
When the majority of your meals are nutrient-rich, high in fiber and full of color, then you will be on the right path to incredible health all throughout the year!
Dietitian’s Top Tips for How to Stay Healthy during the Holidays:
1. Keep a food journal daily. Track everything you eat and drink as you go throughout your day. This will help keep you mentally aware and accountable with your nutrition plan.
2. Continue your exercise routine. Do not allow the busyness of the holiday season to edge out your exercise plans! Schedule in your workouts on your calendar and make them “non-negotiables.” When researching hotel accommodations, look for hotels that have a gym!
3. Fill half your plate with veggies. Perhaps you volunteer to bring a vegetable tray or tossed salad to the next party! At a restaurant, make substitutions to your order to add more veggies.
4. Be picky. Mindfully choose your splurges. Make a thoughtful and deliberate choice, but avoid grazing or mindless munching! Don’t feel bad for not trying everybody’s dish—it’s ok to say “no thank you.”
5. Don’t stand near the buffet table. This is too tempting! Make your plate and walk away to enjoy and savor every bite. Eat slowly and be mindful of your fullness cues.
6. Portion size. Be very careful to keep portion sizes small and controlled. Use a smaller size plate if possible—the bigger the plate, the more food people tend to put on it. When dining out, ask for a “to go” box right away and set aside half your meal before you even begin to eat.
7. Drink water. Calories from beverages add up very quickly and provide very little nutritional value. Drinking plenty of water also helps control your appetite.
8. Weigh more often. It may help to track your weight more closely during the holiday season so you can stop weight gain in its tracks! This is a great accountability tool for some people.
More Food for Thought!
Make fellowship the main focus, rather than the food at social events. Holidays and parties are more than just a time to eat fancy food and traditional feasts; they are special times where we can fellowship with others. Our mission should be to encourage one another, build friendships, and share the love of Jesus with the other guests at the special event! Don’t lose focus of the real reason for the season.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”—1 Thessalonians 5:11